by Len Lear
We recently wrote about Rich Posmontier, a musician and band leader who has lived for the last 23 years in Wyndmoor. Rich has played more than 2,500 weddings over the last 40 years and many other local events such as the recent Chestnut Hill Community Association’s annual Black and White Gala fundraiser. We asked Rich several questions about his long career:
How did you wind up doing weddings and other private events?
“I started playing weddings professionally at the age of 15. I was much younger than any of the other musicians, but my brother Dave helped me get into a band he was playing with at weddings and parties. Back then, the musician’s union was still an important part of the local music scene, and I joined the union and started receiving union scale at the age of 16. It sure beat delivering newspapers! In my late teens and throughout my 20s I toured the U.S. and Canada with an original rock band, played in theater pit orchestras and toured with Paul Anka and backed up acts like Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and Patti Page. I also played on many disco records in the ‘70s. When I did studio work, mostly in New York, the backup musicians never got credits on the albums, but we were well paid!
“My brother Dave and I were playing jazz concerts and clubs, and people heard us and asked if we could play for their wedding. While we had played weddings as side musicians, we had never thought of leading our own wedding/event band. We found a great vocalist and started playing Motown and ‘70s’ hits, and the response was overwhelming! It just snowballed, and here we are. Today, our band, The Rich Posmontier Ensemble, plays a huge variety of songs, including current hits. I think that’s a key reason why we continue to be so busy; we stay really current … All kinds of music are fun to play if you’re playing with very good musicians. The best musicians I know like to play with other great musicians, and it doesn’t matter what type of music they’re playing.”
When did you do your first private event? Where was it?
“There were so many thousands of weddings and parties I’ve played since then that I can’t remember my first one, but I do remember that the playing was challenging. We had to learn many songs and ‘fake’ and read music as well. I was fortunate to play with really good older musicians who taught me the ropes and also about hanging out after the gig and going to the Country Club Diner in Northeast Philly. It was a great education!”
What do you like to do when you are not playing music?
“I’m an avid magazine and newspaper reader and listener of WHYY FM. I stay as informed as possible and am somewhat active politically. I also like to listen to young musicians coming up now, and I’m a subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Walnut Street Theater, and I try to laugh as much as possible!”
How do you feel about living in this area?
“I’m in Chestnut Hill every day, and my wife and I love living near Chestnut Hill. We participate in the activities (our band has been featured in the Fall for the Arts and Spring Garden festivals for the last eight years), and we go to the restaurants and shops frequently. It’s a great place to live!”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“The best advice I’ve ever received, and it was from a number of different teachers, was to do my best playing at every job, no matter if I’m playing in front of a couple thousand people, which I have done, or a few people. If I were to ‘phone it in,’ it would only reflect upon me.”
What was the hardest thing you have ever done?
“Most people don’t realize it, but a band is like any other type of business. The stage needs to be a pleasant, supportive atmosphere, and most bands break up because of personality issues. There’s no room for big egos. I’ve worked with many great singers and musicians, but occasionally I have to fire people, and that’s really difficult. It’s usually not about how well they sing or play but about their personality or reliability.”
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
“I love what I do, but in the back of my mind I’ve always fantasized about being a stand-up comedian. I don’t know if I’ll ever try actually doing that, but I do make my friends and family laugh!”
What musicians do you play with most often?
“I’m very fortunate to play with great musicians. Mike Boone, widely regarded as the best jazz bass player in Philadelphia, plays with us as a regular member and teaches jazz at Temple University. Kevin Hanson, also well known as a rock guitar player, is a member of the group as well. Kevin recently was an expert witness in the Rolling Stones trial over the song ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ He sat in the witness box and played his guitar for Mick Jagger! Kevin started a group called Huffamoose, which had international success in the ‘90s. Tim Hutson is the band’s drummer and is an amazing musician.”
What is your biggest pet peeve?
“Musicians who don’t take playing seriously. You’ve got to bring your ‘A-Game’ to every performance.”
For more information, visit www.richposmontiermusic.com