When Sam Pasco was young, he recalls his mother telling him, "If you can help somebody, just do it."
Never forgetting those words, Pasco has dedicated his life to two things: music and helping people.
Pasco, 85, plays the saxophone in a trio with Joseph Giangrasso on piano and Donn Ducette on bass. Every December for the past 35 years, the three have traveled from nursing homes to hospitals to schools and back again, bringing music and cheer to the sick, the handicapped and the elderly.
The visits are free — costs are covered by the Bloomfield Rotary Club, of which Pasco is a member; the Greater Hartford Jewish Business Men and Women; philanthropist David Chase; the Hollander family, owner of Hartford Distributors; and Simon Konover.
At some of the 50-odd facilities they visit every year, the Sam Pasco Trio plays for a large group; at others, like the Hartford and St. Francis hospitals, they travel from room to room, performing each person's favorite tune.
"Sam is a remarkable performer," wrote Tobye Karl, director of volunteer services for St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, in a 2009 letter to David and Rhoda Chase. "He has a limitless repertoire and he finds the most appropriate song for each patient."
The trio plays old songs, Christmas songs, Irish, Scottish and Italian songs – "It's very hard to stump us," Pasco said.
Pasco, who grew up in Hartford, started the Christmastime visits when he was a member of the Al Jarvis Orchestra.
Formed by the late pianist Al Jarvis, bassist Jack Turner and Pasco in 1950, the band's popularity grew, and several Jarvis orchestras were eventually formed to keep up with the demand.
In the late 1970s, Pasco – who is a Shriner and a Rotarian – asked Jarvis and Turner if they wanted to perform in nursing homes.
"I asked the guys, 'Do you want to do something nice?'" he said. "They agreed with me."
They started with a few spots – Hebrew Health Care, St. Mary Home and Hughes Health and Rehabilitation in West Hartford – that were recommended by the Rotary Club. The next year, they were inundated with requests.
Jarvis died in 2000, and Turner retired, but Pasco and his trio dont see an end in sight.
Pasco will keep performing "as long as God gives me the strength to keep going," he said. "I'm happy with what I can do for people."