Debbie Fagnano hails from a musical family of Italian, German and Croatian heritage. Growing up, she was surrounded by music…Sunday jam sessions, featuring her Dad and his brothers were a common occurrence. When her formal piano lessons began at the age of 7, she was already reading music and able to pluck out a few tunes on the ivories. In 1964, she joined the children’s choir at the church, which led to 50 years serving as a liturgical musician, teacher, choir director and organist. Fast forward to 1989, New Orleans, when she was hired on the Steamboat Natchez as the calliope player, a career which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Over the years, Ms. Fagnano has also taught music in the Catholic School system and piano lessons privately. During her eight years living in Houston, she was a charter member and officer of the Piano Entertainers Guild, a group of professional female pianists who performed at various venues throughout the city. Shortly after moving to New Orleans in 1988, she had the privilege of accompanying Al Hirt in his jazz band for several years. She also performed at Pat O’Brien’s, La Pavilion Hotel and the Fairmont.
Ms. Fagnano is currently the organist and Director of Music Ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Belle Chasse and the calliope player on board the Steamboat Natchez. She is a member and former officer of New Orleans Women in Music (NOWIM). Her son, Gene Black, also a musician, performs as a drummer and bassist in Houston and New Orleans area venues.