Today is certainly a unique blog for me to write, but one I have greatly anticipated since this journey began. As much as I love all the music I have listened to on this list, that connection obviously runs deeper when your own son shows up on the list. Watching and listening to him has always been one of my greatest pleasures and proudest moments in life. It became evident very early in life that he loved to sing and was seemingly always on pitch whenever he did. Thankfully, we were able to pair him up with a fantastic vocal instructor named Natalie, and from then on, he was singing in some type of structured environment. It started with recitals, and for years after, that was his primary venue, along with the occasional talent show.
As he entered high school, he combined his participation in theater with music by auditioning for his first musical, “42nd Street”. Warmly embraced by the other performers, and his coaching staff, Gary, Steve and Kim, the show was a big success and that led to him joining his first performance, the Orlando Rep Power Chords. Over the next four years, community events around central Florida became commonplace for this group, and this, along with his other musical theater endeavors, offered me countless opportunities to continue hearing and seeing him perform. In all those years, I only missed one performance, and I was at least able to see the dress rehearsal the night before. Through his time performing in high school theater, he was able to make many great friends, including two awesome people, Ivan and Phil, who remain close friends of Zach and our family to this day.
As he went off to college, I wondered if he would stay active in performing, and thankfully for both of us, he overcame a high fever one night and chose to audition for the Zumbyes, the oldest a capella group at Amherst College. Originally formed in 1950s, their alumni include David Eisenhower, grandson of Dwight Eisenhower, actors John Michael Higgins and Ken Howard, and hundreds of other students over the past 72 years. Up until recently, the Zumbyes were an all-male group, and I’m very proud that during Zach’s time with the group, they opened the aperture wider to accept their first female, Emma, into the group. Amherst College has proven to be a highly inclusive and thoughtful community, and this was an excellent step forward for this great tradition.
Most of the members of the group are not lifetime performers, and many of them are and were members of other activities including the college’s sports teams and other clubs. However, the quality of their performances is always highly entertaining, and from time to time they enter the recording studio to capture some of their best work and arrangements. The two albums I have featured today, “To My Left”, released in 2019, and “Tender Time”, released in 2020, are the two albums available on most streaming services and the two where Zach can be heard.
Like all albums, each one has my favorites, and these are no exception. On “To My Left”, my two favorite songs are sung by one of Zach’s closest friends, Markus. Markus was one of the baritones of the group, and his deep crooner voice is fantastic on “L-O-V-E” and his signature song, “Stardust”. From this album, I also love their arrangement of “More Than Words”, the rock ballad by Extreme. I also enjoy hearing the super-deep bass voice of his other closest friend, Jacob on this album. Markus and Jacob are always there for Zach (and me) whenever anything is needed, and they are two of the best friends any person could ever hope to have.
As much as I enjoyed “To My Left”, I will of course always be partial to “Tender Time”, when I was able to realize a dream of hearing my son sing in a lead role, singing on multiple music streaming platforms. Since his freshman year, Zach took the lead on their rendition of “Sara Smile”, a Hall and Oates classic, and by his estimate, he probably performed this song over 100 times during his time at Amherst. The studio version on “Tender Time” is amazing and sharing it with others has given me great joy and pride. His other primary solo during his tenure at Amherst was “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees, and I love that I can find these, and many other performances archived on youtube.com and elsewhere on the internet.
Of course, the Zumbyes are more than just one person, and the rest of this album has some more great tunes as well. “It’s Alright”, “Nothing Can Change This Love”, and their version of “Freedom! ‘90” are my other favorites from this release. On “Freedom! 90”, just like the other songs, I love hearing Zach do some additional riffing, and it also is fantastic to hear Emma and the other female voices in the mix.
I don’t know what the future holds for Zach with regards to singing, but I hope he and all his friends continue to find an outlet for their creative talents, wherever life takes them. Collectively, they have given me some of my favorite memories as a music fan and a father, and nothing can ever take any of that away. I love you, my son.