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Tomaro fights cancer with music

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Jazz saxophonist Mike Tomaro

Mike Tomaro has a mission, and it goes beyond being one of the best musicians in the area.

He is helping to fight pancreatic cancer, the disease that took his wife, Nancy, two years ago.

But he is doing it with the most power he can muster, through good music.

“Last year, this was a real tribute to Nancy,” he says of the concert Thursday evening at Duquesne University. “This year's is in a more aggressive sense of fighting cancer.”

The show called “A Holiday Postcard” is more of a Christmas show than last year's, which was more jazz-oriented, he says. All funds raised at the event will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

The timing of the show is appropriate; it is at the end of the awareness month for that form of cancer.

Christmas show or not, the concert will feature some of the best jazz players around: trumpeter Sean Jones, who teaches with Tomaro at Duquesne, guitarist Joe Negri, and 10 members of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, which he and Jones lead.

Adding the vocal element of the show will be Maureen Budway, the Children's Festival Chorus, and Tomaro's daughters, Natalie and Andrea.

Drummer Tom Wendt and pianist Max Leake, who will perform at the concert, are impressed with Tomaro's strength in dealing with his wife's illness and his dedication to fighting it.

“He is such a consummate professional, he never came to a rehearsal and complained about all the stuff in his life,” Wendt says. “It never seemed to affect his playing or writing one bit.”

Leake agrees.

“He is just very strong,” he says. “He played a song for her at the funeral, and I could not understand how he would be able to do that.”

Wendt adds he believes Tomaro's loss “has added even more depth to his writing.”

This will be the second of five benefit concerts and Tomaro says he want to make each one different.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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