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Astronaut Jones Touches Down In Africa

By Gary Wien


Tony Costa is a singer-songwriter from New Jersey who performs under the name Astronaut Jones. He also teaches music for a living. This past June, he spent two days teaching kids who just might have been seeing a guitar for the first time.

Costa was part of a group from Sylvia's Children (an organization run by his mother) who traveled to Uganda, Africa to teach children at the Mbiriizi Primary School.

"None of the children had ever played guitar before," said Tony Costa. "One of the music teachers there loves the sound of the guitar and had always wanted to learn it, but it's hard for them to get one. It's very expensive to get one in their area and very few people play guitar so you have to search for people who could give lessons and the lessons are very expensive.

"The children were thrilled which made me feel phenomanal to be able to teach them how to play. It's funny, people ask me how were the students. I'd say they were just like any kid as a student who plays guitar. The first time a kid picks up a guitar they start banging on it because they love the sound of it. It was wild. Language was only a problem for the first hour or so. Without sounding like a Hallmark Card, music is its own language and it pretty much takes over afterwards."

The organization was able to get 17 guitars donated which they gave to the school. Costa taught two days of classes with - about four hours a day. He was able to teach some of the students and the teachers the basics and techniques of playing guitar.

"After about an hour of teaching them it was no longer about my words, it was about the sounds I was making," he said. "And that's what you really want them to pick up on. I can tell you anything but you have to hear the music to be able to pick it up. It has to resonate with you and it just did with certain kids."

Of course, it wasn't all work for Costa. Being in Africa, he went on safari for the first time and ran into elephants and bulls on the road. They even had the experience of seeing an elephant charge their truck before they took off down the road!

"It was so surreal," he said. "At times I'd turn to someone and say, 'do you realize we're in Africa?'"

Equally as surreal was learning that Africans are actually big fans of country music. He did a double take the first time he passed by a store that was blaring Willie Nelson. The people at the school asked him to send them some music.

Originally they wanted to get some acoustic music they could listen to and learn to play but then they started asking him for country tunes. Secretly, I know he's hoping that the two CDs of Astronaut Jones becomes an underground hit there.

"If I go back next year and they're playing one of my songs, I think I'll just collapse! That would be the ultimate compliment... Plus I could say I'm big in Africa!"

For more information on Sylvia's Children and how you can help visit http://sylviaschildren.org and for more information on Tony Costa (aka Astronaut Jones) visit http://astronautjonesnj.com



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Mungion To Perform At The Stone Pony
 (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Since their inception in the Spring of 2015, Mungion (pronounced mung-yin) has quickly made a name for themselves as one of the rising stars of the jam scene. The band will open a pair of shows for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on January 24-25.
MPAC Presents Disney's DCappella Live!
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Disney's highly acclaimed a cappella group, DCappella comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center on Friday, February 15 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from  $39-$89.
Leonia Chamber Musicians Society to Present Benefit Concert for Leonia High School Music Department
(LEONIA, NJ) -- The Leonia Chamber Musicians Society, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization based in Leonia, New Jersey, presents "Our Hearts in Music", a benefit concert, on Sunday, February 10 at 4:00pm at Leonia High School’s Little Theater, located at 100 Christie Heights in Leonia, New Jersey.
The Newton Theatre Presents Ruben Studdard
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Bill Frisell To Headline the 8th Les Paul Festival Concert at Ramapo College
(MAHWAH, NJ) -- Guitarist Bill Frisell will headline the Les Paul Festival Concert on Saturday night, February 16 in the Sharp Theater at Ramapo College. Often hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, Frisell’s career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 35 years and 250 recordings, including 40 of his own.


The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
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Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
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"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
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“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
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Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.


2019-01-23
Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

2019-01-23
Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

2019-01-24
New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch






















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