Dominic “Mickey” Simonetta, 93, a resident of Forest Park for 60 years, died on April 24, 2020. A strong man of faith and Chicago sports enthusiast with a remarkable sense of humor, he was best known as a jazz drummer, percussionist, and educator.
Of his home in Forest Park, he said he would “not want to live anywhere else.” He possessed a deep love for his family with concern and compassion for others. Those close to him will remember him for his sharp wardrobe, countless jokes and one-liners, and that prominent smile.
Born in Chicago in 1926, his interest in music originated after listening to jazz great Benny Goodman and was influenced by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra. During World War II, he played with the 130th Army Ground Force Band.
Later, he went on to study percussion instruments and harmony at the Midwestern Conservatory of Music. In 1955, he toured Europe for five weeks with the Bill Russo Band. He also received a Certificate of Esteem from the U.S. Department of Defense for volunteering his services.
He began playing hotels, nightclubs and lounges while enrolled in the music education program at DePaul University. He recorded and played at the Blue Note with Lennie Tristano and worked with Earl Garner at the London House. For three years, he disc-jockeyed a jazz show for patients at Hines V.A. Hospital.
He played alongside jazz legends Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and vocalist Andy Williams and also backed such comedic legends as Joey Bishop, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Buddy Hackett, and Jack E. Leonard at the Black Orchid Nightclub.
At Mr. Kelly’s, he recorded with prominent jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday, June Christy, Anita O’Day, and Jeri Southern. In addition to playing on studio recordings and his original compositions, he was named a top drummer in DownBeat magazine and was also listed in the Encyclopedia of Jazz.
Due to his extensive knowledge in music education, Mr. Simonetta started teaching for the Chicago Public Schools in 1960 after graduating from DePaul. He began his teaching career as a band director at Marshall High School before moving on to Steinmetz High School.
He retired after 18 years at Lake View High School where he served as an inspiration for many music students. Throughout his time there, he amassed numerous superior ratings and All-Conference City Championship awards. In 1987, he was recognized as the “Employee of the Year” at Lake View.
Throughout his career, he also taught countless local students and maintained a studio at Lyon & Healy. After retiring, he was a substitute teacher at Morton East and Morton West high schools. At the age of 93, he continued to conduct private music lessons.
One of his favorite sayings was: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”
Mickey Simonetta was the husband of Evelyn (nee Waters) for 54 years; the father of Anthony (Nicki), Johnny, and Mariann (Chris) Beach; and the brother-in-law of Jean. He was Papa to Richard (Lauren), Dominic (Brittany), Katie Beach, Cristiano and Kelly Beach; the great-grandfather of Viviana; and uncle, cousin, and friend to everyone he met.
He was predeceased by his parents, Anthony and Caterina (nee Rondinella), his brother John “Bobby,” John Ginino, his sisters-in-law Maye Henry and Faye Carter, and Maria (nee Vaiti).
A private burial took place on May 1, 2020.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Marshall and/or Lake View High School’s music programs, your local school music program, and/or your local PADS shelter.