Since his adolescence, Gary Mazzola wanted to be a musician.
"I've always been into music," he said. "I always wanted to be a 'star.' But I think that's taken on a different meaning now that I've gotten older."
Now in his 60s, Mazzola's career spans not just music performance and composition, but music video and short film production, theater acting and directing, and television production for KERO Bakersfield.
Since moving to Tehachapi in 1990, Mazzola has made a name for himself in the local performing arts scene. His latest venture is a "reunion" concert, of sorts.
Joining with fellow musicians - those with whom he currently performs and others he has not shared a stage with in some time - the show, "Gary Mazzola and Friends: Night of the Crescent Moon" will be in the Beekay Theatre, 110 S. Green St., Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m.
Bandmates include Ken Leiboff on harmonica, Jerry Mulkins on lead guitar and Johnny Kamplain on bass, with special friends Greg Hahn on drums, Doug Jockinsen on keyboards and Gloria Yeager and (co-writer) Joy Gray on vocals.
Mazzola said he, Mulkins and Gray are long-time friends who were together in a music group, Full Moon.
"Joy and I have been singing together since we met in 1980," Mazzola said, adding that he met Mulkins through a mutual acquaintance. "We moved to Tehachapi together and put Full Moon together and did an album."
Mazzola said he thinks Mulkins is the best guitar player in town, while Gray's vocals and ability to harmonize is "remarkable." He added that Gray together with Yeager makes for a "perfect blend" of voclas.
Kamplain and Leiboff were partners with Mazzola in the group Planet, which also produced an album.
Hahn is a relatively new addition to Mazzola's "friends," but worked with Mazzola on theater productions like "Guys 'n Dolls." Jockinsen also worked with Mazzola previously and plays a lot of string parts on the keyboard, Mazzola said.
Through time, Mazzola said his music has morphed. Songs from his album "Planet" are very folky, he said, while the "Grateful am i" album is more pop and his more recent compositions are jazzier.
"I'm not exactly sure where my music falls any more," Mazzola said. "I'm just trying to do my music."
All of the music being performed on Sept. 6, will be original compositions, either by Mazzola or Gray, or both.
Although performing comes naturally to Mazzola, perhaps his biggest obstacle now is his battle with Parkinson's disease. But he said that while the disease presents challenges, he does not let them stand in his way.
"It's important to me that people know your life isn't over just because you have a debilitaing disease," Mazzola said. "I try not to let myself be limited. I do as much as I can as long as I'm physically able, and then I will adapt."
Mazzola said that although he can no longer play piano with both his hands, he can use a sequencer when recording and editing so he can play the treble line with his right hand in one go, and the bass line with his right hand in the next go-round.
He even credits the disease with making him a better songwriter. He cited research that indicates that brain diseases that attack motor skills causes the brain to compensate with its creative side.
"I've never written better songs than right now," he said.
Jango.com, an international web-based radio station, plays Mazzola's music and describes him as a "talented Tehachapi songwriter with an exceptional voice and a gift for writing lyrical, approachable songs about life and love."
"This is the best time of my life," Mazzola said. "I'm doing everything I ever wanted to do. Maybe not on the same level I thought I would as a kid, but I'm happy." On the Cover