FITCHBURG — Nothing brings long-time resident of the city Alan Swartz more joy than singing his heart out.
Swartz retired in 2019 from the army and worked for 30 years at the Leominster Post Office. Since then he has kept himself busy sharing his gift for songwriting across the region, performing soulful renditions of the national anthem at various venues including women’s semi-professional football matches at Doyle Field in Leominster and many civic and veteran events such as the grim 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Veterans Day ceremonies in Leominster this fall.
“As a veteran, I am filled with pride singing our country’s anthem meant to inspire a sense of unity,” he said. “We are still the greatest nation on earth, and I reflect on the ultimate sacrifice so many have made to keep our nation free and the many people stationed at home and abroad who put their lives on the line every day to ensure our freedom continues.”
Upon retirement, Swartz decided to embark on a signing career and until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was on a roll. He auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” twice, once in 2018 in New York and again in Charlotte, North Carolina, in December 2019, which was the last time the show held in-person auditions before the pandemic does not strike. Although he didn’t make it, he wouldn’t rule out auditioning again and he said he enjoyed taking part in the annual Hampton Beach talent show last summer, where he competed against hundreds other artists.
“These girls were dancing and waving cell phones while I was singing,” Swartz said, adding that he posed for a photo with the group of female fans after his performance. “I almost made it to the final but had to settle for 14th out of an initial field of over 500, only the top 12 made it through. I’m still proud of my result and it was a pure pleasure to be there.
Swartz has recently taken up singing at assisted living and nursing homes in the area and visited Benchmark Senior Living in Leominster Crossings on Friday.a
“They are by far the best audiences to perform,” he said. “Music is universal and medicinal and a smile on your face says it all.”
As a member of the 1960s generation, Swartz said he “may be a bit biased” when he says he thinks some of the best music came out of that period. As such, he is drawn to this era when it comes to selecting songs.
“When I perform, I feel pure joy seeing how enthusiastically the audience responds to the music I sing,” he said.
Friend of Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Swartz has performed at several of his inaugurations over the years and will be at the one in January. He recently recorded two songs for the annual ‘Barbara and You Christmas’ special on Fitchburg Access Television and performed the national anthem at two events earlier this month – a Daughters of the American Revolution anniversary program at Leominster Veterans Center and NEADS Service Dog Graduation. at Montachusett Regional Technical School in Fitchburg.
“It went really well,” Swartz said of NEADS’ performance. “I heard people say ‘unbelievable’ and the emcee made a comment to everyone after I sang along the same lines. I admit I never get tired of hearing the nice things people say. It’s comforting to know that I’ve reached them that way.
Her love of music stems from her childhood in Lynn.
“I always had a passion for singing and there was always music coming from my house,” he recalls. “My father was a singer and with a piano in the family home, he and I sang a lot together as well as for relatives and friends who passed by from time to time. He taught me to sing many songs of his generation.
Swartz said his first public appearance was when he was 6 years old, when he sang in the lobby of the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, wearing a red jacket and a red bow tie. He attended talent shows at the summer camps he went to for several years in Maine as a youth, and when he was 11, Swartz’s parents were asked to allow him to join a touring company. from the well-known musical “The Music Man”. ”
“I was ready to leave with enthusiasm, but they had another point of view on it,” he said of his parents who had turned down the offer.
He then performed in several high school musical productions and was part of a rock ‘n’ roll band throughout his high school days. When Swartz and his fellow band members went to college, the band broke up, and although he was a member of his college choir for several years, after college his musical endeavors were interrupted.
“Music took a secondary place in my life as the responsibilities of adulthood took hold,” he said.
Fast-forward several decades to the revival of her musical career when Swartz began singing in public again “after a very long hiatus.” When the pandemic hit in March last year, Swartz said he was “forced to find another way to get my music out there”.
“Luckily an open mic I was going to at Slater’s in Bolton, hosted by Mike Kelly and his family, decided to stream it on the internet and there the music continued weekly for 65 weeks,” he said . “Around the same time, I had the idea of trying to record in my car using backing tracks on CD discs and my car’s stereo system.”
Swartz said what started at the start of the pandemic lockdown as an experiment “took on a life of its own”. He posted new recordings every week on his Facebook page, then started posting on YouTube as well.
“I had a loyal following, and the general feeling was that it couldn’t have come at a better time to lift everyone’s spirits,” he said of recording songs in his car.
Additionally, Swartz said he has “become a regular singer of sorts at Vellos Restaurant in Brookline”, where he occasionally goes and sings “with the famous family band Winiker”.
He and his late wife moved to Fitchburg in 1983, and Swartz joined the Postal Service in July 1986.
“My job as a postal clerk has involved me interacting with the public on a daily basis and it’s here that many lasting relationships have been formed,” he said. “It’s those relationships that I miss to this day.”
He said that when he worked at the post office, he went to a part of the basement during his breaks and sang.
“The acoustics were fantastic,” Swartz said. “I didn’t find out until much later that the place I was singing was just below the postmaster’s office, and he thanked me for providing background music for part of his day. “
One of the highlights of this year for Swartz was singing at Worcester’s Polar Park on July 17 for a game for the Worcester Red Sox, a minor league Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said I wasn’t nervous about singing in front of thousands of WooSox fans, but luckily it all went off without a hitch,” he said.
He asked to sing the national anthem at a Worcester Railers game and dreams of singing it one day at Fenway Park for a Boston Red Sox game. He hopes a recent fateful encounter at Polar Park has brought him closer to realizing his Fenway aspirations.
“I walked in and saw Dr. Charles Steinberg, chairman of the Worcester Red Sox, standing near a drum set, microphone, speaker and holding a guitar,” Swartz said. “I wanted to reintroduce myself with no expectations in mind because we had met that summer on the ballpark when I sang the Woosox national anthem. I had read that Dr. Steinberg likes the music of the Beatles and other artists and bands like me and loves the guitar and so he asked me if I wanted to sit down and be the lead singer. How could I say anything other than yes. So with a room full of Woosox fans and totally chilling, we sang about eight Beatles songs and finished with “Sweet Caroline”, no surprises there. The crowd reaction was great and we only stopped because game time was approaching.
That day, he “also had the pleasure” of meeting Worcester Red Sox principal owner and president Larry Lucchino, the former president and CEO of the Red Sox for 14 years, and Worcester Mayor, Joseph Petty.
“It was a great moment for me and a lesson in humility to be in the presence of such prestigious and gracious gentlemen,” Swartz said. “I think it may have improved my chances of singing the national anthem at Fenway Park next season, which would be a dream come true for this lifelong fan. Fate indeed.
His circle includes many close and close friends, people who have given him “support and encouragement” over the years, and for that he is incredibly grateful. Regarding his future musical ambitions, Swartz has stated that he “will continue to sing at every opportunity given to me”.
“I couldn’t imagine in a million years that’s what I would be doing at this point in my life,” he said. “I know now that’s what I was supposed to do.”