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Augusta County band teacher returns to perform in Staunton Jams as singer-songwriter

Courtesy of David Perry.

David Perry titled his first studio album as a singer-songwriter “Keep Showin’ Up” after seeing a video of Brandi Carlile performing with country music legend Wynonna Judd.

Judd had just lost her mother, Naomi, and said that when you face struggles in life “You just keep showin’ up.”

“I thought: ‘You know, what? That applies to lots of different things.’ You show up for friends, you show up to overcome something, you show up to vote, you show up,” Perry said.

Perry, who retired as a high school band and choral director with Augusta County Schools in 2014, was inspired to write a song with several verses of individuals overcoming obstacles in life and deciding to “Keep Showin’ Up.”

He will perform his Americana music at The Green Room Saturday, May 4, 2024, at 4 p.m. as part of Staunton Jams. In between singing original songs, he will share stories about songwriting. Perry will sing songs from “Keep Showin’ Up,” as well as new songs he has already written for his second album to be released in 2025.

“I’m approaching it like a singer-songwriter,” Perry said of his Staunton Jams performance. “Before I do a song, I might talk a little bit about where the idea came from, that kind of stuff. Hopefully, people will be interested in that.”

Perry learned to play guitar as a child and played in garage bands in high school. In various bands after high school, he was part of a Christian rock band that recorded an album in 1973.

He earned a degree in Music Education from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Perry is from Wayne County, West Virginia, and he and his wife, Carolyn, moved to Staunton in 1986. He was the band and choral director at Wilson Memorial High School for 12 years and then at Fort Defiance High School before he retired in 2014 and moved to Summerville, S.C., just outside of Charleston.

Bill Howard of the Judy Chops was his student at Fort Defiance High. The Judy Chops organized Staunton Jams.

Four years ago, Perry became serious about writing songs and recording them for an album he would share with the public. The process took approximately two to two and a half years before he was ready to record the album. In early 2023, Perry began recording demos for what would become his first album with Richard Adams in Staunton. Adams will play bass with Perry’s guitar at The Green Room.

Perry describes his songwriting style as mostly Americana, but Americana, blues, country and rock can all be heard on his first album.

“I look at songwriting as storytelling and, for whatever the reason, a lot of my songs also ask a lot of questions.”

A fan of James Taylor, Perry takes inspiration from the singer-songwriters of the 1970s. He hopes to hone his craft so that his songs have meanings beyond just the surface.

“Keep Showin’ Up” is about how several different individuals decide to keep showing up amid various circumstances in life.

“Once I wrote it, I thought: “This is the positive phrase and outlook that I wanted to put with this album.'”

“Last Seen in Buffalo” came from the often-seen phrase when an individual goes missing and police are searching. Police say where they were last seen.

“Every one of those phrases, every time it’s said, there’s a story behind that,” Perry said of writing the song.

He created a story about a man from Texas who violates his parole.

“It’s exciting to me to be able to work on and sort of create something out of nothing, because you’re picking the melody out of the air, you’re picking the words out of the air,” Perry said of the creative process.

The more songs he writes, the more excited he gets to create a second album and to continue performing.

“Open for Business” is another song on the album and it was inspired by businesses closing during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. A video is available on YouTube.

Perry, who is the father of two daughters and nine grandchildren, said he enjoys performing at venues such as The Green Room.

“The other good thing about Staunton Jams, which I think is really good for the city, is the majority of the music is free,” Perry said.

At 71, some might question why Perry waited so long to record an album of original songs. He said that as a high school band director he always encouraged his students to try what they wanted in life. If he did not record an album, he would have felt like a hypocrite.

“I wanted to do it when I wanted to do it. It ended up, it’s the right time for me,” Perry said.

However, Perry admits that the music industry is mostly centered around youth, not musicians of his age.

A fellow singer-songwriter in Charleston has gained quite a following with 16 albums recorded, Perry said, but some venues she plays to thousands of fans and others only a dozen.

“But, that’s the industry. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve got one person listening or you’ve got 1,000 listening,” Perry said. “You want to do the best for that person.”

A lifetime love of music has led Perry to record his own songs. As long as he’s alive, he expects to write and perform music. He hopes to return to Staunton Jams next year.

“Music is a king of thing that everybody can relate to. Not everybody likes every type of music, but everybody likes some type of music. It’s the thing that kind of binds a lot of us together, I think, and, goodness knows, we need a little bit of binding these days,” Perry said.

Perry will perform at Bridgewater’s Sipe Center on Sunday, August 4, 2024, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“Keep Showin’ Up” is available on streaming services and CDs are available online. CDs will also be available when Perry performs at The Green Room.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.