This is Maestro Man
I have seen Maestro Man in Verdi Park many times. He is often there playing his electronic keyboard and singing songs of the '60s and '70s. He is 63 years old, a bit younger than most of the people I talk to who are getting old and getting out, but he has such an interesting story that I thought I would include him. I asked how he got his name - he gave it to himself. That's how he wants to be known.
I asked what it was like as an African American growing up in a mostly white suburban neighborhood. He said it wasn't always easy. He experienced racism and bullying as a child which he believes helped him to become tough and to learn how to fend for himself.
There were only a few people of color in his neighborhood, and he often felt out of place and alone. The best time of his life is when his family purchased a home in the South Bronx. His parents were able to purchase their own home after renting for so many years because his father hit the numbers (illegal gambling.) How lucky they were!
His mother worked for a family that had a baby grand piano. At the age of three, he started to toddle around on the piano and soon everyone realized he had a natural talent. His parents purchased an electronic keyboard for him when he was fairly young and he has been playing ever since.
I asked what kind of work he has done in the past. Both he and his father worked as bookies. His father had cornered the market on the "Italian" gambling market and he had the "Jewish" market. I didn't understand exactly what he meant by that. He said there were two organized crime rings in his neighborhood, one Jewish and one Italian, and they were each connected to one or the other. He was able to support himself for quite a while on his earnings.
Maestro Man served in the Army for two years mostly in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone. After discharge from the Army, he settled in Manhattan. He loves the city and its diversity. He said he has experienced the difficulties and racism, but he feels this to be a good place to live.
He married and has one daughter from that marriage. He and his wife divorced and he does not see her or his daughter for a very long time. He does not know where they are and they have been apart for many years. He has given up hope on ever having a relationship with his daughter.
Maestro Man has his own recording studio - Sterling Wave Sound. He records unknowns, people who play in nightclubs but never really quite make it. He loved his work, but with the pandemic, most of the work dried up. So, what does a talented man do when his business goes bust? He goes to the park and plays for his friends and neighbors on the Upper West Side of New York City.
Although Maestro Man is not "old" he is able to get out every day. His talent keeps him young and active, and we are all beneficiaries of his love of music.