The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 4, 2014

Making memories: Music man ends longtime career as local disc jockey

Frank Sojak
fsojak@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Mick Muto did not dance around anything he has done.

When he was a schoolteacher, he devoted himself to his students.

As a member of the Greater Johnstown Community YMCA, the Upper Yoder Township resident imparted his knowledge of weightlifting and other sports to fellow members.

As a disc jockey, he was determined to provide a great time for everyone attending the dance, wedding or other function at which he was playing.

After more than three decades as a disc jockey, he turned off the microphone so he can spend more time with his family.

Other reasons he left the stage at age 66 are that it was becoming difficult to keep up with ever-changing technology and to lug around all the heavy equipment.

Muto’s “Last Waltz,” as one friend calls it, was Dec. 14, when he played for the final time at a Christmas party at Pitt-Johnstown.

“I love music,” said Muto, who performed under the name of DJ Music Memories. “All kinds of music.

“If I’m not playing, I’m going to concerts and listening to local bands that I like.”

He said he has played at 500 to 600 weddings over the years.

“I would DJ a wedding like it was my own daughter’s wedding,” Muto said. “I took pride. I enjoyed seeing the love between brides and their fathers and grooms and their mothers when they did their special dances.”

Muto said that because his father, Anthony, is a World War II veteran, he has a high regard for all who have fought for freedom. To thank veterans, he has donated his services many times to play for the American Legion and other veterans organizations.

He said he met many wonderful people while being a DJ.

Muto, a  1964 graduate of Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown, got his start as a DJ in the early 1980s when a friend, Dave Kekich, became paralyzed after being injured while weightlifting.

Muto and another friend, Jim Bickford, united to organize an oldies dance to raise money to fight spinal cord injuries.

The dances proved so popular that the two continued holding them. With increasing demand for them to entertain, the pair decided to jump into the DJ business. After several years, Bickford left and Muto continued on his own.

The YMCA and the city of Johnstown recognized Muto on Nov. 29 for sharing his knowledge of various sports with others for decades at the Y. The YMCA honored him with the Richard L. White Award and  Mayor Thomas Trigona presented him with a plaque.

Muto said it was an honor to be recognized for his work at a great organization.

“The Y keeps you focused and keeps you off the streets. It keeps you physically fit so that you can defend yourself,” he said. “I grew up in Prospect, a tough section of town. You had to stay in shape to survive.”

Muto said he enjoys exercising and still works out by riding his bicycle 1,000 miles a year and playing one-wall racquetball at Roxbury Park.

He started his teaching career in 1969 in Greater Johnstown School District. He taught at five elementary schools the first year before being transferred to what was then Garfield Junior High School. In the mid-1980s, he was transferred to the high school, from which he retired in 2004.

Muto was a physical education teacher for his entire career and a wrestling coach for more than 10 years.

He also taught driver education during the summers from 1970 until 2004 and taught the course full time from the mid-1980s until 2004. He also taught driver education during the summers at Westmont Hilltop from 1988 to 2004, when that district dropped its in-school program.

“I loved teaching,” Muto said. “I would do it again.

“You cannot put a price tag on the relationships and friendships that you have over the years with students, other teachers and coaches.

He said he taught students as if they were his own children.

“I taught them to respect each other,” Muto said. “There definitely was no bullying in my class. I taught them to treat everyone the way they would want to be treated.”

Outside of school, he helped to coach his children’s sports teams.

He also was a volunteer wrestling coach for the Westmont peewee wrestling league from the early 1980s to 1994. The league played its matches at The Grove.

Muto said he has been blessed with a great family who supported his efforts: his parents, Anthony and Mary Muto of Johnstown; his wife of 42 years, Joyce, and their three children – Dena Vore of North Carolina and Anthony and Marc, both of Johnstown. He and his wife also have six grandchildren.

Jim Kist, a friend who taught school with Muto, said he was a natural coach and an excellent teacher.

“He had the ability to reach a person,” Kist said. “He is very open and very honest. You can tell when he approaches you that he is sincere.”

Steve Myers, a friend and former student of Muto, said he has always looked up to him as a teacher.

“He’s a man with unquestionable integrity,” Myers said.

Muto performs many good deeds behind the scenes for people, he said.

Bickford said he and Muto started to work together as disc jockeys in 1984.

“He’s really good,” Bickford said. “He’s a stickler for details. He is always prepared.”

Bickford, who also taught school and belonged to the YMCA with Muto, said he was an excellent teacher. At the Y, Muto was eager to share his athletic skills with other members.

“His biggest asset is that he is a true giver,” Bickford said.



Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.