Daniel Murphy is a renaissance man with skills that keep him busy in a wide array of pursuits. A self-proclaimed “Navy brat”, Murphy was born on Whidbey Island in Washington state and had bounced around the country, living in eight different states by the time he left home at the age of 13 to attend seminary at Don Bosco College in Newton, New Jersey. While Daniel Murphy did not make it to the priesthood, it was at seminary that his talent for music first manifested, learning to play multiple instruments.
Mr. Murphy put his newfound skills to good use when he attended Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University, ultimately earning a Master’s in Music Education. From there he began a litany of jobs in the arts, spending the next 35 years as a teacher or music director in various schools, churches, and theaters around the country: He was Artistic Director for the Rainbow Theater in Manchester, New Hampshire, a touring theater troop that served casts including handicapped individuals; the music teacher at various public schools across New Hampshire; the choir director/organist for St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Goffstown, NH, and St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church in Merrimack, NH; and for 12 years, Murphy was the Music Director of the Vineyard Playhouse in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He has also worked on a cruise ship as an entertainer, rousing crowds with his piano skills and unstoppable sense of humor. Now caring for an elderly father in New Hampshire, Murphy has embraced the challenges inherent to his new role as a personal caregiver, even weighing the possibility of a career shift as a certified nurse’s assistant, all while educating others about healthy eating and cultivating culinary skills in the kitchen.
Tell us a little about yourself and what has led you to have such a passion for teaching others about leading healthy lives?
About four years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I started going to a nutritionist who said, “Well, Dan you’re a volume eater, and that’s not good. You have to start learning how to make your food from scratch. No more processed food.” After that I decided to become my own chef to make healthy foods that still taste good. I studied everything I could, reading cookbooks and watching cooking videos, and trying out new things in the kitchen every day. Then I started teaching kids and families how to do it for themselves too.
Saturday afternoons were spent with different families and groups of kids cooking anything from Moroccan to Mexican food, or teaching them how to make pasta from scratch. I add my own brand of comedy and we end up with a fabulous dinner for the whole family.
How has the pandemic changed your Saturday afternoons of teaching, cooking, and helping families learn to eat healthy?
When COVID-19 began I had to put my cooking classes on hold. I never expected it would last this long or have such an impact on the whole world. I currently have about three families waiting on me to restart my Saturday classes. But everything I’ve done in life has been done with passion for helping others. Teaching others cooking and healthy eating is no different. When the time is right I will once again be teaching in the kitchen of families looking to learn how to prepare healthy meals
What surprised you the most when you started talking to others about healthy living?
I was surprised by how much people don’t know about healthy eating. At one point I was in a living arrangement where there were four people living in the apartment, and I would cook for everyone. They loved to eat the food I prepared. But none of them knew the first thing about the health issues surrounding diet and eating.
You know, there’s nothing wrong with butter. Butter makes everything better! And bacon makes everything better! But why not add some red or green bell peppers in there? Or some onions or garlic or celery? People don’t understand that one vitamin is a key to health and the others are the door.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone thinking about changing their diet and routine to live a more healthy lifestyle?
It is easy to become vitamin D deficient because we don’t get enough sun so many of us take vitamin D. When it comes to vitamin D however you could take all the enhancements you want, but if you’re not also taking vitamin K, you’re ignoring the key that opens the door to allow vitamin D to work. Many people don’t know simple things like this.
Sometimes it can be as simple as that. Helping others understand that sometimes just based on where you live or the type of produce available in certain months can impact the way you manage your diet and health. Enhancements can be a big part of your health plan but if you are not aware of how to use them properly they are not going to do your body any good.
What do your friends say about your new passion for healthy living?
I have been fortunate enough to have performed in and visited 26 countries. I have traveled to almost every state and along the way I have made many wonderful friends. Over the years many of my friends have shown great support in my journey to living a healthy lifestyle. I have the added bonus of having friends around the world that I share recipes and healthy eating tips with. One day I hope to visit them so we can cook and laugh together once again.
How have you maintained a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic?
I can honestly tell you that it has not been easy. I have had to go through, like everyone, the empty shelves at the supermarket, lack of fresh produce for weeks/months in the beginning, and the long lines to just get the basic staples. Once again, through the help of friends and a great support system around the world, I have managed to make the best of it. For a while it was not easy making healthy snacks and meals but things are starting to look up and I am back to cooking healthy once again. I am hopeful that I will also be able to get back to seeing my friends and cooking with families that want to continue learning how to cook healthy.
You seem like a busy guy with a lot of different projects happening at the same time. How do you stay organized and maintain personal relationships with so many balls in the air?
I have a lot on the go right now. Aside from my day job, I recently started working at a horse and animal rescue farm, have become a very confident and successful amateur gardener, and just joined The Pampered Chef through a past student of mine. I am also the primary caregiver for my father. With everything going on I have to keep a very organized schedule. I use a calendar app on my phone to keep my schedule straight and I have a lot of support helping me keep busy and organized.
I also really love social media. It was hard having to conform to the “new normal” because I like to be with friends and live a very social active life. Having the internet keep me connected to my friends around the world any time of day. I can start a chat and enjoy the company of a friend even if they are not in the same room, state, or even country. Social media truly is the silver lining for me in all this pandemic mess.
We understand that you are also very interested in becoming a CNA, can you tell our readers a little more about what interests you in this field?
I have recently become the primary caregiver for my father. I always wanted to be a doctor when I was growing up. I’ve been told by a good friend in the industry that I’d be a good fit to be a nurse’s assistant, given my personality. She told me I would do really well with home health visits and that my personality and disposition is perfect for the job.
I have been looking into the programs at Manchester Community College and Nashua Community College. All the courses are now online due to the pandemic, though I hope that is changing soon. I don’t understand how someone can learn to get someone into and out of a bed online? It is a very hands-on thing. I am hopeful that soon they will open up to regular classes. I have several friends who are CNAs and working in nursing homes and hospices so once I start my courses I will have a lot of support to help me succeed.
What does success look like to you?
Success for me right now would be to have a steady stream of people that I can work with and collaborate with. I have never been looking to get rich or anything, just be productive in a collaborative environment where I can let the best of me shine. I do best around people, entertaining, teaching, supporting others to be their best selves and enjoy life as much as I do.
Do You have any other interests you would like to tell our readers about?
I strongly believe travel is everything. One learns that people are the same no matter where you go. There are always going to be good and bad people, but it’s true of every place. But travel, language and friendly relations make the world a little smaller or closer, if you will and make you feel special in some way. And, learning languages only helps in communicating and learning how to communicate. That architecture friend of mine, Irina, speaks 5 languages.
Outside of your health journey what are some of the other things you are most proud of?
I played for the president of Lithuania, brought hundreds of children to Europe to perform in exchange performances and, in return, the school would come back to tour the US. I have also set the All Island Choral Festival on Martha’s Vineyard and would invite colleagues and professional clinicians to conduct. I spent 12 years in day camps including four years running my own day camp just off campus from the University of New Hampshire.
But some of the things I am most proud of are having a past student win an Emmy Award, another is now a music director and vocal coach on Broadway and another former student is the music director of Second City Television in LA. I am so proud to have had a part in their journey to becoming such great people leading amazing journeys.
What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?
It is better to have purpose in one’s life rather than just to remain busy.