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Musician hits high notes with seniors

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Steve Damon plays holiday music a the Orange Sr Center

He doesn’t have a long white beard, but Steve Damon of Gill is a Santa of sorts. Instead of bringing toys to children, he’s bringing music to seniors.

It’s a lot more than “12 days of Christmas” for Damon, who starts planning his Christmas shows in October. With 40 stops on his second annual “Senior Center Christmas Caroling Tour,” scheduled through the Epiphany, the mostly solo performer has a busy holiday concert schedule ahead of him still.

“I do it as a volunteer,” said Damon, 43, who usually solos at these lunchtime senior center performances.

This year’s tour includes Christmas concerts in senior centers in Colrain, Shelburne, Florida, Erving, Warwick, Athol, Orange, South Deerfield, Gill/Montague and Hadley, as well as north of the state border.

Damon is an award-winning music educator and long-time performer/conductor of the Shelburne Falls Military Band.

He said he volunteers year-round, bringing jazz music, and patriotic music for some holidays, to the centers, and playing at area churches on Sundays.

Upcoming local performances include: Christmas carols at the United Church of Bernardston on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.; and holiday favorites, Monday at 11 a.m. at the South County Senior Center in Deerfied.

Shelburne Senior Center Director Cathy Buntin says Damon has played there a number of times, sometimes accompanied by his 8-year-old son, Isaac.

“He did a special holiday show for our seniors,” said Buntin. “He’s a great guy — very positive, very personable. He brings a lot of sunshine to people,” she said. “He’s very talented and the music is appreciated.”

This month, Damon says, “I’ve been playing everyday someplace.”

“I usually have a flute or saxophone with me. When I do Irish music, I make sure I have a recorder.”

Some of his holiday concerts have included playing “name that tune” with audience members, in which he gives them a verbal clue, then plays only a few bars of a song while they write down their guesses on paper.

Buntin said people got a lot of laughs over some of the answers.

“He really did bring some holiday spirit with him,” she said.

When he’s not playing music, or teaching, Damon says, he likes to listen to public radio.

To avoid getting tired of the holiday songs after a month in which he sometimes gives two performances a day, Damon said he tries to vary the music or the instruments played, from concert to concert.

“But I always start with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and I always end with ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Joy to the World,’ he said. “If they request something, I play it.”

When asked what kind of music he’ll be listening to on Christmas Day, Damon says he, his wife Joyana, a music teacher, and their son Isaac will be spending that afternoon performing at the Vernon Green Nursing Home in Vermont.

Isaac plays French horn and sometimes calls folk dances when Damon is playing those songs at senior centers.

Besides starting the Senior Center Christmas Caroling Tour last year, Damon is the founding coordinator of Shelburne Falls’ annual Tuba Christmas program. He also has been conductor of the Shelburne Falls Military Band since 2000 — a band he has either directed or performed in since 1985, when he was 16.

Also, in 2009, Damon organized a Franklin County Christmas bell-ringing, in which all the churches of the area rang their bells for one minute, at noon on Christmas day.

After teaching music in Holyoke, in Greenfield elementary schools and in the Gill-Montague school system, Damon started A Natural Music School in Gill, which provides music classes and lessons to both homeschooled and public school children.

He is also a maple sugarer and Franklin County’s representative to the Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions. He is also the Massachusetts correspondent for Lancaster Farming Magazine.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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