Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Video: Remembering George Fulginiti-Shakar DC's Very Own Gentle Musical Giant

Article Pixel

BWW Video: Remembering George Fulginiti-Shakar DC's Very Own Gentle Musical Giant

On June 21st the DC theatre community lost one of the greats as our incredibly talented Musical Director, Pianist, Orchestra Contractor, Educator, and friend George Fulginiti-Shakar passed away after a long illness at age 73.

For over thirty years George worked on countless productions all over town. With each show he was on, he graced everyone on the production with his talent, a huge laugh, and constant support for all.

When he wasn't conducting a show, he was busy hiring the band at Ford's Theatre as the House Contractor. He also taught at Studio Acting Conservatory and The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts.

Woodwind player George Hummel worked with George for 35 years and was kind enough to provide some background information on him.

"George and Ruth Ann Fulginiti welcomed their son, George Robert, into the world on May 9, 1947. Born in Adams, Mass. George would eventually take the performance name of Fulginiti-Shakar to honor both of his parents, his dad being Italian and his mother Lebanese.

There was always music in the house-- his father was a bandleader and was THE music teacher in Pittsfield. George the father played piano as well as alto sax; those of you who have been to George's home in Washington, DC have seen the lovely old Steinway baby grand that belonged to his dad.

When George graduated from Boston University, it was with a BA in mathematics. His father had supported them by playing and teaching and urged George to get his degree in a field that was more stable than music. George actually taught high school math for a few years after leaving BU.

However, while he was still at Boston George became very active in the theatre department: he played piano, sang and acted in various student productions. This was the late sixties and the winds of change were blowing across the country. College students were protesting our involvement in the Vietnam war and demanding changes in many of the basic tenets of our society at the time. One of the slogans of the era, "Make Love, Not War" was transformed into a rallying cry for women rights, gay rights, the freedom to express oneself through music, dance, and art.

There was a demonstration that George went to with several friends and they ended up getting arrested. In the paddy wagon on the way to be booked they spontaneously started singing an old Appalachian hymn, "Bright Morning Stars".

After their release from jail they realized they might be on to something and formed a group with the name Bright Morning Star, eventually releasing an LP with the name Bright Morning Star Arisin' in 1981.

Between 1979 and 1992 the group toured and opened for the likes of Pete Seeger and Sweet Honey in the Rock. George was credited as a singer, keyboardist, bassist and...tap dancer. Why am I not surprised?

I'm not sure how or when George arrived in DC, but it was during the early 80s that his name began appearing in town.

He was a founding member of the Cabaret Network, which enabled aspiring vocalists to develop their craft and find performance venues to showcase their talents."

I was never lucky enough to work on a production with George but my wife Jen and I were very fortunate to see him conduct/play a bunch of shows at Studio Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford's Theatre, and even one at American University. It didn't matter what the musical was. The singers and the orchestra always sounded excellent with George at the helm.

This kind and gentle soul of a man who gave so much to our theatre community is now gone and I don't know how we will ever be able to fill the void that is left by his passing.

The following remembrance video features just a few of the many artists that had the good fortune to work with George Fulginiti-Shakar over the years.

It would have been inappropriate to list production credits within the video itself which is why they are listed below.

Musical underscore performed by Victor Simonson.

Video edited by Mad Usher Theatrical Services.

Additional editing by James Gardiner.

Still photos provided by Arena Stage, The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, and Carolyn Griffin.

Post production audio by Jonathan Robertson.


Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories   Shows

From This Author Elliot Lanes