Lenny Balistreri was born in Brooklyn, NY.  His father was Italian, and his mom was a southern girl from South Carolina.  They met in the Army, married after the war, and moved to Brooklyn, NY.  At age 2 his family moved to Lindenhurst, Long Island, NY.  He went to dances with his parents and was interested in the bands, especially the drummer.  He was even put on the lap of a drummer to play brushes on a snare drum at age 4.

Lenny’s dad had a collection of big band and popular music 78 records.  At 5 years old TV was a big influence for Lenny because he watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and saw the best big band in the world.  Even at 5 years old, he thought that he would become a musician and be able to learn from musicians in NYC.    After the family took several vacations   to Florida, his dad announced that the family was moving to Sarasota.  Lenny was 9 years old.

Lenny’s music career began at age 10 in Sarasota with trumpet lessons from John Horak, an original member of the Ringling Brothers Circus Band as arranger and baritone player for Merle Evans.  At age 12 he continued his interest in the drums, bought himself a set, and taught himself to play with help from friends.  At 15 Lenny played his first New Year’s gig on drums, and at 16 he played lead trumpet on the Ringling Brothers Circus Band with Mr. Horak.  He was a member of the musicians’ union at 16.  

Lenny worked his way through college playing 1st trumpet in the USF Concert Band in Tampa.  He drove from Sarasota to Tampa five days a week to attend USF classes, and then played drums six nights a week in a top-forty soul band in Sarasota.  The Flame Lounge and the 5-piece group stayed in business long enough for him to finish his degree in Music Education from USF.  In college he also performed on trumpet with the Florida Orchestra.  Following college, Lenny began his career as a full-time musician playing trumpet and drums professionally.  

after college graduation, Lenny began a tour with Van Cliburn award winning pianist Mac Frampton in a trio (piano, bass, and percussion) based out of Atlanta.  Although primarily the percussionist, he also sometimes played a trumpet solo in the act.  While in Atlanta, he was hired for extensive studio work, recording commercials for Coca Cola and other corporate clients in Mastersound Studios.  After three albums and four years of touring the US and Canada with Frampton, he returned to the Tampa Bay area, where he has enjoyed an extensive musical career since 1977.  

The next major part of his career took place at the Tierra Verde Hotel (Marriott) in south St. Petersburg, FL.  The hotel originally belonged to Guy Lombardo who performed there with his band.  When the Marriott Corporation bought it, they created a Las Vegas style show room with a big band.  After four years, the show room closed, and they opened a jazz lounge, and booked name jazz players for a week at a time.  Lenny played in the show room, and in the jazz lounge house trio with John Lamb and Mick McClain.  

Due to Lenny’s reading ability, he had the pleasure of backing many legends at the Tierra Verde Hotel including:  Billy Eckstine, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, The Smothers Brothers, Julie Budd, Vic Damone, Lorna Luft, George Goebel, Phyllis Diller, Clint Holmes, Norm Crosby, Sadler and Young, Connie Haynes, Patti Page, Carrie Smith, and Steve Allen.  He also backed great jazz artists:  Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Kessel, Milt Jackson, Mose Allison, Zoot Sims, Bucky Pizzarelli, Tal Faxlow, Scott Hamilton, Jimmy Witherspoon, Herb Ellis, Clarke Terry, Buddy Tate, Ira Sullivan, Kai Winding, Teddy Wilson, and Flip Phillips. 

Later Lenny was a contract musician backing groups touring in Florida and other states including The Coasters, The Drifters, Fabian, The Platters, Joe Dee and the Starlighters, The Four Aces, The Mills Brothers, Frankie Laine, The Lettermen, Danny and the Juniors, The Diamonds and John Davidson.  He played in pit orchestras in local theatres throughout the Tampa Bay Area including the Showboat in Clearwater, the Golden Apple in Sarasota, The Players of Sarasota, Manatee Players, Venice Theatre, and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

Lenny stayed true to his early training and played with the Ringling Brothers Circus for the Blue and Red Units’ performances at their winter home in Venice in the 1960s-1970s.  He also played in the 1980s-90s with Wanda Darlington and Bobby Barnhardt for the Hanneford Brothers Circus.  Additionally, in 2001-2006, he performed for various cruise lines including The Norwegian Cruise Lines/The Norway and the Royal Caribbean.  He was part of a featured jazz cruise with leader Norm Bernard on the MSC Lyrica for two 10-day cruises of the eastern and western Caribbean.   

Lenny played drums and recorded with the two-time Grammy nominated Dan McMillian Big Band in Tampa.  He also played and recorded with the Mike Eisenstadt Band from 1985-2005.  In 2004 Lenny recorded an album “Turn Up the Guitar” with Sarasota blues artist “Howlin’ Bob” Fieberts. 

Lenny currently performs with his own band The Lenny B. Band, a 3-6 piece group that features jazz, blues, soul, and/or rock.  Lenny has performed in the Sarasota area with many groups including the Savory Swing Big Band.  This band is led by Dick Hamilton, a well-known L.A. arranger, player of many instruments, creator of soundtracks for movies, and known for writing arrangements for the Tonight Show Band. 

Lenny plays drums and trumpet weekly at the Sarasota Friendship Center with the Joe Bruno Band.  Leader Joe Bruno is a well-respected professional trumpet player in his 90s.  Lenny is proud to support and be a member of The Jazz Club of Sarasota.  He has participated in many Jazz at 2 concerts with various bands, including Bill Buckman “The Art of Jazz”, and the Jerry Eckerd Trio.  Lenny continues to perform on trumpet for Easter celebrations and in a winter season jazz band concert series at Pelican Cove with Bobby Barnhardt and Wanda Darlington. 

Lenny plans to continue playing drums and trumpet and enjoys performing with Sarasota’s local musicians and groups.