Sing Us a Song She’s the Piano Girl…

Doin' Dunmore - Alyssa Lazar on pianoBy Steve Svetovich

The words to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” echoed into the streets of Pinebrook corners right up the road from Dunmore’s Schautz Stadium.

As you got closer to Crotti’s on Ash, a popular bar-restaurant on Pinebrook corners, you could hear the beautiful booming voice of a very young lady.  The words of the song seemed to resonate and have meaning to the impressive, attractive teen who was seen playing piano and singing the Billy Joel classic.

And then you looked a little closer and saw the multi talented Alyssa Lazar, only 19, unassuming in some ways but with a maturity in the music world beyond her years. The world is her oyster.

Daughter of Mark and Maureen Lazar, Alyssa is in town for the summer playing her solo gigs at spots such as Crotti’s on Ash, Andy Gavin’s in Green Ridge, McNally’s in Green Ridge, and possibly Russell’s in Scranton’s hill section, the Oak Street Express in Taylor and LaCucina in Dunmore.

But the young talent, who also plays guitar and ukulele, has taken her star to Nashville where she recently completed her freshman year at Belmont University. She studies commercial music.

Doin' Dunmore - Alyssa Lazar“I love being in Nashville,” she said. “It’s a crazy shift. It really is a big city with a small town feel. Everything is about music there. In Nashville, almost the whole population is into music.

“I want to be around people who are passionate about the same thing as me. In Nashville, I am with people who love music all the time.”

Alyssa, well spoken and articulate, has a vision. “In the big scheme,” she said, “I want to bring the old rock n’ roll past back into music in a really big way. That’s what brought me to Nashville. I want to bring that passion back into music.

“I love the old music from the 50’s through the 80’s. I grew up listening to that music thanks to my parents. My only goal is to be a musician and singer-song writer.”

Alyssa’s dad Mark was born and raised in Dunmore. He graduated from Dunmore High School in 1982. “He is a Dunmore guy all the way,” she said.

Her mom was born and raised in North Scranton. She can often been seen cheering Alyssa on at various gigs.  Both her parents are very supportive, attending all of her local gigs.

Alyssa, herself, is a 2017 graduate of Abington Heights. She started singing at age four, took up piano at age nine from Cathy Shefski at The Music Studio, took up guitar at age 12 at Gallucci’s in downtown Scranton and started performing gigs at 14.

Her first gig was at downtown Scranton’s “First Night.” Shortly after, she was performing as a young teen at the old Damon’s Restaurant in Clarks Summit and Andy Gavin’s in Green Ridge.

Her first singing performance was at age six when she opened up her dance recital. She also sang at Abington Heights sports events and Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees and RailRiders baseball games. She sang the national anthem at the Little League World Series in Williamsport twice and at Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders games every year since she was 13.

Doin' Dunmore - Alyssa Lazar on guitarAlyssa came out with her own CD last year. It’s called “570.” The CD title has great meaning to the spirited teen. “It’s named after our area code, because they are all stories about events and people from my hometown.”

Alyssa will have another CD coming out with all new music this July.

She has upcoming gigs June 8, June 23 and July 20 at Crotti’s on Ash in the Petersburg section of Scranton; July 6 and August 4 at Andy Gavin’s in Green Ridge; and July 28 before a RailRiders game at PNC Field, Moosic. There are pending gigs this summer at Russell’s in East Scranton, Oak Street Express in Taylor and LaCucina in Dunmore.

She is in town performing locally till late August and then will return to Nashville to begin  her sophomore year of college.

Her music is typically 50’s to 80’s. Her favorite artists are Billy Joel, Elton John, Elvis Presley, The Eagles, Lady Gaga, Stevie Nicks, The Rolling Stones, among other classic rock artists. Alyssa also loves and sings country music. Her favorite is Martina McBride. “She was my first CD and my first concert. I love her. “

Alyssa’s musical performances are unique in nature. As a soloist, she often starts a gig singing rock classics and playing piano before switching to guitar.

Alyssa can be found on social media under: Facebook – Alyssa Lazar Music. Instagram – alyssalazar – “Alyssa Lazar” on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube and all other music sharing websites.

The words to Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobbie McGee ” were blaring out of the front entrance at Crotti’s on Ash. The sounds were heard in the air of night on Petersburg corners. It was a unique voice and people were gazing through the windows at a teenager singing and smiling to the crowd. The stars outside were bright and inside a little star was forming.

Doin’ Dunmore: February 2018

Doin' Dunmore - Neil Nicastro#1Music is life for Dunmore’s Neil Nicastro

By Steve Svetovich

Besides his family, everything about Neil Nicastro has to do with music.

Nicastro, 41, teaches music in a studio above the Wonder Stone Gallery, corner of Blakely and Drinker streets at Dunmore corners.

The 1994 Dunmore High School graduate, along with fellow local musician John Ventre, also recently came out with a new EP of original material.

The EP, which has five original songs, was featured on PA Live. George Graham has been playing it on WVIA radio. It has been played on the local radio station, The Mountain.

Doin' Dunmore - Neil Nicastro #3“We have 20 original songs,” said Nicastro. “Every couple of months, we will come out with a new EP with another five songs.”

The EP, called “For Escaping,” is a mixture of folk and acoustic. Ventre plays bass on the EP. Nicastro plays string instrumentals, piano, guitar and sings.

“The EP is a good mix of everything.”

When he is not making an EP or out performing, Nicastro keeps busy in his studio teaching just about every musical instrument from guitar to piano to ukulele to mandolin to banjo. He also teaches voice and music theory.

Nicastro earned a B.S. degree in Exercise Science and Physiology from East Stroudsburg University, but jokes he only used that degree for two months before he was hired for a music gig.

Nicastro currently performs with a country band called Nate Hosie. The band toured nationally around the country performing in 42 states.

“It was an experience,” said Nicastro.

He also performed and toured with a band called “The Five Percent.”

And when the multi-talented musician has a little spare time on his hands, he is out doing solo gigs and weddings locally and at Pocono resorts like Cove Haven.

And he works as a disc jockey too.

“For a wedding,” he said, “I try to play the ceremony and then DJ the night. I might play the dinner music and then serve as the DJ for the rest. I do whatever it takes.”

Doin' Dunmore - Neil Nicastro #2Nicastro does anything to stay busy doing what he loves. “I say yes to all events. I”ll play whatever the job calls for. I”ll play jazz, classical, polkas, just about anything.

“The key in this business is to do everything and play every instrument you can.”

The Dunmore native said he took musical lessons as a child at Gallucci Studio in downtown Scranton.

He is married to the former Erin Duffy, a New Jersey native. The couple has two children, Santino, 10, and Paloma, 7.

Doin’ Dunmore: Donovan Entertains at the Kirby Center

bannerBy Steve Svetovich

Folk rock troubadour Donovan, who made his mark in the 1960s hippie generation, was a big hit during his performance at the Wilkes-Barre Kirby Center Sunday, June 4.

Donovan, dressed in a red suit jacket during his splendid 20-song solo performance, which included story telling about his experiences breaking into the music scene in the mid 1960s, was delightful.

He described the mid 1960s as initially a black and white experience that eventually gravitated into extravagant colors. “Even television was black and white in the beginning.”

His current tour is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of his “Sunshine Superman” record. That album’s title track was a number one hit in the United States.

He started his 20 song set with the romantic folk classic “Catch the Wind.”

His set, which included an intermission “for the older folks like me,” he said, consisted of most of his big hits from the 1960s such as Colours, Guinevere, Little Tin Soldier, Jennifer Jupiter, Universal Soldier, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Lalena, To Try for the Sun, Sunshine Superman, Season of the Witch and Mellow Yellow which drew the loudest applause.

The legendary folk artist, still sporting the long hair look of the hippie generation, performed his classic “Atlantis” as his encore song.

He alternately stood and sat center stage strumming his guitar and interjecting a harmonica when the time seemed right.

Whimsical and at times showing a side of dry humor, he entertained the Wilkes-Barre crowd in a strong mannerly English accent with his countless stories about the music scene in the 1960s between each song.

Telling great stories about his early days in music, Donovan was as priceless with that as his delivery of music.

A lifetime practitioner of transcendental meditation, he chatted about a story regarding the great Beatle Paul McCartney. He told of the time Sir Paul knocked on the door of his London apartment and began an impromptu jam. Donovan told of McCartney singing the opening lines to a new song and asking Donovan to fill in the missing lines. Donovan then added the words, “We all live in a yellow submarine…” And the rest is history.

The long standing, magical troubadour told of a London policeman who knocked on the apartment door, saluted McCartney several times and asked him for his keys, so he could move his illegally parked car. The British policeman then re parked the car, came back with the keys and saluted the famous Beatle again.

He told another entertaining story about playing at a show and thinking there was a roof leak, because his eyes were getting smacked with large droplets of water. Then he looked to the front of the stage and found that the late Keith Moon of The Who was blasting a squirt water gun at him.

He had been sharing the bill with The Who, the Hollies, the Walker Brothers, a comedian and a ventriloquist. Donovan remembered being escorted to the concert in a closed box by security guards. The boxes had little holes to enable musical artists to breath. Crazed fans tapped mightily on the boxes during the transport to the stage.

And he told a story about running from crazed fans with bandmate Gypsy Dave, who lost his hash in sand, and then ending up in a museum with Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits who was doing the same.

Donovan’s signature vibrato is still strong as he enters the seventh decade of his life. That was evident as he bellowed, “Mellow Yellow” to the delight of the Kirby faithful.

“And they call me Mellow Yellow,” he reinforced.

Bill Genello, Dunmore, was among those in attendance. “The songs and the story telling were equally great,” he said in approval.