“One of the best things in my life is to see someone smile just because of my playing,” said Sam Adamo, 15, a sophomore at Pilgrim High School, who played his 100-year-old Juzek cello for customers at the Pawtuxet Village Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings during the end of the summer. “People don’t even have to stop and give money.”
Of course, upon hearing his graceful, soothing music, customers did make donations. As he played, he kept the case to his cello open by him and collected $650, which he contributed to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
“I got everything from pennies to $20 bills,” he said. “I wanted to help people. It brightens their day.”
During August, he visited the market and played on the side of the road. After an employee noticed him, she set up a spot for him to perform near produce stands. But, not only did customers enjoy the music he shared, people who operated the food booths were appreciative, as well.
“They gave fresh fruits and vegetables like kiwis, zucchinis, squash and apples, even fresh loaves of bread, to my family,” said Sam. “It was a very kind and friendly atmosphere. They were so welcoming.”
Sam, who grew up in Warwick and went to Holliman Elementary School and Aldrich Junior High School, said the pleasure was all his. He is happy he was able to help the local economy, as many of the farmers are from Warwick.
“They are very hard working and they deserve it,” he said.
As generous as he is, he is equally as humble. In addition to playing cello, which he took up when he was seven, his grandparents brought him to see famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform in Tanglewood, Mass. and was inspired.
Soon after, he began taking private lessons from Elizabeth Reardon in East Greenwich, who has a Master’s Degree from the Boston Conservatory. She has been playing for more than 57 years and thinks it is “wonderful” that he used his musical skills to help others.
“The fact that he gave the money away is pretty neat,” said Reardon. “He’s a fun student and a great kid.”
Sam then became interested in legendary cellists, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, a Soviet Russian composer who was persecuted for his music during the Stalin Administration because Joseph Stalin didn’t believe his music was particularly nationalistic, as well as modern musicians like Motion City Soundtrack and Adam Young from Owl City, a one-man band who wrote mostly computerized music with synthesizers.
“He’s got some really good melodies,” Sam said. “He’s great on piano, too.”
Young influences Sam on keys, as he plays piano in addition to cello. In fact, he is also becoming skilled at trombone, as he has taken up the brass instrument in the Pilgrim band. Moreover, he is fine-tuned on guitar.
“My dad plays guitar and has always tried to teach me,” he said. “I started learning the basic chords in seventh or eighth grade and piano shortly before.”
Yet, his affection for piano is endearing. As a child, he practiced right before bedtime on a small keyboard his parents owned.
“I’d keep it under my bed, pull it out, put headphones on and play,” he said.
His parents realized he had musical talent when he came home from school fiddling with a recorder when he was seven. Upon hearing him play, they immediately knew he’d be a musician.
“He could play anything he heard on the radio,” said his mother, Anne. “He was going around the house playing by ear. The rest is history.”
She said the cello he plays on was given to him and came into Sam’s hands, literally, by chance. An acquaintance heard him playing on the sidewalk and offered her antique instrument to him.
“It’s as if the stars have been aligned for him,” Anne said.
Every Saturday, Sam visits the Carter Center for Music Education and Performance in East Providence and plays with the Rhode Island Junior Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. He plays chamber music there, as well.
“I’d like to be in a professional orchestra when I’m older,” Sam said. “I know it’s really hard to get there, but I’d like to try.”
The last three years he has been in the Rhode Island Junior All-State. This year, he made senior All-State. Sophomore year is the first in which undergraduates are allowed to rank in that level.
“Those have been really cool experiences for me,” he said. “Everyone my age shares their music with one another. They don’t want to keep it to themselves. It’s like a cup that keeps getting filled and overflows. It’s great how people can relate to one another through music.”
As if his kindness and musical skills aren’t impressive enough, he made the varsity soccer team at Pilgrim this year. The interesting thing about it is the fact that he never played before.
“It was my first time ever playing soccer so I played bench most of the time,” he laughed. “But I was a midfielder when I got out there.”
He is also a member of the varsity hockey team at school. Currently, their record is 7 and 2.
His athletic abilities don’t stop there, as he also enjoys long boarding, which is similar to skateboarding, as well as water sports like sailing and surfing. While catching waves, he doesn’t fear sharks.
“I see them all the time when I’m surfing,” Sam said. “They’re just there. You share the water with them.”
In the future he hopes to attend the Julliard School [of Music] in Manhattan, N.Y.
For now, he’s content being a high school student, and his parents couldn’t be more proud.
“He’s a great kid and likes to do a little bit of everything, but I think music is his main beat,” Anne said.