Jason Castonguay: Bio
by Jason’s Assistant, Ronald M. Hughes, MSW, DCSW, LCSW
This is the inspiring story of an extraordinary talent and an extraordinary person–Jason Castonguay, Concert Pianist & Vocalist, a jazz specialist, who performs it all: classics, oldies and more!
Shortly after Jason’s and his twin brother Jeremy’s birth, Retinopathy of Pre-maturity rendered Jason totally blind. Disabled?? You wouldn’t think so!! Jason’s talent and engaging personality astound audiences as he performs, humorously dialogues, and infuses them with inspiration. Behind a misleading boyish appearance, Jason is a man of independent conviction and determination–gifted in just about all he does.
Thanks to his Mom’s remarkable dedication and determination, Jason attended regular schools and adapted extraordinarily to the world of his sighted friends. Jason began playing familiar tunes at age 3, when his mother overheard him playing the National Anthem in its entirety on a miniature organ. She enrolled him in formal classical lessons when he turned 4. At age 13, Jason pursued his interest in Jazz, taking a year of Jazz lessons from Leon Callahan. In High School, Jason played and sang with the Madrigal and Concert Choirs. He began playing for many public and private events and continued to take classical lessons at the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford.
At Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) Jason earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music performance (Jazz studies) and in Management Information Systems (computer technology). At CCSU he entered the Jazz Studies program taking classical piano lessons with Dr. Linda Laurent, and jazz lessons with Noah Baerman.
During his college years and after, Jason performed extensively with the New Britain Symphony Orchestra. Since 1998, he has been their featured performer in the annual Young People’s Concerts and Holiday Pops Concerts. Also, during his college years, he honed his jazz skills in the jazz ensembles and jazz combos at CCSU.
The “CONNECTICUT IDOL” title
A citizen of both the United States and Canada, Jason has been a life-long resident of Connecticut and celebrated icon since childhood. In 2004, he competed with some 250 young people, and won the FOX-TV title, “Connecticut Idol.” He became the first “Connecticut Idol” and was prominently featured in newspapers and interviewed on network and local TV stations, appearing daily for weeks on Fox TV–the station that flew him with his assistant, Ron Hughes, to Las Vegas for auditions with executive producers of the pop show, “American Idol.” When a producer announced Jason won the first round of auditions in the Vegas stadium, the entire stadium of approximately 9,000 stood and cheered for him, to which he inquired of his assistant, “What’s THAT all about?” So choked up and hardly able to get the words out, Ron replied, “That’s for YOU–they’re cheering for YOU!” Then executive producers in the final audition praised him saying, “You have a very impressive voice and unquestionable talent,” but their concern was that he might not be able to “play to the cameras” (which, of course, he has never seen). They encouraged him to continue his course of musical performance. Unfortunately, at that time, contestants were not permitted to perform both instrumentally as well as vocally. Although he enjoys his “Connecticut Idol” title, he realized had he gone any further with the American Idol TV show, it would not only have limited his style and excluded his piano performance, it would also have cost him a more appropriate and successful audition that arose soon after he returned from Las Vegas–the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s “Search for a Star” audition. He was selected to both sing and play at the Bushnell with the HSO the following April.
In July, 2005, Jason returned to Las Vegas and performed at the Riviera for friends and guests of the annual convention for the blind.
The HSO’s “Search for A Star”
Jason was honored to perform for the first time with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) at Hartford’s Bushnell Auditorium in April, 2005. In November 2004, Jason was one of 100 who auditioned for the HSO to appear with them at the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium in their “Search for A Star” program. He dazzled an audience of some 2,500 and has been invited to perform again with the HSO. Under the Direction of Conductor Ed Cumming, Jason played with the orchestra in the finale, having been asked to also provide the Cadenza. Earlier he performed on piano and sang center stage, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” accompanied by the percussion section of the orchestra. Among the crowd of fans who swarmed around him in the lobby following the performance were friends, strangers, and staff of the Bushnell. One usher remarked, “I’ve been an usher at the Bushnell for many years and I can honestly say yours was the BEST performance I’ve ever heard!” It was the most exciting of all of Jason’s musical events. Jason says the HSO members and Bushnell staff are “truly awesome!”
A Performer for All Occasions
Feature stories of Jason, in many Connecticut newspapers point to an extraordinary talent who appeals to a broad range of audiences. A most recent article honored him by referring to him as the most talented pianist/vocalist “this side of the river…and we mean the Hudson River” proporting him to be more talented than New York celebrity performers of several decades. Cheers raised the roof at the enormous stadium in Las Vegas for his renditions of “Nobody Does It Better,” “Emotions,” and “Always and Forever.” He thrilled every age at the Bushnell Auditorium with his arrangement of “You Make Me Feel So Young.” He thrills thousands of 5th grade music students each year at the Welte Auditorium of CCSU with the ragtime of Scott Joplin’s “Entertainer.” He enlists awe when he visits elementary school classrooms, and tears of joy when he visits senior citizen facilities. Perhaps his greatest compliment came from one of his newfound senior friends, Francis Cambria, who at 93 in 2003 said, “Jason, I just love you and I live for your visits every month.” She (now approaching 98) and many other seniors hug and kiss him at his regular performances for them.
Jason has had the honor of performing for such events as a Mayoral inauguration, a Mayoral wedding, and events at the Governor’s Mansion, and has enjoyed performing for public schools, universities, churches, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. He, also, enjoys performing for restaurants, weddings, funerals, parties, benefit concerts, and other social events.
Personal “notes” about Jason
Besides his expertise in music, Jason’s mastery and knowledge of the computer is relied upon by family and friends–blind and sighted alike, whose computers he has built and he repairs–traveling to a network of friends in Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, and California in the process. He loves to travel. He recently performed on stage of a ship cruising to the Caribbean and has been offered opportunity to be a cruise ship performer. This, of course, requires a commitment of months at sea.
Jason’s specialized computer literally talks and electronically provides Braille, allowing him to know precisely what is on the screen. He easily types over 130 w.p.m. on standard keyboards. He has in his computer his own PBX (private branch exchange switchboard) and he speaks with an enormous network of blind and sighted friends all over the country.
Jason and his assistant enjoy a hobby and collection of antique Western Electric telephones, and with the exception of the 1882 Oak wall phone, all of them are in working order and on display at home. He and his assistant belong to the New England Telephone Museum (of Maine) association, and enjoy a network of other antique phone enthusiasts.
Jason’s telephone fascination prompted him to become a telephone operator for SBC in 2004 for a short time. He quickly realized, however, that continuing to be a part of “Ma Bell” would have prohibited his working at his first love–sharing his music with the public.
Seen as a ray of sunshine to all who know him, he is also known to be “humble to a fault.” Jason believes his admirers are “just over-reacting.” His assistant says, “It’s his only REAL blind spot!”