Rick Mather, of Deerfield Township, has always been a musician, practicing trumpet three hours a day for 40 years. But it was not until he lost a finger in an industrial accident that he started playing piano.

"I ripped my ring finger off my left hand" while handling an unfamiliar machine in a former job for the Cumberland County Improvement Authority, he said. "My wife is a physical therapist. She said, ‘Start playing. It will be good for you.'"

He sat down at the piano the day after the accident in 1987. "I was out here playing with bandages on my hand," he said.

Thousands of hours of practice later, he has just hit a career milestone.

"My big news is I'm playing New York City. I'm 57 years old, and I feel like a 10-year-old kid. I'm just loving it," said Mather, who has a degree in music from the former Glassboro State College, now Rowan University. "I will play at the Marriott Downtown, right at ground zero."

The first time he played piano in public was at a fishing camp in Canada in 1991. Then he started to get smaller gigs, and worked his way up to playing casinos and the Seaview resort in Galloway Township, where he has played Sunday brunch for about 15 years.

"I set goals and tried to reach them. Playing New York was so far out in the future, I didn't know if I'd ever do it or not," Mather said.

He said he plays pop music with jazz elements, and being short a finger has not been too much of a handicap.

"There are so few times you are using all 10 fingers at once. I never had that finger (when playing piano), so I don't know any better."

Mather also runs a business called Hold Button Resources, which creates voiceovers for the messages consumers hear while on hold with a business. "I started in 1998. Just about all the regular working musicians like me have another business they do."

Short stories

  • Donors provided more than 525 Thanksgiving turkeys for needy families in Cumberland County this year through the Project Thanksgiving effort, organizer Alex Kaganzev said. Project Thanksgiving is run through the Salvation Army. Turkeys were collected at ShopRite locations in the county.
  • Bruce A. Fournier has been promoted to deputy director of the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at the Cape May County Airport, Director Joseph E. Salvatore and the museum's Board of Directors recently announced. Fournier, of Lower Township, is a lifelong resident of Cape May County and has been employed by the museum since April 2009, serving as museum educator, handling the Historic Lecture Series, AirFest and the museum newsletter. He has a bachelor's degree in history from Youngstown State University in Ohio and has 23 years of retail experience in Cape May County.

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