Rick Dahlinger

Rick Dahlinger, left, and piano student Tyler Martone pause during a lesson. Many professional musicians pivoted from performing to teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many folks know Rick Dahlinger is originally from Boston and is a music educator and arranger living in Inverness. But did you know he has played in bands who opened for Aerosmith and Billy Idol? Or that he has toured worldwide? He has.

You may have heard him playing locally at a variety of our better restaurants or when he and his trio members, bassist Kirk Reyes and drummer Tommy Carlucci, have joined him. Between gigs, he has been teaching classical and jazz piano for the past 10 years. He and the trio were also featured as part of the Music at the Museum series several years ago.

Starting with piano lessons at age 5, he soloed on television playing piano at age 7. Dahlinger has the complete musical resume.

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“My first gig was playing for Legal Seafood in Boston,” he said. “…it was very good exposure for me playing solo piano, stride piano, rock and even classical, as well as standards I learned over the years.”

In his 20s, Dahlinger joined the Jamie Morad Review.

“With Jamie, I traveled all over the United States. We began touring in Washington, D.C., at Hogates Seafood Restaurant. From there, the band went back to New York City, playing at the Darvish in Greenwich Village.”

The band then was booked to play Aruba’s Americana Hotel on the beach, then flew to Palm Springs in California for a nine-week engagement. It was in Canyon Racquet Hotel, an exclusive getaway in the San Bernardino Mountains, where Dahlinger met Billy Crystal and the late Regis Philbin. After the show, Crystal and Philbin hung out with the band.

The review then traveled to Las Vegas for an 11-week booking at the Flamingo Hotel. The Flamingo was one of the first hotels in Las Vegas built by the notorious Bugsy Siegel. The band then moved up the strip to the MGM Grand to play several more shows.

The Boston-born pianist traveled with the Morad review across the country to The Marriott Ocean Club in Key West, the Omni in Miami, then to the Poconos, the Catskills and a 26-week stint at Harrah’s Casa Marina in Atlantic City.

After five years on the road, Dahlinger left the Morad band. He returned to Boston where he joined an original rock band called The Lines. From Boston the rock group journeyed to the Canadian cities of Montreal and Quebec City, then off to Nova Scotia.

Asked about well-known musicians he has opened for, Dahlinger said, “The Lines opened for Aerosmith and Billy Idol. Meeting Billy Idol was a pleasure, he was so warm and personable ... and funny, too, a funny guy.”

“The strangest gig I ever played was up in Burlington, Vermont, at Christmas time. It was a big skiing resort with lots of options to party, party, party — holy cow, party!” he said.

Who are his heroes?

“Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk are among my heroes. Both players composed with the utmost integrity and humanity. The work they left behind is staggering,” he said.

He most admires the work of Bud Powell and Bill Evans, jazz keyboard giants.

“Oscar Peterson was unbelievable and the greatest of them all was Art Tatum. And don’t forget McCoy Tyner.”

Listening to Tatum, listeners would be convinced there were four hands on the keyboard. Piano giant Tyner, who died on March 6, 2020, had a long solo career and also was a member of the John Coltrane Quartet.

“These days my heroes are the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Winton Marsalis. They are probably the best jazz orchestra on the planet,” Dahlinger said.

Now the world of performing musicians and their venues are dark. What has that meant to Rick Dahlinger?

“COVID has turned the world upside down. No musician has a gig now, and it’s unbelievable. Those who need to work are teaching as I do until the gigs come back. The gigs will come back once the virus is under control, but not until then. There are many musicians who are missing the bandstand right now.”

Dahlinger stays active studying jazz and arranging music, as well as making short videos for Facebook and YouTube. He has written three books of jazz standards and jazz arrangements for solo piano.

In the meantime, he said, “I am waiting for Winton Marsalis to call me to play with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. If Jimmy Buffett called, I would also give him serious consideration. If Winton or Jimmy don’t call me, I hope you can catch me at the Skyview Restaurant in Terra Vista.”

Dahlinger emphasized his core belief in the power of music through his motto: “Always play from the heart.”

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