Column: Singing his way into the record books

Darren Stakey of Riverhead will attempt to sing and play piano nearly five straight days next month. (Credit: courtesy)

Let’s get right to the first question.

In the 111 hours, 11 minutes and 11 consecutive seconds that Darren Stakey attempts to sing and play the piano, can he take a bathroom break?

“Obviously, it’s a big concern,” the 33-year-old Riverhead native said.

Completing even a mundane task over and over again for a few hours could be overwhelming. But playing a concert for nearly five straight days?

Seems almost impossible.

If Mr. Stakey can pull off the feat next month, he’ll be the owner of two Guinness Book of World Records.

It’s a challenge Mr. Stakey has taken on to help raise funds and awareness for autism. As a law school graduate who recently passed the New York State bar exam and has an upcoming California State bar exam, it may seem like odd timing to dive into such a daunting task.

“It’s like a whirlwind for me,” he said.

The marathon concert will take place at the Outerbanks Restaurant at Indian Island Golf & Country Club in Riverhead from 5 a.m. Aug. 11 until, assuming his fingers don’t fall off sometime in between, 8:11 p.m. Aug. 15.

“It’s going to be a pretty long show,” he said in a classic understatement.

A lifelong musician whose first gigs were playing saxophone at local wineries as a teenager, Mr. Stakey said he hopes to avoid repeating any songs.

Call it the ultimate playlist.

He plans to break down the show into different sessions, representing nearly every genre of music imaginable. Frank Sinatra, ’50s music, ’80s music, ’90s music. He’s a huge Beatles fan, so expect plenty of Lennon and McCartney.

“Every piece of sheet music I have will get played,” he said.

The show will open with Mr. Stakey playing the very first Billboard No. 1 song, “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson. Throughout the event, he’ll cover every No. 1 hit over the Billboard chart.

The entire show will be live-streamed, most likely on YouTube.

To qualify as a Guinness World Record required Mr. Stakey to meet a set of guidelines. The first proposal he submitted got denied. The original idea was to play the world’s longest concert. In the eyes of Guinness, the premise was too vague. So he narrowed it down to longest singing marathon and longest marathon playing keyboard/piano by an individual.

Because singing and piano are viewed separately, it’ll be two records he’s pursuing.

Two independent witnesses must stay with Mr. Stakey during the duration of the show. And on the final day, a Guinness judge will watch the final eight hours to verify the record.

Back to the bathroom breaks.

Yes, he can take brief pauses during the show. According to the rules Guinness sets, Mr. Stakey is allowed a five-minute break for each hour he plays. The catch is, he can save his five minutes and bunch them together. So 10 straight hours of playing would afford him a 50-minute break.

It’s led to a lot of math to crunch the numbers and figure out how best to use his time.

“The sleep is going to be the biggest challenge,” he said.

Mr. Stakey, a singer/songwriter who mostly plays guitar, performs under the name Stay Key. His latest single, “Let It All Down,” is currently available on iTunes. The stage name was born from his last name, which would constantly get mispronounced, he said. In 2012, he began releasing music under the record label On-The-Go-Music.

As a performer, Mr. Stakey’s been notorious for never taking breaks, he said.

“When you’re playing, it’s easy to get caught up in it and lose sense of time and space,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping happens.”

Finding a location presented a challenge in itself. To qualify as a record, Mr. Stakey had to perform in a public place. He searched around and quickly found the perfect spot in the Outerbanks Restaurant, a place he frequently performs.

He had become close with co-owner Bruce Elias over the past five years. Mr. Elias agreed to host the event under one condition: The funds go toward autism.

“I’m a single dad so the event is very dear to me,” Mr. Elias said. “A lot of children have autism and there’s no real answers. It’s a puzzle unsolved.”

The restaurant will remain open and staffed 24/7 during the event.

The current world record for piano playing is held by Romuald Koperski of Poland, who played 103 hours, 8 seconds in 2010. The singing record belongs to Sunil Waghmare of India, who belted 1,245 songs for 105 hours in 2012. His first attempt at the record in 2011 ended with him in the hospital for exhaustion, according to a Sakal Times story.

Mr. Stakey realizes it won’t be easy.

“At the end of the day, those five days will be donated to doing something bigger than me,” he said.

[Caption: Darren Stakey of Riverhead will attempt to sing and play piano nearly five straight days next month. (Credit: courtesy)]

Joe_Werkmeister_2012.jpgThe author is the managing editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected].