Daniel Santo will be remembered for his love of music, youth
The ninth annual Jammies rocks on for yet another season, but this year a familiar, beaming face is missing from the crowd.
Daniel Santo of Talent Launch, a Jammies sponsor and judge, passed away March of this year, leaving behind his wife and soul mate, Christine, to whom he was married to for more than 50 years; three children; and five grandchildren.
He was described as being a loving husband, caring father, supportive grandparent and an exceptional colleague—with an undying passion for youth in music and performing arts.
Daniel Santo’s love for both youth and the arts often intersected in his philanthropic endeavors, serving on the board of directors for organizations such as the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cazadero Music Camp, YMCA of Superior California and Talent Launch.
His love for music and drama originated in high school, where he played the saxophone and was awarded a scholarship to attend The Pasadena Playhouse’s School of Theatre, which he declined to go to Whittier College (where fate introduced him to his wife) instead.
Talent Launch was created in November 2007, by both Santo and his grandson Jason Santo, as a nonprofit organization that not only supports young talent and the arts, but also seeks to provide them with public, real-life performance opportunities at various places such as the Guild Theater, Hard Rock Cafe and other similar venues.
The inspiration to create a nonprofit organization to celebrate and promote young musicians came from his grandson’s musical excursions overseas.
“The summer after my junior year, I went with the Rio Americano High School band program to China, and our jazz band played in a local jazz club [among other venues]. My grandfather thought that was so cool and wanted to be able to provide such an experience to young musicians in America,” said Jordan, who plays the trombone. “He was the one with the idea for Talent Launch, but he wanted to make sure that I was involved and nominated me to be the first president. He wanted someone young to be president, because what he hoped to achieve, exposure for young artists, would be better achieved if a young musician were at the helm.”
Family members recall Santo “always busy doing something,” whether it was attending board meetings, fundraisers, his grandchildren’s sports games, band concerts and mock trial competitions, or planning family reunions and get-togethers.
Daniel Santo was very much a family man. He loved being surrounded by his immediate and extended family—particularly his grandchildren—and would often plan trips and adventures.
“I’ve never seen a man work so many hours, go on so many business trips and still leave as much time for his family as he did. I swear that he couldn’t have slept much!” Jordan said jokingly.
Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting or working with Santo could tell you his positive, empowering attitude was infectious. His son, also named Daniel Santo, described his father as bold and boisterous and as a man who was simply larger than life.
“Wherever he was in a room, that’s where everyone else wanted to be. [He was] outgoing, quick to toss out a joke,” he said. “He could make you feel like you were the most interesting person in the world because he really was interested in what you had to say.”
In addition to his passion for empowering youth to follow their arts-related dreams, Santo was also known for his generosity, at times reaching into and pulling money out of his own pockets to cover expenses. If he believed in it, he almost always supported it—especially if it involved youth and music education.
“He loved the symphony. He loved jazz. He loved anything that anyone was passionate about. He was trying his best to make a difference in the arts in anyway he could. The arts are finally beginning to be recognized, and I really wish he was here to be part of that celebration,” said Craig Faniani, visual and performing arts coordinator for San Juan Unified School District.
John Skinner, fellow Cazadero Music Camp board member, colleague and friend, chuckles as he remembers how he started his 10-year friendship with Santo.
“His grandson was performing at a fundraising event for the Heart of the Redwoods [Horse Rescue] organization, and it so happened he was sitting behind me. We got to talking and he asked me about the Cazadero Music Camp. I told him we were involved with youth and music, and before I knew it he was writing a $1,000 check to the camp right then and there!” he said.
He was just that kind of person.
And his dedication to his family, the arts and the youth will always be remembered.