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A Tribute to the “Music Doctor,” Stuart Hemingway

#8804 John and #18204 Martha Storey heard from an old friend, Caroline Burch, who used to proofread the CD News.  Caroline spotted the tribute to the “Music Doctor,” #8760 Stu Hemingway, in her hometown newspaper the Auburn Citizen in Auburn, NY.  She kindly sent it to John and Martha who relayed it to Camp. We are pleased to reprint the article with the permission of the Citizen in honor of our friend Stu!

Laurel Auchampaugh Special to The Citizen

It was a beautiful fall afternoon on Sunday, Sept. 19, when Todd Gaglianese and I did our annual fall tour of Fort Hill Cemetery. The crowd of 63 people had come to support Willard Memorial Chapel and its Community Preservation Committee.

Because it was September and schools in the county were in their third week, we had added more stops on the tour: teachers. These were people who had devoted their time and talent, and in fact their lives, to helping young people.

There were now 25 stops, and the tour took two hours.

Todd and I took turns sharing their history at each gravesite — Mrs. Rogers, Brud Holland, Professor, and Mrs. Long, Martha Shosa. We like to interact with the audience, so I asked the group, “How many teachers were present?” The show of hands gave me the opportunity to applaud them and to remind them of the legacy they were leaving to the many students they had helped over the years.

One of the most endearing and new presentations was at the modest grave of Stuart Hemingway. The flat plaque in the ground behind the graves of Martha Shosa, the Longs, and alongside his parents briefly listed his information. Born in 1942, he died on April 23, 2015, at the age of 73.

To the casual observer, an inscribed phrase “The Music Doctor” must have puzzled them as to its meaning. Those who knew and remembered Stuart would know. Todd shared the story of this blind musician and the lasting impression he made on everyone. He recounted the depth of his caring nature. Locally, he worked closely with “special needs” children, and helped them overcome the individual challenges each one faced. He taught them by example to get in touch with the music inside them as a form of “music therapy,” hence the moniker “The Music Doctor.” Friends enjoyed his joyful spirit and sense of humor, affectionately calling him a “wise guy.” Many would later marvel at his tenacity and courage. 

I stood aside and watched the crowd as Todd talked about his friend. He was born with full sight, and at an early age; a childhood illness caused him to gradually go blind. His brave mother was determined that her son grow up to be independent and achieve anything he set his mind to. She encouraged his musical and piano ability. She sent him each summer to a camp for children with disabilities and he learned the skills he would need as a blind adult.

These skills helped him in 1960 to have the courage to move to New York City and rent a small flat on 46 W. 75th street near Central Park. Each day he would venture out and explore the city with his cane and memorize the route.

One day, he heard inviting music coming from a third-floor walkup in the Brill Building. They were musicians in a jam session. He worked his way up to them and thus met young Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in their recording studio! He made several suggestions to them and was invited to join them. Back then, studio musicians were paid, but not given credit for their participation.

I was able to watch the moving magic of the crowd’s reaction. It was as if an electric shock moved through them like a powerful musical crescendo. Todd continued to recite the names of groups Stuart, later on, was introduced to and worked with. He listed the records he was on.

One by one, recognition dawned on the gathering. There was an audible murmur through the crowd. I shall never forget it and give tribute now to Stuart Hemingway.

Here is a partial list of Stuart Hemingway’s musical legacy:

  • Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: “Walk Like a Man,” “Stay & Rain”
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips: “Midnight Train to Georgia”
  • Jay and the Techniques: “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”
  • Piano and voice training to Leslie Gore
  • The Shangri-Las: The piano track of “Leader of the Pack” (his most known work)

During the 1980s, he continued to work with handicapped students and adults at the Dick Charles Studios in New York City.

Laurel Auchampaugh is the Owasco historian and can be reached at the Owasco Town Hall from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoons or at historian@owascony.gov. Todd Gaglianese assisted with research and securing photos for this column.

This article was written by Laurel Auchampaugh, the Owasco Historian, and published by The Citizen newspaper in Auburn, NY.  Photos in this article were provided by Todd Gaglianese. Camp Dudley, Inc. is grateful for the permission to reprint and share this story of #8760 Stu Hemingway, with the great Dudley Community.

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