1948 - 2020
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POLICELLI, Joseph R. Age 71, of Worcester, a respected organist and beloved professor of music, died April 27 at the UMass Medical Center of complications from COVID-19. He was born in Cambridge on Oct. 29, 1948, the son of Josephine and the late Frank Policelli. Joseph grew up in Medford and attended the School of the Immaculate Conception in Malden, and graduated from Boys Catholic High School (now Malden Catholic High School). He later earned a degree in Sacred Music from Boston University. Joseph served as an altar boy and took piano lessons as a child, developing a love for church music. He eventually served for 50 years as director of music or accompanist in churches, most recently as music director at St. Columbkille Church in Brighton, and an accompanist at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham for several years. He also served at St. Paul's Church in Wellesley, St. Pius V. in Lynn, and St. Joseph in Malden, and was known to elevate the standard of music and liturgy in every parish he was associated with. He was also an active and prominent figure in the Worcester music community, well-known for his work as Dean of the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He joined Worcester Polytechnic Institute as an adjunct professor of music in 1995, and was greatly respected by his fellow faculty and students, to whom he gave selflessly of his time and expertise. Students loved him and recognized that he would take whatever time was needed to ensure that each could succeed in their classes. In addition to being a brilliant organist, Joe was director of music at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Worcester through the 1980s and served there for almost 17 years. His programs at Saint Paul included hundreds of masses and services with a renowned choir and with organ music of the highest standard. He appreciated the musicians who worked with him. Audiences would travel great distances to attend these beautiful liturgies for the quality of the outstanding music. In addition to liturgies, he presented formal concerts of choral masterworks with orchestra as part of the Cathedral's amazing music series. He invited the WPI brass ensemble to play at Saint Paul's every year. In addition to his mother, Joseph is survived by a sister, Lorraine Mayne of North Reading, and a brother, Richard Policelli of Pelham, NH, four nieces, one grandnephew and grandniece. He will be laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford at a later date when public gatherings are allowed. In lieu of flowers, a donation in Joseph's memory may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Columbkille's Parish, 321 Market Street, Brighton, MA 02135. Breslin Funeral Home (781) 324-0486

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Published in Boston Globe from Apr. 30 to May 3, 2020.
Oak Grove Cemetery
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10 entries
June 30, 2020
I just learned of Joe Policelli's passing.

He was a very young recent graduate of BU when he arrived to be choir director, organist and the dreaded school music teacher role at St. Pius. Boy did we give him trouble in 8th grade, shooting elastics onto the record he was playing, forgetting much of the music theory he presented etc.

He took on the challenge and taught us pop songs instead, pulling together a vchoral concert of Sloop John B, Surfer Girl, Barbara Streisand's Memories and more. After a successful performance for parents, we later sang those songs for fun at slumber parties, or walking around Lynn and enjoying ourselves.
Just one of the many memories. He taught working class church choir kids the finest Classical music including Vaughan-Williams, Faure, Schubert, Tallis. Very sorry to hear of his passing. I truly appreciate others' stories shared here of Mr. Policelli's later experiences.
June 29, 2020
Joe Policelli made possible the commitment from my home parish to buy a new church organ. Joe invited me to join his choir at St. Pius in Lynn, and proceeded to make me aware of the riches of traditional choral and organ music. He introduced me to other very gifted musicians who together changed my life vastly for the better. His graciousness and sense of fun over the years give me many precious and joyful memories. Joe made my world a much better place. Rest in peace, Joe.
Michael Lebednik
June 7, 2020
Joe was a remarkable choir director at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham MA. He had a way of bringing out the best in us, as singers and people. He will always have a special place in my heart. My condolences to his family. May Joe be at peace.
Robin Adair
May 20, 2020
Joe was, is, and will be always a humble genius of music. Joe provided opportunities for others at every chance. What an incredible gift Joe shared with anyone who listened. Without question a profound person, musician, and teacher.
Joe, thank you for the decades of service and wonderful memories. When my time comes, I hope you are on the other side making beautiful sounds and shining your light. You are missed but never forgotten.
I wish healing and support for your family and loved ones.
Scott Duncan
May 14, 2020
I didn't know Joe well, but I had the pleasure of working with him on a number of occasions when he filled in for the Temple Emanuel (Worcester) organist and I filled in for the cantor. We did a number of Shabbat (Sabbath) services together, and one memorable funeral for a well-known congregant whose adult children had national connections. The funeral drew many hundreds of mourners, including prominent rabbis, and had a lot of varied elements Joe had to work around. He was one of only 2 organists who could manage the complex and aging organ at the synagogue. I will always remember him as a consummate musician who helped me more than I helped him, and who brought us beautiful music on short notice and sometimes under duress. Always calm, always professional, always kind. He will be missed.
Diane Brown
May 2, 2020
Missing you.
Maria Santos
May 2, 2020
Remembering how talented and respected and dedicated Joe was for the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Diocese of Worcester for many years, I am sorry to learn of his passing. I believe that his programs and musicianship, preparation and direction were unsurpassed in New England and beyond. He made such a difference in helping lift mind and heart to God during Church liturgies and concerts of sacred music. May Joe be graced with eternal bliss and greeted by the heavenly choir of angels.
Jack Siciliano
May 2, 2020
A wonderful and very talented human being whose many and multiple talents will be deeply missed by those who shared some of his life's musical experiences with him.
Joan and Sheldon Bycoff
Sheldon Bycoff
May 2, 2020
A wonderful and very talented human being who will be deeply missed.
Sheldon Bycoff
May 2, 2020
Sad loss of a fine man, musician and friend. My deepest condolences go to his family. joyce hokans
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