Friends combine to develop a song for a California centennial
Friends for more than 60 years, two South Pittsburgh women joined together to develop a song for a California centennial.
Dolores (Dorsey) Fortini McTaggart and Carolyn Stasenko Scharer attended the University of Pittsburgh on honor scholarships after they graduated from high school in 1954.
Dorsey is a 1954 South Hills High School graduate who lived in Beechview at that time. Carolyn, a South Side resident in at the same time, graduated from South High School with the Class of 1954.
In June 2014 the two women, best friends in college and now on the brink of becoming octogenarians, with Carolyn living on the East Coast and Dorsey living on the West, sealed a year-plus effort to create a song for a flower-basket Marin County, CA, town. Corte Madera was preparing to celebrate its centennial on July Fourth 2016.
The women came up with a town song, on a $250 budget, that may revive the memory of the Grammy nominated status achieved in 1970 by its neighboring city, Mill Valley.
After more than 2,000 e-mails and more than 19 personal interviews trying to find a composer to add music to the lyrics the women had created, or for the composers to originate their own words reflective of the charming town, the women found the man of their dream, Scott DeTurk.
Agreeing to create a song at no cost to the town, Scott sent a demo of his own lyrics and music to the women. Carolyn and Dorsey immediately recognized the song’s value but from experience were sure the demo, unless refined, would suffer rejection -- the fate of six previous submissions -- when presented to the 30 centennial committee members, many town pillars whose opinions shape the voices of others.
One honcho, upon learning that there was to be yet another song entry for consideration, suggested the committee thereafter give up on the idea of creating a song.
Scott and the women tweaked the lyrics to image more closely the town’s character. Scott announced he would play his keyboard and be accompanied by a vocalist to offer his song personally to the committee. When West Coast woman heard that Susan Zelinksy was to be the proposed vocalist, her spirits soared.
Susan, the darling of the Mountain Play Association, was the star of leading roles in many of the musical comedy performances in the 4,000-seat theater on Mount Tamalpais.
Scott and Susan arrived while the meeting was in session. The coordinator interrupted proceedings, introductions were made, and tension permeated the large conference room. With the first keyboard notes eyes opened, heads raised and feet began to tap.
Susan belted out the words with complete abandon, as if she were on that mountain stage singing in the open air to an audience of four thousand. By the time she began the final line of “Every time I think Corte Madera all I think is...” the committee was on its feet, applauding the performance. Music and song were in everyone’s heart and soul.
Scott at that point could have named his price, so endearing had he become to the committee; instead, he gilded his previous offer to donate the song with the announcement he would add Drew Youngs, nationally recognized artist, to the recording, if he could draw the multi-talented Drew away from the planning stages of his San Francisco Warriors documentary.
Corte Madera had its song, just in time for the Centennial kickoff! The two octogenarians now had to launch their next project of having all local schools learn the song in anticipation of performing in the monthly centennial events, which would be highlighted by the festivities-filled centennial weekend and the Corte Madera/Larkspur Independence Day Parade. The parade is generally recognized as the best in the county for its impressive but small-town quality.
The town will have its own float in the parade. The plans are as the float approaches and pauses in front of each school group located at strategic locations along the route from Larkspur to the judges’ stand at Corte Madera, the song will be broadcast from the float.
Each school group will sing in accompaniment the song that began with two young-at-heart women from opposite sides of the country who met 60 years ago at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, PA.
When these women in their remaining years “think Corte Madera” they will treasure the song that was responsible for making their bond of friendship ever more meaningful.
— Paul Harrison