Person of the Week
‘Happy Holidays from Sal Anastasio’ CD Benefits Local Causes
This time of year, Sal Anastasio is usually the man behind the music that lights up holiday gatherings for seniors and many others across the shoreline. While COVID-19 has curbed this year’s performance schedule, Sal has not hit the pause button. Instead, this local musician has recorded Happy Holidays from Sal Anastasio, a CD of seasonal songs, with sales going to give back to local causes in several towns, including Branford-based Orchard House Adult Medical Day Center, and Branford-North Branford’s Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. (Photo courtesy of Sal Anastasio )
This time of year, Sal Anastasio is usually the man behind the music that lights up holiday gatherings for seniors and many others across the shoreline. While COVID-19 has curbed this year’s performance schedule, Sal hasn’t hit the pause button. Instead, this local musician has recorded Happy Holidays from Sal Anastasio, a CD of seasonal songs, with sales going to give back to local causes in several towns.
As a former banker of 30 years who took up his passion for performing (singing and keyboards) nine years ago, Sal has obtained quite a bit of recognition on the shoreline and beyond. He’s become used to playing well over 200 gigs a year—until 2020 came along.
“I had 240 dates booked when this year started, and I believe I’ve only played a third of them this year. You know what? That’s okay. It gave me the idea to say, ‘Why don’t I do something to give back, and have some fun with?’” says Sal.
That idea led to producing his holiday CD, which is also Sal’s first CD. About three months ago, Sal recorded the music at the studio of notable North Branford musician Collin Tilton, whom he met thanks to “a friend of a friend.”
“I recorded it with Collin Tilton from the legendary band Eight to the Bar,” says Sal. “Collin is a great guy and a very talented musician. He’s also known in music circles because he’s the guy that played the sax solo on Van Morrison’s song ‘Moondance.’”
Sal says he’s also happy to have produced this special musical compilation for another reason.
“It also kind of leaves a legacy for my family,” says Sal, who is celebrating his 40th anniversary this year with his wife, Donna. The couple raised their daughter, Melissa, in East Haven.
About a month ago, Sal received his first batch of packaged CDs delivered to his East Haven home, and got to work. In the first three weeks of CD sales, Sal has raised more than $1,000 in contributions. Each $20 CD purchase allows the buyer to designate proceeds will go to the one of the four non-profit organizations Sal is supporting: Branford-based Orchard House Adult Medical Day Center, Branford/North Branford Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, North Haven’s Animal Haven, and Clelian Center in Hamden.
“I’ve performed for the two adult day centers for a number of years, and I can attest to the great job they do with limited budgets without the resources that the big chains have. Their dedication to the folks under their watch has always been inspiring to me,” notes Sal of Orchard House and Clelian Center.
As animal lover and “dad” to the Anastasio family’s beloved pet, a bichon frise pup named Molly, Sal also wanted to support to two of the area’s animal shelters.
“The animal venues do great work as well,” says Sal, adding, “..these are [all] places that rely on fundraisers to raise money to do things. And right now, it’s hard for them to fundraise.”
Sal hasn’t stopped the giving there. He’s also spreading the spirit of his seasonal music by hand-delivering CDs to senior living facilities and senior care organizations he’s come to know and love during his years of performing for them.
“I went all over the state, and to every senior place I currently play for or used to play for, because I wanted to give them one to say ‘Thank you,’” says Sal. “Because they helped me to build a successful business that brings me a lot of joy. In terms of job satisfaction, it’s off the charts, in terms of anything you can do in the corporate world, in my mind.”
Sal has his long-time friend, musician, John Paiolillo, to thank for inspiring him to take his musical talent to the professional level. In November 2011, after three decades as a banker, including 20 years in management, a merger brought about a layoff for Sal.
“I was looking for a job for almost a year, and I was looking for non-banking jobs. I did not want to go back to a bank,” said Sal. “And after a little while, John said to me, ‘You know what? You were a pretty good musician as a kid. Why don’t you try playing again?”
Sal put his musical talent together with his management expertise and quickly began booking jobs as an entertainer at venues, birthdays, weddings, and other events around the state. He hasn’t looked back since.
“The first year I did 40 gigs. Then it jumped to over 140. The third year, I went over 200, and I’ve been over 200 ever since,” says Sal.
While the warmer weather this year allowed Sal to perform for some socially distanced gatherings, he also began performing using Zoom as a digital platform to reach his audiences. He says the video-linked live shows are great because he can still interact with this audiences—he likes to joke around with them and talk to them between the music about the songs and the artists.
“So Zoom has become the thing,” says Sal, 64. “I did the first one in August for the Clelian Center, and then I was due to play there this month, so they asked if I would do another Zoom show. I said, ‘Sure.’ I like it. You’re still reaching some people and making a difference, and you’re still having fun. It’s not the same as live in the room, but it’s pretty close. And it helps me keep my hands in it until things get better.”
One of Sal’s favorite audiences are those that include senior citizens, for many reasons.
“At the end of a concert, usually they say stuff like ‘That was so good,’ or, ‘You brought back memories.’ Or a lot of them who are widowed will tell me, ‘you played mine and my husband’s song,’ or ‘mine and my wife’s song,’” says Sal. “And that’s where the satisfaction comes in. Instead of a job where you might hear you did something good every once and a while, it’s these instant compliments. I still get chills when people clap after a song or say ‘Oh, you’ve got a nice voice.’”
Sal’s repertoire is wide and varied. He’ll sing and play tunes made famous by Crooners like Sinatra to ’50s doo-wop and the music of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and beyond, from Billy Joel to Tom Petty. He’s also constantly listening to new music to find songs he can add to his huge song book. On his CD Happy Holidays from Sal Anastasio, the 15-track CD includes classic Christmas songs of varied styles and genres (from “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Please Come Home for Christmas”) with a Hanukkah song and “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” in the mix, too.
Sal’s up to his third order of CDs as word of his effort to support local causes with his music begins to spread. He says he’ll also roll out the CD next year, with the hope of continuing to raise funds for the four local organizations.
“I’m having a ball,” says Sal. “This is some of the most fun I’ve had in years.”
To purchase Happy Holidays from Sal Anastasio CDs, (checks and/or online payments can be made directly to one of the four non-profits), email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message via Facebook to facebook.com/salanastasio.3.