On a windy autumn afternoon, I raced to the Art-Reach building on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in anticipation of my initial meeting with Tony Mascara. I had read a brief synopsis of his program and spoken to Mascara on the telephone three times. Over the telephone, his baritone voice was relaxing with a cheerful edge. I walked up the steps to the building, then turned the corner and recognized Mascara instantly. He wore a goatee, shoulder-length brown hair, flip-flops, and a tailored straw hat. He carried a backpack, a cellular phone in one hand, and in the other hand, an object about 24 inches tall, neatly wrapped in black cloth. Mascara finished his telephone conversation, carefully sat the object on the ground, and embraced me with a friendly hug.
As we made our way into the Art-Reach office, we discussed parking, evening plans with friends, and his wife. Just like that, we were friends. We sat down, and as Mascara casually removed his straw hat, the interview commenced.
Tony Mascara of the Audio Lab is an Art-Reach In-Facility
Roster artist and presenter at Day of Healing
How did you get started in music? Both my parents are musicians. My mom is a piano and voice teacher. And my father is an entertainer, he plays the keyboard.
What is the first instrument you learned to play? Drums. My first Christmas, my parents spent a couple of dollars on toys. Instead of playing with the toys, I went into the kitchen and dug out the pots and pans. My first set of drums.
When did you start performing professionally? My dad was a performer, I started performing with him when I was eleven-years-old. We performed at the Jersey Shore at a place called Moore Inlet (The Pointe at Moore Inlet is located in North Wildwood, New Jersey). When I was twelve-years-old, I opened for Bobby Rydell (Bobby Rydell was an American teen idol from the early 1960’s era of Rock and Roll).
What do you love most about performing? I love meeting people, I’m a social person, I like making connections, and using my talents to make connections.
How did you get started with Art-Reach? Art-Reach saw me performing at the library with Daria (Daria is another Art-Reach In-Facility artist). I met with Stephanie (Stephanie Borton is the Associate Director at Art-Reach) and thought this was something I could get behind.
How was your first performance as a solo artist with Art-Reach? It was a great performance, everybody was receptive. A young girl came up after the performance and said, “I was feeling bad before the performance, but now my spirit has been lifted.” There were about fifteen people on Sunday at Steninger (Behavioral Care). I like a smaller audience a little better, because I like lots of audience participation. The performance was about 45 minutes to an hour. At the performances, I bring enough drums of all sizes and shapes from around the world for everyone to participate.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Doing the same thing, playing with musicians, but playing better, so I can be good!
Following the interview, Mascara revealed the object underneath the black cloth. It was a Djembe drum from West Africa. The drum is shaped like a large goblet, with a brown, sort of skin color, and it is covered in unique black carvings. Mascara demonstrated the swatting technique, hitting the drum as though you were swatting a bug. The top of the drum is called the head. To create a bass sound, you swat the head, to create a different sound; you swat the edge of the head, creating a sound similar to hitting a water jug.
After Mascara’s demonstration and mini lesson, I took over. With the city’s skyline as our backdrop, Mascara and I sat in the Art-Reach cafeteria and jammed. Almost an hour had passed, so we packed up, and rode the elevator to bottom floor and departed close to where we had initially met.
With another warm embrace, we went our separate ways. Mascara walking towards 17th and JFK, excited to meet some fellow musicians. And I, trotting down the street towards 16th and Locust, with a smile on my face, feeling as though my spirit had been lifted as well.
To view Tony's program listing with Art-Reach's In-Facility Program click here. Tony will be a featured artist at Art-Reach's Day of Healing event scheduled this Friday, February 19th. Art-Reach liaisons are invited to participate in the event and experience Tony's program first hand. To attend the event contact Stephanie Borton via email or by phone at 215-568-2115 x3
-By Tammy Walker