A Nutile has been opening Needham Park and Recreation’s Arts in the Park summer concert series each year for 35 years and tonight Tom Nutile will carry on that tradition.
The Tom Nutile Big Band will perform from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the gazebo, the first of six outdoor concerts planned this summer for Arts in the Park.
Started in 1975, the annual summer concert series brings a variety of performers to the local stage, providing free outdoor entertainment for local residents.
“People just come and they bring their lawn chairs or blankets and some will bring picnics. It’s just a nice night, and the kids run around and play or they dance to the music,” Park and Recreation Director Patty Carey said.
In 1976, a year after the series was launched, Needham resident Roy Nutile signed on to open the concert as the Roy Nutile Orchestra and continued to be the season’s opening act for the next three decades. In 2003, Roy’s son Tom took over, renaming the group the Tom Nutile Big Band but keeping his father’s summer tradition. Though he now lives in Natick, Tom Nutile still feels very much a part of Needham, where he grew up, and the band still rehearses in town.
Nutile sat down with Patch this week to talk about the band, their music and how Needham has changed—as well as stayed the same—over the past 35 years.
How did the swing band get its start? When I was in junior high, all the band parents got together and talked about how a lot of them used to play instruments. My father said ‘Let’s form a band.’ That formed in 1970, and I think by about 1972 they were good enough to perform, and by 1976 good enough to be part of the summer concert series. I got out of Needham High in ’72 and I remember getting out of the all-night party and playing an engagement the next day. That was probably my first engagement, right out of high school. […] My father was the king of outdoor concerts; at one point, he had 15-20 every summer.
What is the makeup of the band? We have three trumpets, three trombones, five saxes, bass drums and a female singer—15 pieces. It’s a lot of fun. I’m a reed player; I play alto saxophone. A lot of the older swing tunes in the 1930s and ’40s had a clarinet lead or clarinet solo, so I also do all the clarinet work.
How long have you been playing music? I started in the Needham school system in fifth grade. I was in the band and played in Needham summer theater. I was in the concert band and the Needham High orchestra and the Needham High swing band.
I would not have been as serious about music were it not for several key teachers, one of whom came to my private music lesson and talked me back into joining the band in grade school, because if I had quit then who knows what I would be doing now. He has long since passed away but he’s one of the biggest musical influences in my life. His name was Skip Norcott. He came here when he was about 23 or 24, right out of school, and he was like the Pied Piper—he really just revitalized this music program. The time he was in Needham he just did wonderful things.
What will you be playing on Thursday? We’ll probably do old tunes like ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ and ‘Tuxedo Junction.’ We’ll probably end with the 1990s version of ‘In the Mood’ that Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band did. There are slow songs, too, but when you’re outdoors with your family, not that we’re always the center of attention, but you want songs that have a little bit of energy.
What has changed in Needham over the years? I think the town’s still a great town. There are bigger houses, bigger buildings, better restaurants and still a great school system and music department. From what I can tell, the town services are tremendous, especially Park and Recreation. I’m an old Park and Rec. guy. I ran Rosemary Beach when I got out of college, so in a sense I worked with the Park and Rec. I just think it’s a good town. I wouldn’t mind moving back some day.
You play mostly big band and swing music. Is that what you typically listen to at home? It’s all across the board. I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, so what I was listening to was the music of the era—the Rolling Stones, The Beatles. I’ll listen to Norah Jones or Radiohead or something nowadays—but not really the most modern stuff. When I listened to jazz a lot of it was the cutting-edge jazz—Miles Davis, John Coltrane. […] But there was always swing music in the house; my dad was always playing it, and that’s what you play in the high school band and in junior high. I know the music well; I know the phrasing. The more I do this the more I learn, even at this age.
Check out the other bands that will take the Memorial Park stage this summer as part of the Arts in the Park concert series: July 14, ; July 21, ; July 28, ; Aug. 4, ; and Aug. 11, . In the case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved into the auditorium.
Arts in the Parks is sponsored by , North Hill, Needham Business Association, Needham 300 Trust Fund, , Needham Exchange Club, and the Needham Cultural Council.