Mike Chamberlin knows how to play a room. The retired television news and sports reporter turned musician had the residents of St. Francis Home in Santa Ana clapping and singing along during a recent visit.
Chamberlin strummed his guitar and sang one familiar song after another, including tunes from the Great American Songbook, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Pennies from Heaven.”
During the concert, activities director Maricela Alegria started dancing and encouraged the residents to join her.
At one point resident Alicia Falagan even danced the samba to music Chamberlin played especially for her.
“You give us life, you give us hope,” she told him.
Although he makes his living performing, Chamberlin gives free concerts for several worthy organizations, including St. Francis Home. It’s one of his favorite stops because his grandmother had lived there, and he said, “I feel her spirit as I perform for the residents.”
Performing is second nature to Chamberlin. For 34 years he’s been playing to audiences at retirement facilities, church and womens club luncheons, veterans groups –he’s a Vietnam vet himself – and senior and community centers.
Before Chamberlin reinvented himself as a full-time performer, he was a TV broadcaster in Hollywood, Phoenix, San Francisco and at ESPN.
“I knew it was time to retire when the woman sitting next to me could’ve been my granddaughter,” he recalled, “plus I had accomplished all I wanted in broadcasting.”
When he retired in 1988, Mike thought it would be nice to do a couple of concerts a month. But that turned into about 40 a month and 326 in 2022 alone.
“I have 56 concerts in 24 days – lots of double and triple concerts in a day, he said.”
AN EARLY LOVE OF MUSIC
The son of musical parents, Chamberlin taught himself the guitar at age 16.
“Music has always come easily to me, he said. “And the voice is a gift from God.”
He believes singing is keeping him vital at this stage in his life.
“I don’t know what I would be doing in retirement if I wasn’t a musician,” he said. “I think it’s keeping me young at heart.”
His Catholic faith has also inspired him. Raised in a Catholic family, he attended Catholic schools and served as an altar boy.
“I was well grounded in the faith and teachings of the Church,” he said.
Before every concert, Chamberlin takes a moment to thank God for the singing opportunity and to ask Him to keep his voice strong.
KEEPING FAITH WHILE ON THE ROAD
Chamberlin performs all over Southern California and in the Southwest. His home parish is Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente but because his music career takes him on the road many weekends, he searches the area where he’s performing to find a Saturday or Sunday Mass.
“In Hollywood, I attend Sacred Heart,” he said. “In the South Bay I attend American Martyrs in Manhattan Beach. In San Diego I might seek out a mission.”
Chamberlin will perform a program titled “Holiday Music Through the Decades” at San Clemente’s Cabrillo Playhouse in December. Tickets available at www.cabrilloplayhouse.org