At Singer’s Concerts, Fans Make the Music
By Howard Kolus
39-year old former Cedar Crest High School English teacher and track
also finds marathon running to his liking, almost as much as he enjoys
students at the
Blending showmanship with an innate love of music, Cusatis turns the spotlight on those who have come to see him and, he says, the response has been overwhelming.
“A set of
“It just takes off from there,” he continued. “It’s different every time even though it’s always the same format. … Very often there’s no one left in the audience (because) everyone’s on stage (performing).”
Cusatis said the motto of his show is “I’ll bring the instruments, you bring the band.”
But it hasn’t always been that way.
“I started playing (guitar) in 1983,” Cusatis recalled during a
telephone interview from his
“I didn’t do it this way (with audience participation) until about 1990 or ’91. A song needed a cow bell. I couldn’t play a cow bell while playing the guitar so I got someone in the audience to ring the bell and it just grew.”
In 1993, Cusatis moved to
“(Later) I played a party at Hilton Head,” he recalled. “People in tuxes and suits … before it was all over they were disheveled up on stage taking their shirts off … You get a very rigid group and you can really get them to loosen up and surprise a lot of people.”
Although he enjoys the limelight, Cusatis said he was extremely nervous when performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a small crowd at a minor league baseball game.
“It was just too quiet and (there was) no guitar to hide behind,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “And my voice is more suited for barrooms. It was a thrill when it was over, but I was scared until I got beyond ‘the land of the free’ safely.”
When the energetic Cusatis found the constant pursuit of music
the healthiest lifestyle,” he began running to get in shape and raise
for charities. He has completed marathons
“I’ve always got something going,” Cusatis said. “Exercise is so important. I run just about every day. If I don’t feel good, I can’t do anything.”
Married for three years, he returned to teaching in 1999,
a CD of reggae style music, and this year received his doctorate. He also performs on weekends throughout
Cusatis says his twin passions for music and education fuel a dual fire within his soul.
“Music and teaching provide a balance for me. Music is a nice release at the end of a week in the classroom,” he said.
“My teaching schedule keeps my musician’s lifestyle in check. And the music makes sure the academics don’t preclude having fun.”
However, Cusatis admits that music has invaded his classroom, and that’s a good thing, he said.
“I use music a lot in teaching literature,” he explained. “I was inspired by Bob Dylan. I use his songs in the classroom … For example, when I teach romantic literature, I play the song, ‘Mr. Tambourine Man.’ To me it’s the perfect example of romanticism. … At one time poetry was what people read … now we have recorded lyrics. But it’s really the same thing.”