Singer/songwriter Tom Fisch was 10 years old when he won a guitar in a raffle at a school bazaar, according to his website, launching him on a musical journey that would become his career.
That journey brought Fisch to Elkin Thursday, where he performed three times — the first two for children and the third that evening for adults. The 117 children at the 11 a.m. performance ranged in age from toddlers on up, including some around the age Fisch was when he won the guitar, and they all seemed to have a great time.
“This is one of the largest groups I’ve played for at the library,” Fisch said. “One hundred seventeen, that’s a lot of kids. I’ll have to say they were real, real good.”
Fisch said his 45-minute performance can be a long time for children. “But all in all, they were into it,” he said. “They were wonderful actually.”
Performing such well-known favorites as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Five Little Monkeys” “Skinamirinky Dinky Dink,” “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine,” Fisch had no problems getting the children to sing along.
Beginning with “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” he said, “I’m going to start out with a song that’s about a perfect place for kids. It’ll tell you about a land I know that’s not so far from here … and yet you blink your eyes, and the strangest things appear.”
Interacting with the children throughout his performance, Fisch shared these words of advice before his last song: “You guys take care and do your best in everything you do,” he said, “and help me sing this song if you will.”
Fisch then started singing, “This Little of Mine,” prompting children to sing louder that they had the whole time.
The song was also a favorite at the 1:30 performance, according to Wendy Giudici, assistant branch librarian. Most of the 52 children that turned out in the afternoon sang along with Fisch the whole time, Giudici said, “but when he did ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ every kid was singing.”
“It was a smaller audience,” Fisch said, “but they were a great audience. They really got into singing along. ‘This Little Light of Mine’ seems to be a real crowd pleaser. I’m glad I saved it until the end.
“They were both great shows,” he said. “They were two different audiences, but both wonderful in their own way.”
Giudici said Fisch sent the library a copy of his “Songs for Kids” CD and some information about him last fall. “We book way, way ahead for our performers,” she said, “so I went on his website and saw where he had been playing.”
When she contacted staff at two of the libraries where Fisch had played, Giudici said they raved about him. “They said he was an awesome man,” she said, “and that the kids loved him.”
So Giudici contacted Fisch, who lives in Flat Rock in western North Carolina. “I was very, very pleased,” she said of his children’s performances on Thursday. “I thought his music was good, the selections he did were good and you could tell he is a very seasoned performer.”
Fisch handled the large group very well, Giudici said, even though there was a lot of wiggling going on from the heat. “He really got the kids involved, and the parents loved him,” she said.
Several parents and children commented on their way out of both performances how much they liked his music, according to Giudici. “I heard ‘That was fun’ and ‘I was singing, were you singing?’ that kind of thing,” she said.
Fisch sold copies of his “Songs for Kids” CD at both performances. He said in an interview Thursday afternoon that he is working on a second CD for children. “It’s not close to being finished,” he said, “but I have started working on it.”
Because his performing schedule is so busy, Fisch said the CD is his only current project.
He was planning to perform selections from his two adult CDs, “October Boy” and “We Could Use a Little Rain” at Thursday evening’s adult performance and offer them for sale afterward.
Born and raised in Albany, New York, Fisch says on his website that he found himself being drawn to singers and players like Doc Watson, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Tony Rice, the Byrds and traditional folk and country artists. “My playing and writing were also greatly influenced by singer/songwriters such as Dave Mallet, John Prine, Steve Goodman and Jonathan Edwards.”
After years of entertaining audiences throughout the Northeast at colleges, clubs, coffeehouses, festivals and fairs, Fische moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in his 30s, where he worked as a songwriter and demo singer, did guitar work in a studio and started his own publishing company, Tom Fisch Music.
In 2005, he and his wife moved to Flat Rock to be closer to her mother in Hendersonville. “I had enjoyed Nashville,” he said, “but I was ready to leave, and I knew there was a great acoustic scene, particularly in North Carolina.”
While 80 percent of his performances are for adults, Fisch said he hopes to do more for children. “I love playing for kids,” he said.
Fisch’s brother, Joe, accompanied him to his performances, having just moved to Jonesville with his wife, Zulma, last fall. Tom is the oldest of five children, and Joe is the next to the youngest. They have another brother, Peter, who lives in Winston-Salem and works at Wake Forest University.
They also have two sisters, Judi, who lives in Vermont, and Betsi, who lives in Albany.
Fisch said he has enjoyed the time he has spent in Elkin since Joe moved to Jonesville. “I love the town,” he said. “It’s a cute town. I also like the fact that it’s a railroad town. I love trains and we don’t have trains coming through Flat Rock and Hendersonville anymore.”
The downtown buildings are also interesting, Fisch said. “I hear the (Reeves) theater is being restored,” he said. “I love it when people work to save old buildings like that because they’re such a treasure for towns.”
Read more about Tom Fisch on his website: www.tomfisch.com. He can be contacted for performances at [email protected]
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.