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For the past 45 years, John Tesh has had a constantly evolving career in the public eye.
That includes his time in the 1970s as an on-air personality for Channel 2 News in New York, to a decade-long run as co-anchor of “Entertainment Tonight, then as a composer and pianist. For the past quarter-century he’s broadcasted his syndicated radio show “Intelligence for Your Life,” which dispenses tidbits of advice interspersed with music. It can be heard locally on WHUD in the evenings.
The 71-year-old Long Island native still maintains a rather busy performance schedule in addition to his radio show, presenting at least 30 concerts a year.
Tesh’s tour brings him to the Paramount Hudson Valley in Peekskill this Saturday night, the local stop on a seven-city itinerary that runs through next week, with “A Jazzy Swingin’ Christmas,” where the holiday classics are performed with a big band sound.
Backed by 10 musicians, Tesh tries to keep the Christmas concerts light and fun while giving the audience what they came to hear – favorites like “Let It Snow,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Silver Bells and “Christmastime is Here,” among many other beloved holiday songs.
“Our show is very loose,” Tesh said last week before he and his band embarked on the tour that starts with concerts Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in Old Saybrook, Conn. “We read the audience, we figure it out, as soon as we see one of the guys getting bored, we’ll play the NBA basketball theme. We play it with sleigh bells so we don’t get busted.”
Tesh was referring to one of his compositions, “Roundball Rock!” that was featured for years as the theme music during NBC’s telecasts of the NBA.
Of course, a key for him and his fellow musicians keeping it loose is knowing his core audience. He humorously acknowledged that those who attend his concerts are overwhelmingly women over 45 years old dragging their husbands out for an evening.
But that also has its rewards, especially for those who don’t experience much live brass music or orchestral arrangements.
“For a lot of people, believe it or not, they’ll bring kids or grandkids and it’s the first time they’ll see a tenor saxophone, or the first time they’ll see a bass trombone or a muted trumpet,” Tesh explained. “A lot of kids don’t even have that in school anymore.”
What Saturday’s jazz Christmas concert does is bring people back to a time when their memories were made, Tesh said. The big band sound is the music that was played in Tesh’s household when he was growing up. His father was a World War II veteran, who became a corporate executive, and his mother was surgical nurse.
As much as he loved music, Tesh said his father discouraged him from pursuing it as a career because of the potential for financial instability. So when he left for North Carolina State after high school, his father enrolled him in textile chemistry. Tesh was then looking for “an easy A course” to round out his class schedule, which turned out to be Radio Journalism 101.
By the time he was 20, Tesh landed a job at well-known disc jockey Rick Dees’ radio station and his broadcasting career was launched.
He eventually arrived at Channel 2 to do news, then in the mid-1980s went on to “Entertainment Tonight,” which was must-see television for anyone needing their fill of entertainment and celebrity news before the internet. While Tesh was hesitant about the move, it was a couple of job perks that convinced him to give it a try.
“They said you only have to work four hours a day and we’ll give you access to the recording studios,” said Tesh, who stayed with the show for 10 years.
There he was able to work on his music and compositions, and where he created “Roundball Rock!”
Tesh also subscribes to the philosophy that “do what makes you come alive and then be willing to say yes.”
In addition to continuing “Intelligence for Your Life,” which boasts roughly 14 million listeners, Tesh released his memoir in 2020, “Relentless: Unleashing a Life of Purpose, Grit, and Faith.” It includes perspectives from a fascinating life that has met its share of obstacles as well, including surviving a cancer in 2015.
But Tesh has had fun and has achieved great satisfaction along the way, proving that sometimes taking a different road can have its benefits.
“I have existed for a whole life as the poster boy for quit your job and follow your dream,” he said.
For tickets and more information about “A Jazzy Swingin’ Christmas,” visit www.paramounthudsonvalley.com. Showtime is at 8 p.m.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/