Passion for piano playing leads local man to give back all around the world

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Mark Damisch has raised over $1 million in his life by doing what he loves to do. He is pursuing his passion with a charitable heart and loving every minute of it.

He's been practicing law for over 40 years in Chicago. But ever since he was a kid, this Northbrook man knew something else fed his soul but never paid the bills: Playing piano.

Damisch is a Northwestern grad three times over with an undergraduate degree, a law degree, an MBA and he’s also a CPA.  He was a personal injury lawyer with his father for 35 years.

Damisch is also a fan of classical music and has been ever since he was a kid.

"My first piano lesson, I told the teacher I wanted to play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto,” he said.

He was seven at the time. By high school, Damisch had that tough piece mastered.

His inspiration was his deceased mother who was also a trained musician.

In 1975 he was 18 and on his own in Europe living the dream, but it could only last so long.

"I toured all the way from Paris to Moscow by train for 10 weeks, 70 nights,” he said. “I said, ‘I really like doing this, but I can't see doing this and having a stable life.’"

He got married, had three kids and began his career as a practicing attorney. That meant trading in his piano bench for arguments before the bench in a courtroom. In that time, Damisch even ran the town of Northbrook and was elected mayor three times.

He didn't play a single note for 18 years.

In 2000, everyone was doing something special for the millennium.  Damisch wanted to do something too.

"The only thing I really knew how to do was play the piano."

So he got back to the keyboard and hasn’t left it since. He has done 21 tours in his 42 year career and traveled to 70 different countries - mostly in Europe and raised over $1 million for charity in the process.

He says he hasn't kept a penny.

"My dad got me involved in Boy Scouts when I was younger,” he said. “One of the things they taught you in Boy Scouts is leave the camp fire cleaner when you left than when you showed up."

It is a message he took to heart every day of his life.

"Half the concerts are for charity. About half of them are for good will," he said.

Russia is a regular destination for Damisch when he performs. He once raised a quarter of a million dollars raised in one night for a Russian boy in need of a lifesaving surgery.

"For people wringing their hands over the relationship between us and Russia right now, they don't know what they're talking about in the context that I was over playing in Russia during the Cold War,” he said “When we had ICBMs pointed at each other and the threat of mutual and assured destruction hung in the air."

Regarding his feeling about existing tension between the two nations today, Damisch said, "Everybody wants peace. (They) want to be able to go do their job and raise a family and travel if they can and just enjoy their life. And the same thing is true today in that regard as it was then."

Damisch takes off for yet another European tour next week with 25 benefit concerts in 13 countries.