by Ron Samuels
People Have The Power
There is never an expectation for silver linings. They come upon us during difficult times.
Many of us first met Ali Gelormino during our labor conflict in the fall of 2016, when we strode the 6th and Penn intersection, carrying signs that defended the value of what we believed the PSO was, is, and should always be. That resonated with Ali. At once, she embraced our message, and she embraced us.
Ali is a dyed-in-the-wool Pittsburgher. She grew up in the Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood. Her mother, Maria, who sadly passed away last winter, was an Italian immigrant from Caserta. Her late father, Louis, was a soldier when he met Maria in Italy during his service in World War II. When they settled in Pittsburgh, Louis became an ironworker and was a member of Local 3. Together, they raised Ali and her two siblings, Mary Ann and Louis, in a household that valued education, creativity, rights and respect.
Ali taught for more than thirty years in the Shaler School District, where her legacy is defined by an unbridled enthusiasm. To this day, Ali frequently runs into former students who remember her fondly as Miss G. Outside the classroom, she was equally indomitable. She coached running sports, worked on the annual yearbook, and was active in the teacher’s union. She tirelessly supported worker’s rights, stood up for noble and virtuous causes, and fervently believed that there are forces out there against which you have to take a stand. No wonder we found each other on that downtown intersection.
Presently, Ali ranks as one of our most devoted fans, supporters and donors. She was a long-time member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Association. She has traveled with the PSO to Europe as part of its Patron Tour. In 2016, she founded the Pittsburgh chapter of Save Our Symphony (S.O.S.), for which she still serves as Board President. Under Ali’s leadership, S.O.S. continues to promote the PSO’s mission through a series of chamber music concerts in private homes and public venues, cultivating new audiences and creating increased awareness of our artistry. The PSO is personal with Ali. She counts among our membership many friends. One particularly cherished friendship is with violinist Claudia Mahave, whose chair Ali endowed a few years ago. Ali hopes others will step up, so the endowment of every PSO musician’s chair is someday achieved.
While we spot her in the Heinz Hall audience nearly every Friday or Saturday night, she can often be found other evenings attending opera, ballet, theater and lectures. She brings her five nephews and nieces, and eleven grand nephews and nieces to as many cultural attractions as she can fit into their schedule and hers; that, of course, when she’s not running marathons (52 to date!), helping organize the PSO Musicians’ annual 5K event, practicing the piano, playing pickle ball, managing her duties as president of her condo association, or polishing her Italian.
Ali easily meets strangers, and before long, they become her friends and guests at a PSO concert. She believes the PSO’s ability to thrive now, and in the future, depends on getting people, one by one, into the doors of Heinz Hall to hear us. I had the privilege of accompanying Ali to hear singer/songwriter/author Patti Smith speak at the Carnegie Music Hall. Occasionally, Ms. Smith would pick up her guitar and sing. When she strummed the first chords of her anthemic People Have The Power, Ali grabbed my hand and stood us up to sing along. Ali truly believes in people, and in their power to create, contribute, stand up for what’s right, and to love.
Ali, the bouquet is yours.
Special thanks to Claudia Mahave and Allison O’Malley for their help in the preparation of this article.