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Captain Mas open mic night in Sterling showcases hidden talent
Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 by Hannah Dellinger, Times-Mirror Staff Writer|
Tom Saputo (left) accompanies one of his students on the piano at Captain Mas Crab House in Sterling. Times-Mirror Hannah Dellinger
In an age of karaoke machines and DJs, the piano bar is a dying breed of musical
However, there is a group of musicians keeping the tradition alive in Northern Virginia.
In their hay day, piano bars provided an electric, exciting experience for talented singers to try new material. Some of the greats like Jimmy Durante and Billy Joel got there starts playing in piano bars. They were places of experimentation, camaraderie and chemistry.
“Anybody can get up and do karaoke,” said Tom Saputo, a professional musician and music teacher. “With this [kind of performance], you sort of have to know a little bit more about singing to do well.”
Saputo makes a living coaching and organizing piano bar-style open mic nights for his singing group at bars and restaurants across the region.
The second and fourth Sunday of every month Saputo’s group gathers at Captain Mas Crab House in Sterling.
Saputo sets up his electric keyboard and introduces each singer like they are stars in a flashy cocktail lounge.
The vocalists are usually between age 60 and 70. All of them are well practiced and extremely talented.
“Many of the singers that come to see me are professional or semi-professional,” said Saputo. “They go to workshops and they take classes.”
The seasoned vocalists belt out their old favorites to eatery-goers like they’re performing at the Copa Cabana.
“Most clubs would not be favorable to this, or they’re age group,” said the pianist. “They feel very comfortable, like I do, coming into a place where everybody’s sort of the same age and enjoys the same type of music. ”
Saputo said many of his clients are high-up government employees or business professionals with a passion for music that never died.
Robin Ingenito, a Reston-area real estate agent by day, has been a part of Saputo’s singing group for years.
“I just love to sing. It’s my therapy,” she said. “There’s nothing like getting out there and belting out a few songs to loosen you up and relax you.”
Ingenito sang professionally in New York years ago. Now she says she mostly sings for fun. Saputo’s piano bar set up is unlike anything else she’s found.
“There’s nothing like live music,” she said. “When you have a live piano player, if you want to play the song slower or faster, he’s right there. If you make a mistake, he covers for you.”
Ingenito said Saputo encourages and helps new talent get up and perform for the first time.
“He gives more help than most other piano players would,” she said. “It’s great because it gives them the confidence to go out and do it again.”
The support found in Saputo’s singing group is a rare thing to find, said Ingenito.
“I’ve been to a lot of places around the country, and there’s nothing like this kind of singing group that we have,” she said. “We’ve all known each other for a long, long time. We’re like a family, a singing family.”