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Columns

August 10, 2013

It takes a village to raise a showman

(Continued)

There was a time when music was part of the “standard equipment” in our public schools, as was the case when I was growing up in Oneonta. At the grade school level, the music teachers were coming by once a week. 

That was fine, but I just wanted more. On my first day of the sixth grade, I knew I was about to have a happy and important year. My teacher was Mr. Joe Campbell. Little did I know that for the next 40 years, he would still have an impact on my singing career. Although not a music teacher, no one was more appreciative or more knowledgeable about the Great American Songbook. He never missed an opportunity to encourage me to play the piano for the class, and even sing a couple of songs. Years later, on his famous radio show, he would put some of my recordings in the mix. His “Sentimental Journey” is missed. Thanks, Mr. Campbell, for all your support.

By the time I got to high school, my interest in academics was definitely waning. I got lucky enough to get into a music theory and appreciation class taught by Mr. Richard Picolla. No one could ever make learning a more enjoyable experience than he did. Going to school was fun again! The sound advice he shared with me gave me the added confidence I needed to pursue my dream. Later, he moved on to become the principal of Riverside Elementary School. The education and music worlds are lucky to have him.

Great musicians were always around for me to enjoy and learn from, too. Early on, my mom and dad would take me to hear some of the local bands headed by the likes of Linus Houck, Jack Stahl and Louis Colone.

Houck, in addition to having a fine band that played private parties, weddings, and hotels, was the owner of Oneonta Music Center. In fact, he sold me my first professional sound system.

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