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Tickling the ivory ... and the funny bone

Pianist, comedian Dale Gonyea performs in Folsom
By: Bridget Jones, Special to The Telegraph
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A pianist with a flair for comedy is coming to town Sunday. Dale Gonyea will be the featured artist of the Folsom Lake Community Concert Association’s final concert of the 2008-2009 season. The concert will be held at the Folsom Community Center at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Gonyea, who tours all over the United States, has written songs for Disney and performed on several American comedy shows as well as the British comedy show “etc.” His music has been performed by artists such as Bette Midler, Rosie O’Donnell and Ray Stevens. His comedy album is titled “Songs my Next-door-Neighbor Knows by Heart.” He’s won an Emmy for his work as well as a Grammy nomination for his song-spoof recording “I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow.” Gonyea hails from Monroe, Mich. and began playing the piano as a very young boy. “When I was 5, my parents bought a piano from our cousins for $10,” Gonyea said. “I was immediately fascinated with the piano, and with my cousin Marilyn, who played the piano whenever she came over to baby-sit. I started imitating her playing and managed to figure out a couple of pieces on my own.” Gonyea said his mother then encouraged him to take formal lessons. “My mother took me to the local convent for lessons,” he said. “I was pretty short even for a 5-year-old, and they said I was too young. I must have looked about 3. So my mother asked if they’d like to hear me play something. I played a couple of pieces for them and they welcomed me in ‘before I developed any more bad habits.’” Gonyea first decided to combine piano music and comedy when he was a student writing songs for musical revues at the University of Michigan. “The funny songs always went over the best,” he said. After he graduated, Gonyea played piano at clubs and found that he could get people’s attention by singing funny songs. “At about this time, I started thinking of ideas for funny songs and wrote them just for my own and my friends’ amusement,” Gonyea said. “At some point, I decided to try a couple of them in a comedy club and they went over pretty well, so it inspired me to continue in that direction.” Doreen Mykytyn, marketing vice president for the FLCCA, said the organization is thrilled to bring Gonyea to Folsom. “We wanted him to come and play for our audience because we saw him perform … a couple years ago,” Mykytyn said. “He is so charming and fun besides. He plays classical music and he’s classically trained, but he just interjects his comedy into what he’s playing. People are going to laugh from beginning to end.” Gonyea said ideas for his comedy come from various sources. “Everyday things inspire me,” he said. “A comment from a friend or a family member, or someone in the audience, or the newspaper; you just have to keep your tuner opened to any and all inspiration. It’s all around us all the time.” Gonyea is also participating in the FLCCA’s outreach program. This program works to provide concerts to high school students and senior citizens in the local community at least once a year. Gonyea will be performing for Oak Ridge High School students in El Dorado Hills at 8:30 a.m. April 20. Another outreach performance will follow at 11 a.m. at the Eskaton FountainWood Lodge in Orangevale. Bea Buder, FLCCA outreach program chairwoman, said the program can be extremely eye-opening for students. “I really feel it’s important to bring music and programming to the children of our community so they know what’s out there,” Buder said. “They meet these artists personally. It makes (the artists) real to them – they can see them in action. Some of these kids have probably never seen an artist like Dale.” Buder said she is glad Gonyea decided to do both outreach programs, so that his music can be shared with local seniors as well. “I really admire him for his energy and his commitment to the arts,” she said. “Some of these (seniors) aren’t able to get out to see this type of program. It brings them enjoyment. You just see it in their faces, how they enjoy being entertained by these professionals.” Gonyea said he hopes his show will help audience members forget their troubles for awhile and simply have fun. “Especially at this time in our country, and in the world I should say, we could all use a good laugh,” Gonyea said. “I want people to leave the show feeling a little lighter, a little less worried about the current state of things.” Bridget Jones may be reached at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com.