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Classical music for classic fathers

In a creative promotion of cultural diversity in the county, live classical music will be entertainment fare for Father's Day at Curtis Peterson Auditorium.

Franz Joseph Mantini, a concert pianist, will perform several classical pieces in a solo performance starting at 3 p.m. Sunday at the auditorium at the Lecanto School Complex.

All proceeds from the concert, sponsored by Maine-ly Antique Mall and the Chronicle, will benefit the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Mantini, a Tampa resident who performs solo and chamber music several times a year at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, will perform sonatas and concertos from Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin.

Mantini, who won the Florida West Coast Chopin Competition in 1990, was recruited to appear in Citrus County after a local group listened to him play at the Performing Arts Center.

Organizer Chris Dudley, owner of Maine-ly Antiques on State Road 44 E, said she didn't know what to expect when they went to the concert, but when she heard Mantini play, she was "captivated,"

"We thought it was a great idea to have him play at Curtis Peterson," she said.

Organizers hope to sell at least 600 tickets and raise more than $3,000 for the non-profit organization that builds low-cost housing for poor families. However, only 200 tickets had been sold by Thursday. Dudley, who has been promoting the show with fliers, radio interviews and newspaper ads, said she hopes for a last-minute surge in sales.

"I know there's a lot of people in Citrus County who are starving for something like this," she said.

Tickets, which cost $7 for adults and $5 for students, are available at Maine-ly Antiques and the Chronicle. Tickets also will be sold at the door. For more information, call 637-3133.

Several weeks ago, Mantini and Dudley took a whirlwind tour of Citrus radio stations, newspapers and businesses to promote the concert.

Mantini's high-brow occupation might suggest that he's an aloof artist, inaccessible to the average person. Mantini is indeed serious about his work, but his easy smile and down-to-earth manners immediately put people at ease when they meet him.

Coming from a musical family, he's been playing piano since he was 6 years old. His father, a retired surgeon, his mother, a nurse, and his brother and sister are all serious amateur musicians. Mantini admits that as a boy he had other things on his mind besides practicing his piano every day.

"I admit I preferred to be outside playing baseball," said Mantini, who grew up in West Virginia.

Setting aside the idea of pursuing music as a career, he attended the University of South Florida to study electrical engineering and eventually earned a master's degree in engineering management.

After taking two years off, he decided to study the piano again.

Four years ago, he put his promising career in engineering on hold and began performing full time. On Memorial Day, he performed with principal members of the Florida Orchestra. He has also released a compact disc, featuring performances of Beethoven's piano sonatas.