YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Antonio Stellato had a dream once. In it, his deceased brother Carlo, who was an Italian orchestral conductor, told him to use his gift of song for a greater good.
The 88-year old Yorktown resident considered that a message he needed to follow and soon started singing at nursing homes, senior community centers and churches in the area.
“God say to help, so I help,” he said in accented English. Stellato now regularly performs for residents at Drum Hill Senior Living Community in Peekskill, Treetops at Mohegan Lake and Cortlandt Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, to name a few.
As part of his routine, he usually sings tunes from his native country of Italy, including the classic hit, 'Mama.' He says those chords are familiar to a lot of the elderly Italian residents in his audiences and trigger memories from the past.
“They say, ‘Antonio, when you come here I feel so happy and I remember,’" Stellato said. Listeners are also allowed to make song requests and are encouraged to groove to the beat—as long as they don’t overexert themselves.
"I joke, ‘shake it, don’t break it,’" he said.
As a volunteer, Stellato never accepts money for his performances. It’s what he loves to do, and according to his daughter Lina, who helps translate his northern-Italian dialect, it’s also what keeps him young.
“Music is what keeps him going," she said. "If he couldn’t sing and perform, he’d be miserable.”
That passion was evident just a few months ago, when he had to have surgery on a corroded artery. Before the procedure, Lina remembers him asking the doctor if he’d still be able to sing after.
“Music is what he lives for,” she said.