The fellow with a cello

The frenzied pace of walkers and joggers through Lithia Park has slowed to a standstill lately, thanks to some beautiful music near the park's entrance.

Daniel Sperry calls himself Cello Man. Until someone challenges him, he'll keep that title.

Six days out of the week, Sperry brings his cello act to the heart of downtown Ashland, wowing audiences with original compositions and the occasional Beatles cover. Sperry, 54, has been playing the cello for a half-century. His resume includes a stint with the Nashville Symphony and tutelage under renowned cellist Nelson Cooke.

"I've been playing on and off since I was four," he said. "A lot of what I do is improvisation. I create my own compositions, so it's unique in that way."

His earthy tunes seem a natural fit for the wooded area of the park he plays in, which has been crowded lately with fans of his music. He says his surroundings are the inspiration behind much of what he plays.

"A lot of people have commented to me that they feel the cello somehow resonated with the park," he said.

The Iowa native came to town three years ago to be closer to his son. He occasionally returns to his home state to play private shows. At a party there last summer, he played well enough to receive a special gift from one admirer.

"A woman said to me, 'I don't think the cello you're playing is up to the quality of what you're doing,'" Sperry recalled.

When he suggested the cost of such a cello might run in the thousands, she told him she would foot the bill. He uses that cello today.

"It was quite a gift," he said.

His son recently began encouraging him to play downtown and, one day last fall, he obliged. With his cello case open and his long stringed instrument at the ready, Sperry started to play. And passersby responded.

"People started throwing money into the case," he said. "So I was like, 'Okay, this is a good thing.'" He has returned to the same spot, practically daily, to share his music with the community. He released an album, "Cello Man Dreams," which consists of songs largely inspired by his sessions in the park. The album is available online, at

Sperry said he plans to keep up his one-man show in the venue that has come to feel like home.

"The park has been kind of a place where I can do my original things," he said. "There's an enormous amount of joy that I get from the people that walk by, especially the kids."

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