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Director's Story

When I Was Twenty-five

When I tell young people today that in 1986 (at the age of 25) I was making $65,000.00 per year at the piano alone, most look at me in absolute disbelief.

Let's face it, though, I got lucky. I caught the tail end of the World War II generation who would plan their entire week's schedule around locations where live music was performed. Plus, they didn't mind paying to keep it going.

The "Beginning of the End"

Yet, back in the mid 1960s, when piped-in music began to spread throughout department and grocery stores, the president of Chicago's Federation of Musicians said to local performers: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end."

Whether he claimed to be prescient, I don't know. But, what I do know is, things have changed drastically for the world of live musical performance.

Fast Forward - 2002

Chicago, Illinois. While playing piano on the Magnificent Mile, it suddenly hit me one day how many extremely talented and classically educated musicians and vocalists (from Juilliard, Columbia, Harvard, Notre Dame, et. al.) were dropping by to listen and enjoy.

But where were they working? Most all of them were behind a cosmetics or jewelry counter. While, obviously, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, I was touched by the silent displacement of such gifted people (and my musical cohorts).

Personal Goal

From that day forward, I made it a personal goal to not only provide a stage for otherwise unheard talent, but to bring it into neighborhoods and communities where everyone could contribute and benefit by cultivating and celebrating music just waiting to be shared and enjoyed.


Different Drummer

All my life I have marched to the beat of Henry David Thoreau's 'different drummer.' For example, when I was seven (1968), I begged my Mother to allow me to buy the JC Penney $0.99 weekly LP record special.

That certain week it was Tommy Dorsey, Sentimental Gentleman of Swing. Other kids were listening to things like DOA (Dead on Arrival). Go figure.


Guy Lombardo and New Year's Eve

Then, when I was seventeen (1978), my peers teased that I left our New Year's Eve party early just so I could go and listen to Guy Lombardo (some may need to do a Google search here).

Just between you and me: I threw an LP of Guy Lombardo’s music on the turntable, put a Fedora on my head, pretended it was 1935, and waltzed around the room all night with a feather pillow in my arms. (Shh! I needed a dance partner to do the Foxtrot.)


Aesthetic Infinity

Anyway, by age twenty-one (1982), while dancing to Lee Castle and the Jimmy Dorsey big band Orchestra, a sixty-something-year-old gentleman danced up beside my date and me and asked, “how come I liked their old-time music.”

My response: “Bach would be nearly three hundred years old today, but that doesn't stop him from being absolutely and utterly fantastic.”


21st Century Mantra

Join us at Fermata Eclectic, and let the live music begin!


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Mikel A. Murphy, Director


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