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Bergman brightens lives with music for the elderly and disabled

&bsp; I caught Dana Bergman in action at the end of last month performing during the dinner hour at Laurel Woods in Columbus. Dana, with a smile, a guitar, and his Scottish terrier Barney, comes to entertain the diners there once a month.

My first impression was that he appeared to bring a cheerful burst of energy to an otherwise quiet dinner. He was singing an original tune &dquo;Sweet Cherry Pie&dquo; about savoring family moments. Then he launched into a series of songs familiar to me from my own childhood like &dquo;Country Roads,&dquo; and &dquo;You are my Sunshine.&dquo; I began to visit a bit with the women at my table who also remembered these songs. It gave us strangers something to talk about.

Then, just as we were running out of things to say, Dana launched into a sing-a-long with &dquo;Home on the Range&dquo; that pulled everyone&squo;s attention back to the stage. Rousing songs like &dquo;Blue Suede Shoes&dquo; started toes tapping and hands clapping. By the time he wrapped up the show with &dquo;God Bless America&dquo; the dinner plates had been removed yet most of the diners remained to get a chance to say hello to Barney or simply thank Dana for sharing his music today.

I had time for a quick picture and then met up with Dana over coffee on another day away from his fans. We started off discussing his next upcoming performances which included Inman&squo;s arrival at Harmon Field and the Meeting House Senior Center in Tryon on Tuesday April 15 at 10 a.m.

Do you have a regular performance schedule?

I play at the Inn on Church in Hendersonville. They do Sunday Brunch and I play out on the front porch with dinner music. It&squo;s the same show I&squo;d do at Silver&squo;s Edge, Drake House, or Stone Soup. Then I have a regular rotation with Autumn Woods in Saluda and Laurel Woods in Columbus.

You mentioned to me before that you moved here because of your Dad?

In July 2006 he became very ill. I provided a home for him here until he was hit with pneumonia in August 2007 passed away in November at 85. My mom lives here so I&squo;m close to her.

Tell me how you got started performing at the nursing facilities. It started in Connecticut when I was travelling with guitar on my motorcycle. Frequently I passed a veteran&squo;s home out in the country and the fellows out front would wave. One day on a whim I decided to stop and see if they&squo;d like to hear guitar. Most of these gentlemen were Korean and Vietnam veterans and many were disabled. They enjoyed my music so much I went back a week later and did it again. I met the activities director and she asked if I would play twice a month for a small stipend. She referred me to sister companies and soon I developed an interest in bringing my talents to those who were less fortunate. Over a year I developed about a 27 nursing home rotation all over the state.

When did you start bringing Barney along?

Barney is seven now, I started taking him out right away for the bonding and social interaction. He&squo;s very docile and lets people hold him and love on him.

Who are some of your musical influences?

For performance style and vocals, I look to Frank Sinatra. He gives a wonderful presentation. My favorite music includes the Beatles, particularly George Harrison, Simon and Garfunkle, and Cat Stevens. George Harrison is very sensitive, deeply spiritual and compassionate. I was hooked on the Beatles by three years of age. I listened to Meet the Beatles over and over and used to pretend to play guitar with the album. Anytime I&squo;m down or need a pick me up, I&squo;ll listen to those old songs.

I never pursued superstardom. My goals and aspirations are to bring comfort to others. The best way I can do that is through music especially for disabled veterans and the elderly. I&squo;m proud of my original songs. I have over a dozen, some of which could work commercially given the opportunity.

When did you write your first song?

I wrote my very first song in 1979, it was called &dquo;Three Hundred Souls&dquo; and was a tribute to passengers and crew of American Airlines DC10 flight 182 that crashed into Chicago. The captain of that flight was a close personal friend of my parents and I had known him since I was a child. My dad was flying a DC 10 at the time and I could tell he was very upset by the crash.

Later on during my married years raising step-kids I started writing more. A lot of the songs romanticized the family environment. I was inspired to write &dquo;You,&dquo; which I sang for my wife at our wedding.

I&squo;ve written two songs in the past couple of months. One is a very sad song reflecting on integrity vs. despair. Erikson identified various stages of life and labels the last stage as &dquo;Integrity vs. Despair.&dquo; The song is called &dquo;Contrails from a Plane&dquo; and I&squo;d like to record it even though it may be too sad to perform for the elderly.

&dquo;Key West or Curtains for Me&dquo; is about a New York stockbroker with economic turmoil who wants to run away to Key West, but is stuck.

As Dana pulled out his guitar and played this song a random stranger walked through the coffee house and as she listened commented aloud, &dquo;that&squo;s my life&dquo; and laughed. I took this as a sure sign that what he&squo;s sharing resonates not only with the elderly, but with the average every day person.

What do you plan to do with your music? There are bands that play for the hoopla, and there are those who play for therapeutic effect. I&squo;m definitely the latter. The social atmosphere of playing gigs in bars late at night is not interesting to me. I&squo;m much more interested in the therapeutic and healing power of music. I&squo;m currently completing the coursework at Isothermal&squo;s Polk Campus to become a certified nurse&squo;s aid and will eventually work to become a registered nurse.

Why did you choose &dquo;God Bless America&dquo; as your regular closer?

That first day at the veteran&squo;s home I finished with that song and it stuck. My patriotism was reinforced after 9/11. I was in the Navy nine years and deeply appreciate the service. Plus it leaves everyone on a real upbeat note at the end.