By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – While working fulltime Mondays through Thursdays as a music assistant professor of jazz studies at New York University (NYU), Southborough native Dave Pietro travels internationally weekends to play saxophone at clubs, festivals, schools and concert halls. His busy schedule includes a local stop Saturday, April 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Steeple Coffeehouse.
“It's always great to go home and share your art with friends and family,” he said.
Pietro's love of music began at age 5. Returning from service at St. Anne Church, he sat at a home organ and duplicated hymns he had heard. He also enjoyed listening to his parents” extensive collection of swing records. His musical interests grew in school.
“In fifth grade when we were allowed to sign up for musical instruments, I picked the saxophone,” he recalled. “When I came home from school, my mother looked at the list of instruments and said, “David, you picked the most expensive instrument!” But it turned out to be not a bad investment.”
His first music mentor was public school teacher Steve Elman, who taught him from grades five through eight.
“He was really into jazz,” Pietro noted. “He got me listening to jazz, and soloing and improvising at a very young age. I realize now how lucky I was to have grown up with the Southborough school system. I was exposed to a lot of great music, which laid the foundation for the rest of my life.”
Pietro looked forward to continuing music studies at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS). However, it took a while to fully satisfy that desire.
“At the time, the music department was going through a lot of change,” he explained. “I had three music directors in four years at the school. It was very unsettling for me, especially because music was such an important part of my life.”
Music became even more important to Pietro in his senior year, when ARHS hired Dennis Wrenn as chair of the fine and performing arts department. They kept in close touch after Pietro graduated from ARHS in 1982.
“I got excited about music again,” Pietro said. “It was an important turning point for me.”
Wrenn died in 2009 while leading the ARHS Jazz Band on a tour in Athens, Greece.
“It was really a tragedy to lose him,” Pietro said. “I think many of his students still carry his spirit on with them.”
Pietro first experienced touring in Europe during his freshman year at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). He has since performed in over 30 countries throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.
After two years at UNH, Pietro transferred to the University of North Texas, where he received his bachelor's degree and toured with the school band. He earned a master's degree in jazz composition from NYU, where he currently teaches.
Pietro offers his students the same advice he received years ago from Wrenn.
“I was walking out the door during graduation, and Dennis looked at me seriously and said, “When music stops being enjoyable for you, don's do it anymore,”” Pietro relayed.
Pietro is currently a member of the Grammy Award-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra. He has also performed with numerous artists including Paul Anka, Blood Sweat & Tears, Ray Charles, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Feinstein, Chaka Kahn and Liza Minnelli.
“Thank God that I's doing what I love to do because sometimes it can be a very brutal schedule,” Pietro said.
The Steeple Coffeehouse offers discounted tickets in advance online. Doors open at 7 p.m. For ticket information, visit steeplecoffeehouse.org. For more information about Dave Pietro, visit davepietro.com.