Prelude to a Cure Includes Lou Vanaria, Tommy Scala and a Host of Talent

CALDWELL, NJ – The crowd filling the room at Calandra’s Il Vecchio Cafe was festive, gathering to hear talented singers and dine on a huge buffet of Italian food. But the reason they were there was for a more serious matter.

The Fourth Annual Prelude to a Cure on April 24 was another step in raising funds to find a cure for lung cancer. The organization was founded by West Caldwell resident Claire Mattern, a cervical cancer survivor and classically trained pianist, who wanted to combine her love of music with her strong desire to help other cancer patients.

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Headliner for the event was Lou Vanaria, of the 90’s film favorite "A Bronx Tale," who became involved this year as a performer after having attended the event in the past. Vanaria sang for two hours with his band, from standards to rock.

He joked the day couldn’t have been better, saying, “Claire even arranged for the weather to be perfect. It’s a great event and I’m glad to be part of it.”

Vanaria was joined by a host of musical talent, many of whom have been affected in some form by lung cancer. The doo wop group Cool Change, which opened "A Bronx Tale" by singing with Vanaria, was one of the acts. Anthony Eterginioso said the group was proud to be a part of the event.

“My grandmother died in 1984 of lung cancer, so it is something that we know about. We’ve done a lot of charity stuff, and we’re glad we were asked to be a part of this,” he said.

Eterginioso was joined on stage by his brother Louis, Tommy Siconolfi, Alan Lange and Bobby Furbush.

Big local New Jersey talent also joined in supporting the cause. Newark’s singing policeman, Tommy Scala, lost his father to lung cancer in 1975, two days before his ninth birthday.

“He was a heavy smoker,” Scala said, “and he was my best friend, so much so I wrote a song about it, which I perform.”

Scala said his son, born in 1994, is now his best friend, taking a sad song and giving it new meaning.

Ringwood’s popular guitarist and singer John Monnecka also performed.

“When Claire mentioned it was for lung cancer, I had to say yes, as my grandfather died of it when I was very young,” he said. “It struck me so hard that I never touched a cigarette."

Singer Debbie Toscano said it was an amazing event she was proud to be a part of, and the attendance sent a message to people.

“Come out and support things you want to support, don’t be afraid to give of yourself and give back knowing that you have helped somebody,” she said.

Many of those in attendance also have had lung cancer touch their lives. Brian Glennon’s mother died six months after being diagnosed with it, which is when he met Mattern and Prelude. His sister, Maureen, spoke at the event.

“Early detection and different treatment methods are what are needed,” he said. “Lung cancer has always had a stigma attached to it, that it’s a smoker’s disease, but many lung cancer sufferers have never smoked. We need to bring up the next generation without that stigma, and without lung cancer.”

Glennon and his wife Elise are also supporting Prelude through a 5K trail run/walk on June 11 in memory of Brian’s mother, Pat.

To date, Prelude to a Cure has donated nearly $50,000 to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to help fund lung cancer research. Prelude Vice President Brian Femlon says the goal every year is to “increase what we’ve done through donations, silent auction bidding and events.”

The growth of the event and the organization gives Mattern pause.

“The outpouring of talent and resources and donations and volunteer assistance is still amazing to me,” she said. “Look at all these people who have come out to help find a way to end lung cancer.”

Details about those future Prelude events, including the 5K trail run/walk are available at the website.