A Christmas Tradition With Peter Mayer

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Peter Mayer found his voice while following his heart, combining his love of music with a strong faith in God.

Twenty-three years ago, he created “Stars and Promises,” a Christmas tradition for audiences in dozens of cities across the country. The seven-piece Peter Mayer Band plays traditional holiday favorites, variations of those songs, as well as original pieces.

“People will have a lot of choices for things to do this Christmas season, so we are going to pull out all the stops to deliver a show like no other,” Mayer says. “We’ll bring people together, focus on the Christmas story, and hopefully bring everyone back to a peaceful center, reflecting on the best life has to offer.”

Audiences can see “Stars and Promises” on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at Hononegah High School’s Performing Arts Center, 307 Salem St., Rockton.

The band includes Mayer’s son, Brendan, who has followed in his Dad’s footsteps as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. Other musicians in the band play drums, bass guitar, violin, piano and woodwind instruments, including bag pipes, flute, English horn and more.

Mayer began the Christmas tradition with his brother, Jim, working on their first album with the same name. They did only two shows the first year. Because the demand for the production grew each year, they added more musicians and played more music for bigger audiences at a wide variety of venues, including churches of all faiths, theaters, concert halls, Bible camps and bars.
Music, like faith, is an integral part of life, Mayer says.

“People are in need of stories and songs about hope, which is what Christmas is all about. It’s a time for people to take a break from shopping and put aside their problems to feel the joy of Christmas, and create a sense of unity and community that can’t help but speak to people,” he says.

“To me, every song ever written is sacred in some way. Music disarms us and makes us available to one another and creates a space inside of us that takes in only goodness and is a life-changing experience.”

Mayer grew up in Tamil Nādu, India, where his parents were Lutheran missionaries. Even at a young age, he had a passion for music, and was influenced by both his eastern and western upbringing. His Dad loved classical music, and Mayer can remember as a small child bursting into tears as he listened. “I knew from a very young age that music had a special hold on me and I made a vow with myself to dedicate my life to the art,” he says. “I learned the beauty of Jesus’ love listening to the Indian people sing Tamil hymns, and seeing how my mother and father found Christ residing there among the Hindus and Muslims that lived near us.”

He played clarinet in grade school, then played piano, and later learned the guitar to express his love for rock and roll music.

After moving back to the United States, he studied formal theory and composition and taught jazz guitar as a faculty member at Webster University. In 1988, he released his first album for Warner Brothers Records, with the group PM. The album produced the single “Piece of Paradise,” rising to number eight on the Billboard charts.

That same year, he began touring with the Jimmy Buffet Coral Reefer band as the lead guitarist, a position he still has today. In addition, Mayer has his own bands that regularly tour and have released 25 albums.

At 64, he has cut back on touring to about three or four months a year. About three years ago, he wrote his first children’s book called “Junkman’s Christmas” and has recorded an album with the same name.

He plans to do more writing in the future, but meanwhile keep up the pace of recording songs and touring while he still can.

His newest album, “Songs for Birds,” was just released and includes about a dozen songs he had started but never finished.

Tickets for “Stars and Promises” are $35 and can be purchased at eventbrite.com or at the door starting at 6 p.m. ❚