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Singing servers brighten steakhouse

Ashlee Salamon | The Daily Wildcat Ashlee Salamon / Arizona Daily Wildcat (LtoR) Thomas Wilson, Vocal Performance Major, Junior, Bobby Curtis from the Original Guys and Dolls on Broadway, and David Gustafson DMA student, sing for the patrons of O'Shaughnessy. O'Shaughnessy is located on Tanque Verde and Camino Principal.

Restaurant jobs are common for college students looking to add a little to their income, and some UA students have found an eatery where they stand to make even more. What's the catch? They have to sing with your supper.

O'Shaughnessy's Steakhouse and Piano Bar, 2200 N. Camino Principal, hires students to sing while they serve. Thomas Wilson, O'Shaughnessy's employee and voice performance junior, said the application for the job is no ordinary one, as it is half-based on an audition.


However, the job is a steady source of income for performers who might not have another opportunity to sing for cash.

""I've definitely made more money here than anywhere I've worked before,"" he said, adding that performers and musicians get extra tips that are often placed in the tip jar by the piano.

Wilson said he enjoys working at O'Shaughnessy's, a family-owned business that has kept many of its staff for the 30 years of its existence. 

""The best part of my job is the exposure I get to performing,"" he said. ""I have learned more working here than anywhere else.""

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant jobs represent 11 percent of total employment in Arizona, bringing in more than a half-trillion dollars every year.

Sam O'Shaughnessy, the restaurant's owner, was the youngest of seven in his family, growing up during the late ‘50s when ""good rock and roll came out,"" he said.

He got tired of the country western and the disco music, so he thought of opening a small piano bar.

O'Shaughnessy said he has been very fortunate that so many talented people have walked through his doors, from Ernie Menehune — one of the oldest living Tucson entertainers — to music students from the UA.

""People are constantly singing,"" including bartenders and servers, he said.

Part-time Doctor of Musical Arts student David Gustafson is a reknowned opera singer and works part-time at the restaurant.

Gustafson said between all of the staff, they know several hundred songs to sing to customers, including numbers from Frank Sinatra to Janis Joplin, opera to Led Zeppelin.

""The food itself could stand on its own two feet but the singing and entertainment factor makes it even better,"" he said.

Gustafson said the arts often suffer in bad economic climates, but the restaurant gives people an opportunity to come in for a great show and meal.

""I love working there,"" he said, ""and I'll probably be there, hopefully for the next 40 years.""


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Daily (11/24)
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Updated November 24, 2021