BURBANK — Leo Damiani, who developed a group of 35 amateur musicians into the 85-member professional Burbank Symphony Orchestra, has died at his home in that city. He was 74 and had been hospitalized recently for diabetes and kidney failure.
He died Tuesday of heart failure, family members said.
Damiani organized the Burbank Symphony Orchestra in 1944 and served as its conductor and director for 15 years. He also pressured city officials to build the outdoor Starlight Amphitheatre in the northwestern hills of Burbank as a home for the orchestra. It was completed in 1950.
In 1948, he formed the Burbank Youth Symphony, which was featured in many national broadcasts.
During his tenure the orchestra premiered compositions of such composers as Ferde Grofe, David Rose and Lukas Fos. Damiani also appeared as a guest conductor in Portland, Ore., Vancouver, British Columbia, El Paso and Mexico City.
He received his training at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and played violin with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra before moving to the West.
Damiani retained a relationship with the Burbank orchestra well after his official retirement and as recently as 1980 led a pops concert there.
He is survived by his wife, a daughter, two granddaughters, four brothers and two sisters.