Fluvanna Faces: Dick Orange

By Page H. Gifford


Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in Oceanside and grew up in Great Neck, both of which are in Nassau County, Long Island, N.Y.

What did you do in your former life?

After spending four years in the U.S. Navy, I returned to school where I got my degree in physical education, a Master’s in health education and certification for school administration.  I was a teacher, assistant principal, and principal on Long Island and in Westchester County for 30 years before retiring.

When did you become interested in music/singing?

I think I came out of the womb singing. I was told that I inherited the musical gene from my late father. He died when I was an infant. I remember watching the performers on TV and always wanting to be like them.

How did you get your start?

I think my real start was when my third-grade teacher asked me to sing in front of the class and I really enjoyed it. However, when I was in high school, I started singing in choruses, choirs, quartets, and solos. After I was married and had a family, I was the lead singer in small party bands on the weekends to supplement our income. Once I retired, I joined a barbershop chorus and a quartet. Upon moving to Lake Monticello, I joined the barbershop chorus in Charlottesville and was in quartets for more than 10 years. I have also performed in several community theater musicals, both locally and back in New York.

What is your favorite style of music?

I love all kinds of music.  However, I have always enjoyed listening to the music of the 1930s and ‘40s also known as the Great American Songbook. This is why it is a treat to be the featured male vocalist with several big bands and jazz combos. My absolute favorite is singing with the Charlottesville Band (formerly known as the Municipal Band).  It just feels amazing to be surrounded by the sound of 70 – 80 fine musicians.

Who are some of the singers who inspire you?

My favorite growing up was of course Frank Sinatra. I loved his smooth delivery and outstanding phrasing. Others were Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Do you play any instruments?

I was never formally trained as a musician but played some bass guitar and guitar in a few of the combos along with my singing.  Now I enjoy playing the harmonica.

Name your three favorite songs?

That’s a hard one as there are so many.  I guess I have to say “Fly Me To The Moon,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “But Beautiful.”

Who are your three favorite composers?

Again, very hard to pick three.  Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn/ Jimmy Van Heusen were all amazing.

What are two of your favorite movie musicals?

42nd Street and Singing in the Rain.

What else do you do in your spare time?

I love to read.  Mostly action hero, mysteries, and spy thrillers.  I read a lot of David Baldacci, John Grisham, Clive Cussler. I also play golf when the weather is decent.

Which two singers would you like to have dinner with (dead or alive)?

Frank Sinatra – no surprise. Ella Fitzgerald – I admire the way she sang scat and made-up lyrics on the spot.

If you were stuck in an elevator, what three people would you want to be

stranded with?

Barack Obama, Jon Batiste and Bob Schur, a good friend of mine who loved making music and always made me laugh.

Who do you enjoy spending time with?

My wife Mona. She has been the love of my life, my main support system, manager, press agent, and part-time roadie. I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for her.  And she makes me laugh.

Now that you have reached 80, how do you view your past and present?

As with most people, I have had my ups and downs. I am grateful to the medical professionals who have enhanced my life with their knowledge, care, and lifesaving medications. I am probably the happiest now that I have ever been. I play golf three times a week and sing in front of very appreciative audiences. I love this community and the friends I have made here. I am hopeful that there will be many good years ahead.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to start traveling again once it is safe to do so. I especially enjoy cruising as I love being on the sea and the nightly musical performances. I hope to continue to be a good friend to those around me, enjoy every minute of what is left of my life and, of course, to keep on singing as long as I have a voice

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