Dentist realizes songwriting dream

Sunday April 22, 2012

Special to The Eagle


Some songs are worth singing, even after they’ve gathered dust for 30 years. Steve Yarmosky had a trove of such songs, written in his mid-20s and long since set aside. But a question posted to him at his monthly men’s group spurred a re-introduction to his old muse, and inspired his pursuit of a long-dormant dream.

Yarmosky, now 56 and well known locally as a pediatric dentist practicing in Pittsfield and Great Barrington, recorded an album of his old songs, bringing in session pros to execute them in the professional manner he always felt they deserved.

The result is "Let Me Dream: The Words and Music of Steve Yarmosky," a 17-song CD produced by Todd Mack at Off the Beat-n-Track, Mack’s recording studio in Sheffield. It was released last year.

Yarmosky describes himself as a prolific songwriter during a four-year period, beginning when he served his dental residency in Dayton, Ohio, and ending around 1982, two years after he had moved to the Berkshires with his new wife, Mary.

The opportunities related to a new dental practice and family life (the Yarmoksys have four daughters) left little time for his songwriting ambitions, though he retained faith in the quality of his work.

"I had all these songs that I thought were really, really good, but I am not a performer, I’m a dentist," he said in a telephone interview from his home here.

"One great thing about being a dentist," he went on, "is you can listen to music all day long. And as I was listening for all those years, I kept on thinking that my songs, if properly produced, were as good as or better than most of the songs on the radio. Not the great songs -- I’m no James Taylor or Paul Simon -- but most of the songs."

Yet the notion of going into the studio to record his work didn’t crystallize as a palpable goal until one evening in April 2009, when the participants in a small men’s group watched a video of Susan Boyle performing on the UK television show "Britain’s Got Talent."

Boyle, a 47-year-old aspiring singer, was viewed skeptically by the show’s hosts and audience before wowing them with her voice.

A question was posed in the room after the video clip: What is your dream?

Yarmosky spit out his intention to finally make an album. The next day, he said, he telephoned Mack -- whose children’s dental needs he had seen to for years -- and booked some studio time.

The goal wasn’t to become a rock and roll star. Yarmosky’s project was different, Mack observed, because he simply wanted to showcase his songs by inviting in professional musicians to play them.

Even his signature song written in tribute to his wife, "Love My Mary Dear," was handled by a guest vocalist, for a simple reason. "I like that song too much for me to sing it," Yarmosky explained humbly.

The recording and mixing process took 16 months, with Yarmosky patiently listening to every iteration on his car stereo (he said he broke it in the process from over-use) and Mack serving as "building inspector" for the "dream house" of the album, in Yar mosky’s words.

"You can’t help but get inspired by working with him. He’s so into it. He’s so enthusiastic," Mack said of the experience.

"Sometimes, when you do it every day, it’s your job and you kind of forget about how exciting it is and what a thrill it is for [a newcomer] to be able to be doing it, and doing the process. Every time he came in here, he brought that energy with him. It was contagious."

Yarmosky said his dream isn’t to be a rock star but "to be the songwriter for the rock star. ... I’d much rather have a band play my songs with me in the front row, smiling."

The goal all along was to create an album full of "radio-quality hit singles," not merely to catalog all his work, he said.

He likened the recruitment of a band to play his songs with responsibilities as a dentist.

"I’m a specialist. If I can’t provide my patients with the best medical care available, I refer them to someone who can. And it’s the same way with my album. When you have Steve Ide, the best guitarist in Berkshire County as your guitar player, you refer," he said, extending the comparison to other players on the album.

"I got a drum set for my bar mitzvah in 1967, so when you have Rick Leab as your drummer you don’t have to pray any more. You just sit back and refer. I got together the best Berkshire musicians around and my dream came true."

Guests like Wanda Houston, Bobby McVeety and Tom Teeley handle vocal duties on songs that range from early-Beatles-like rock to sultry blues and even bursts of Dixieland-evoking horn parts.

The overall feel is bright and rocking, with songs about love predominating and the Beatles influence in abundance.

Yarmosky, who does not play guitar on the album, lends lead vocals to one tune, "The History of Aviation," a short, charmingly odd song dating to his time in Dayton.

The CD is available on iTunes and CD Baby. Yarmo sky said the challenge now is just to get people to hear it -- and to figure out a way to get his songs onto the radio.

For now, though, it’s made one clear change in his life: he’s started writing songs again.

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