By Pam Hersh
Although a self-described “not great” piano player, as far as technique, he is known among friends, family, and several Princeton residents as someone with a “great” ear for music and an “amazing ability to use his piano as his instrument for storytelling and entertaining,” according to former Princeton Mayor Phyllis Marchand. She also noted that a high note of his performances is that they are free of charge for local non-profits., Some may consider this donation of entertainment as a very generous act, but Dave considers his donated performances as simply a source of personal satisfaction. “I love what I do. I have as much fun as the attendees,” said Dave, who already told his wife that whatever they picture for their retirement years, a piano has to be in the picture., Nearly 100 local residents, including the former township mayor, participated in a Saltzman shindig on Christmas Day at the Jewish Center of Princeton. He put a different spin on the clichéd description of how Jews spend Christmas — eating Chinese food, volunteering for a charity, and seeing a movie., Mr. Saltzman did eat the Chinese food that the Jewish Center served and did volunteer his time, but he and the attendees had no need for a movie, because he provided live musical entertainment., He produced and performed a program of Christmas songs whose composers were Jewish. He combined his musical talents with his vast knowledge of the Great American Songbook to create a music trivia program revealing such tidbits as the fact that “White Christmas” — composed by Irving Berlin — is the biggest-selling song in history. The Great American Songbook comprises the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century (1920s to the 1950s)., In his introductory comments to the group, Mr Saltzman said: “I’ve had a lifelong interest in music and trivia and games. I am certainly not the first person to notice that there are quite a few popular Christmas songs that were composed (either music or lyrics) by Jews.”, Roughly the same time that Eastern European immigrants, many of them Jewish, came to America, there were many developments related to popular music. Mass production of pianos meant millions of American homes wanted to hear new popular songs, played from sheet music, later heard on the phonograph, records, radio and in movies., “Vaudeville and Yiddish theater grew, and modern Broadway musicals followed,”Mr Saltzman said. “The field professionally was wide open if an individual had talent because there were no religious, ethnic or racial ‘barriers’ to getting hired in the field of music composition., “The advantage to Christmas songs is that they are perennial. They don’t go out of style… In fact, of the top 20 selling songs of all time, five are Christmas songs, including two by Jewish composers.”, An independent insurance broker, Mr Saltzman said his success in his profession is due in part to some of the same qualities that have made his avocation successful — listening, research, presentation, and perseverance., He listens carefully to what people want, enjoys doing the extensive research and takes great care in presenting the material in a comprehensible and coherent way for an insurance plan and in an entertaining way for a piece of music. Before he became an insurance broker, Mr. Saltzman, after getting an MBA from New York University (undergraduate degree from Rutgers in 1977), taught business and accounting, without the aid of a piano., He considers himself to be in the “nearly self-taught” category of musicians, since he stopped taking piano lessons when he was 13. But he never stopped playing. In his first year of college at Rutgers, he became greatly attached to playing the piano in the student center, and then started to devour enormous amounts of written and video material about music and musicians., “It is easy to find a better player than myself,” he said self-deprecatingly, but hard to find one with more passion for the music. His resolution for 2017 is to keep sharing his passion for the benefit of others.
LOOSE ENDS: Princeton resident David Saltzman played a special Christmas music concert at the Jewish Center of Princeton
By Pam Hersh