playing piano and accordion for 30 years in Key West

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Rob DiStasi

Born to a large Italian family in Belleville, New Jersey, Rob started learning the accordion at five years old. Later he took piano lessons but they were overtaken by a larger interest in baseball. While in Belleville High School Rob’s music interest was renewed and he became part of the chorale group and the marching band playing trumpet.

After high school Rob attended the Berklee College of Music, Boston from 1979 thru 1982 he finished at William Patterson College in Wayne, New Jersey graduating in 1983 with a Business and Music degree.

Rob had interned at 39th Street Music Studio, in New York and after graduation Rob began managing the studio. The studio recorded a hit song in 1984 “Solid” (Solid As A Rock) by husband and wife team Ashford and Simpson.

The studio recorded commercial music and jingles for corporations. Rob later built his own studio with his best friend Gary Guancioni and started working commercial music for the next seven years.

In 1992 Gary Guancioni followed a recommendation by his sister and visited Key West. He decided to stay. It took two more years for Gary to convince Rob to visit. To Rob like others it was an instant attraction. Key West was warm and had a great tropical feel, inclusive and very comfortable. It will be 30 years this May 16th at 5:00 pm when Rob moved into a conch house with four other guys on Olivia Street and immediately dovetailed into the Key West music scene.

One afternoon while playing and accordion gig with Gary at BOs Fishwagon, Jimmy Buffett and Shel Silverstein were enjoying the fare. Rob didn’t recognize them until Gary pointed them out. Shel asked Rob if “he knew any blues music”? Rob and Gary started playing a couple of bluesy chords and Shel grabbed the mike and started wailing out some Blues sounds (not really words). Jimmy loved it! Only in Key West.

He started working for Pablo (Paul) McGrail at Sebago. There he met Nadine Grossman Orr who would become one of his best friends (Rob is Godfather to Nadine’s daughter Meredith). Through these close associations he started Mile Zero Entertainment a booking agency mainly for he and Gary initially, then booking other musicians for parties, weddings, and gigs. The company still exists today. He quickly met Brian Roberts and started booking and performing with the Prime Movers he continues to be affiliated with them today.

In 2001 his father called him from New Jersey he had just got a computer and learned how to use Google (Rob was proud of him). He had Googled affordable housing in Key West – he found a 2/2 condo in the Salt Ponds. Rob called the Realtor and with a little family help he became the proud owner and today finds himself very fortunate in the current Key West housing market.

Good friend and musical collaborator Carmen Rodriquez booked Rob for his first solo gig at Tavern and Town in 2009. He was a bit nervous, never working solo before. Rob polished up his 25-30 solo jazz tunes, Carmen said that was fine. If he ran through them he could play them twice, It was a background music gig. Carmen was very encouraging and Rob was a success, performing there solo for the past 15 years. This opened up many more music opportunities and led to associations with other jazz pianists and more solo gigs.

The Pier House initially told him they didn’t want a solo keyboard only solo guitarists. Rob put an acoustic guitar patch on his keyboard and talked them into giving him a try. It sounded great – even better than an acoustic guitar. He played Buffett music and some Bob Marley Reggae with his keyboard/acoustic guitar patch. He was hired and has since played the Pier House Beach Bar on Tuesday and Wednesdays for the past 15 years.

One new solo collaborator vocalist Suzanne Moore, used Rob on Saint Patty’s Day for several years at Sloppy Joes and the Key West Yacht Club playing accordion (Rob still loves accordion gigs). As a cancer survivor, Suzanne started a very successful Cancer Foundation Fundraiser at the Key West Theater for the past few years with Rob, Geoff Lowe and his wife, violinist Jennifer.

Rob has also been a long-time collaborator with the KRZBs since their beginning in the early 2000s with Chris Burchard, Bubba Lowenotes, Skipper Kripitz a great team of musicians. He continues many long time music collaborations and still books music gigs with Brian Roberts and the Prime movers today. Rob DiStasi says he gets up in the morning checks the obituaries every day and if he’s not in it “I go ahead and get a gig.”



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