Music was always his first love

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David Feder – Music was always his first love

David Feder was born in Niagara Falls, New York. His father was in the military, and they lived in a few places but spent most of the time in Buffalo area. To David, Buffalo was a great place to grow up. It was a center for arts and culture. The famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright designed some beautiful buildings in the area.

David and his sister studied piano as soon as they could sit up straight. He started playing guitar at around five years old. His first public performance, at age 11, was dressed as Huck Finn for the Junior Historical Society Old Home Days, celebrating the historical Erie Canal story.

Feder applied to Berklee School of Music. He always loved music but his family of engineers discouraged music as a vocation. He attended engineering school at the University of Buffalo and the Rochester Institute of Technology, working as an engineer for the next twenty years.

He continued to play music, his first love. While working on radio equipment in the Washington DC area, a job which he hated, David took a road trip on his Honda 550 motorcycle in 1980 to visit his aging grandmother in Miami Beach. Granny suggested he visit the Keys while in the area. David road down to Key West but it felt to big and busy for the lifestyle he wanted.

Feder quickly settled in the Tavernier/Islamorada area because it was “sleepy and lazy”. There was nothing going on – it was perfect for him. He opened a shop, repairing radio and electronic surveillance systems for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and others, including many of the smugglers that used the same equipment. In the 1980s Keys, he usually met three types of people, Real Estate agents, DEA agents, and smugglers.

He always played music wherever he lived. He kept writing music in the Keys. Many of the songs were about the types of people he met. He met Eddie Rivers whose mother, Dee Rivers, owned many of the radio stations in the Keys. Eddie invited him to the studio to record his song, “Saltwater”, about the different sides of life in the Keys.

Everyone in the area said you had to play island music or Jimmy Buffet songs. David started the Saltwater Blues Band as a subterfuge, to be able to play original music and jazz. During that process, he learned to love the warmth of the Blues. To David, the Blues are somewhat predictable and comforting yet both complex and simple. There is room for improvisation, expression, and the ability to reach the audience in a very basic guttural way. The Blues can be healing. It’s a learned music genre — you have to learn the feeling of the blues. They became a heavy blues band that played jazz instead of a jazz band that played the blues.

Feder loves the music of Brazil and Argentina. He gets requests for country music and responds, “I am playing country music from a different country.” He made up a term to use – Hillbilly Flamenco.

Music has been just music to David who grew up with classical and jazz but loved all genres. He taught the famous writer, Carl Hiaasen, how to play guitar. Carl’s wife wanted to have a surprise birthday party in Palm Beach. David put together a seven-piece band. They knew Jimmy Buffet would be there and had an extra guitar for him. Buffett got on stage and helped roast Carl Hiaasen with his “Volcano” song.

In early 2016, Feder hosted a fundraiser, at the Green Turtle in Islamorada, for development of the “Escape from Margaritaville” Broadway musical play. Jimmy Buffet asked David to join the team. This led to two years of travel and fun developing the Buffett music for Broadway stars. David said he wouldn’t want to do a Broadway musical again but he would have done anything for Jimmy Buffett because he was just so much self-effacing fun to work with. Buffett said the main reason that he played music was because it made him feel good. He loved to make other people feel good. When other people feel good, they’re not killing and starting wars.

Around 1995, local teacher Judy Justice approached David to help raise money because they lost funds for school and music teachers. This led to an event called Bay Jam. It was very successful and raised a lot of money that went directly to music scholarships, instruments, and general music support. Bay Jam is currently in its 29th year raising millions for music.

They decided to build an amphitheater but the city changed politically and defaulted on the construction project. Dave lamented the failure to a couple of wealthy patrons who were also his guitar students. They wrote a check for one million dollars to fund and build the amphitheater.

Over the years, the amphitheater, located in Founders Park, has become a cultural center. They formed a 501c3 and Feder has been intricately involved with its operation. It was a ton of work but great for the community.

David remembers doing a show, called Guitar Summit, at the new Key West Theater in 2018 with friends, Mateo Jambol and Rolando Rojas. He has booked the Key West Theater for a show, titled “Limitless Guitar”, on April 5, 2024. It will be fiery and transcending flamenco with a touch of dreamy. He vows to not follow his own set list and just bounce his music off the audience.



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