Rowan University has always boasted their ability to provide opportunities for students to share their talents both on campus and far away — Danny Vechesky was one of those students.
Vechesky, a Burlington native, is the lead performer and owner of Danny V’s 52nd Street Band, LLC. He attended Rowan University, then named Glassboro State College, from 1976 to 1979.
Before, while attending Albright College, Vechesky was given the opportunity to work with the stage crew for the legend himself, Billy Joel. Joel performed at the college during his Piano Man Tour in 1974.
“I had a chance to meet him and he inspired me to pursue a career in music,” Vechesky said. “I really connected with his many songs so I learned each one every time an album came out.”
When Vechesky was younger he would listen to Joel’s music and connect not only to his lyrics but to his vocal performance and his piano playing as well.
While Vechesky attended Rowan he majored in Physical Science, yet he still did not give up on his dream of becoming a performer. Vechesky met so many other musicians while at Rowan and would perform with them at local coffee shops, singing songs from the ’60s and ’70s.
Vechesky went on to perform at dormitory events, the campus pub Ratskeller and other locations on Rowan’s campus, earning him the nickname “Dan the Piano Man.”
Vechesky felt as though Rowan gave him the opportunity and skills to develop his craft by learning how to work with other musicians and how to book shows.
“The Student Union always puts on a fundraiser for the Glassboro community at Christmas time called Project Santa. The event was broadcast live on WGLS, 24 hours straight for three days at the gymnasium,” Vechesky said. “Students would perform music and cultural performances on the stage during the fundraiser, while I performed several Billy Joel songs that final night in front of a packed gymnasium.”
Vechesky remembered the response from the crowd as being overwhelming, yet that very moment gave him the validation needed to become a Billy Joel tribute artist.
In 1993, Billy Joel’s twelfth studio album “River of Dreams” was released, which sparked the idea for Vechesky to form 52nd Street. Vechesky advertised audition calls in many local rock and roll newspapers until he found the right band to fit the sound. Over the years, there have been numerous band members, but the basic band still remains today, 28 years later.
52nd Street went on to play venues and events such as the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for their annual 5K 9-11 memorial event in lower Manhattan.
“I was extremely honored to perform during the ceremony while the many New York City dignitaries were on the same stage,” Vechesky said. “Performing ‘New York State of Mind’ while the New York Fire Department firemen were marching in procession in front of the stage was a moment I will never forget.”
52nd Street went on to perform at a pre-show party concert for one of Joel’s shows at the Flyers’ new arena, then called the Wachovia Center, in Philadelphia. They even went on to perform at Joel’s own smash hit Broadway play, “Movin’ Out!”
As much as Vechesky is a fan of all of Billy Joel’s music, his favorite song to perform is the one Vechesky himself is known for, “Piano Man.” However, if given the chance to cover another artist or band from the classic rock era, he would choose John Lennon in a Beatles tribute band.
“There are so many hit songs and I can cover John Lennon pretty well,” said Vechesky. “They were my rock and roll heroes growing up.”
Vechesky also emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with musicians more talented than yourself and remembering to always be grateful for the people that help you get to where you are.
“To upcoming musicians, you will have to be able to create a vision for your music, follow your passion, be the best you can be at your craft, be a sponge, learn as much as you can about your genre,” Vechesky said.
See “Dan the Piano Man” and the 52nd Street Band this Sunday, Oct. 16th, at 6 p.m. at the Broadway Theater in Pitman, NJ. Tickets are still currently being sold online, so do not wait to relive the good old days with Billy Joel’s greatest hits!
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