Success After 60: Music is the Magic
“Age is a state of mind. It’s not how old you are….It’s how you are old.”
So says Donna Caruso Baccarella who is rocking through her 70s with a full schedule as an attorney & counselor at law and vocalist for The Fabulous Rockers.
It was her vocal performances that made her a notable on the local Tampa scene in her teens and it is still her music — with the same band — that keeps crowds coming more than 50 years later.
Born in Toronto, Donna moved with her parents to Tampa at age 6 to be near her father’s family.
With a flair for fashion that she learned from her hair stylist/model mother and with vocal training in the opera that began at age 14, Donna had the foundation for a successful music career.
Beyond that, she credits the Sisters of the Holy Names for nurturing her talents and teaching her values that would last a lifetime.
“The Sisters from Albany, N.Y. brought ‘class’ to Tampa, then a small town. In particular, Sister Mary Domina changed my life. She taught me oratory and how to emote, both very important to stage presence,” she said.
Perhaps it seems a bit ironic in her upbringing that Donna should gravitate to a rock band, but she recalls that, while opera was in the background, her entrepreneurial mother loved and listened to a great deal of pop music.
” I grew up listening to music by great pop artists like Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee and Julie London,” she said.
So when there was a city-wide casting call for a female vocalist to join the already-famous Rockers, the 15-year-old Donna “took my Bobby Darin, Splish Splash record to the audition and sang along.”
And sing with the band she did until “I became pregnant with my first child.”
That totaled six years from 1957-63. Shortly after that the band, now grown up and going their separate ways, broke up.
” I was the only female in a band with 8 males. The parents who were active in the management of the group loved me because they knew I was neither one of the boys nor an object of any of their affections,” she said. I lasted because I ‘saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil.'”
During this time, Donna, who had married one of her fans at 19, started college. Because, however, of the band’s demanding schedule and substantial source of revenue it provided her, she dropped out. As an alternative, Donna, at the behest of her mother, learned “a trade” earning an executive secretarial degree.
Meanwhile, her husband, Dominic, attended and graduated from college and netted a good sales job. She elected to stay at home with their two children and work on radio and tv productions.
“One of my commercials went national but, in those days, there was little protection for talent and so I received no residuals. Every time I heard the jingle, “If it’s Borden’s it’s got to be good,” I knew it was my voice.”
After seven years at home with their children, Donna took a job with liquor importer as assistant to the regional sales manager. Dominic took the opportunity to head to law school up state. When he graduated, Donna took a stint as group sales manager for Tampa’s then-new Performing Arts Center until deciding to attend law school as well.
Her first job after graduating was as a prosecutor with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office while she taught as an adjunct for area colleges and universities.
In 1994 the husband and wife teamed up to start their own practice…and The Fabulous Rockers reunited for a one-time charity function.
The one-time concert drew 7,000 fans and the band members decided to do an annual dance.
And so, the successful beat goes on.
What’s next for Donna whose state of mind seems as youthful today as when she first auditioned as a teenager?
“I’ll probably take a course in computers to keep up with the digital age,” she said. And I’ll probably support charitable endeavors that focus on discipline, morality and caring… like the Sisters of the Holy Names who taught me so much.”
Music plus growing and giving. Could Donna have hit upon the fountain of youth? Could this be the formula for success after 60 as we rock through life?
Editor’s Note: Go to www.FabulousRockers.com for information about their future concerts.
© 2015 Advantage-Plus Resources, Inc. & SuccessAfter60.com. All rights reserved.