By Kaitlin Candelaria
Steve Pennington has been in the music business his entire life. When he isn’t teaching voice, he’s producing music.
However, you may notice a change in the Birmingham-based musician’s appearance starting about the middle of summer each year.
“I don’t do any trimming to my beard after July 1,” Pennington said. “That’s the pattern I’ve kept for the past 10 years. I cut my beard back to what I call a business professional length in January and try to live six months of my life as a music producer and music executive-type person.”
After July 1, he begins his transformation into the Singing Santa.
Pennington said he started dressing as Santa more than 30 years ago. With his musical background, he said the marriage between St. Nicholas and music was an easy one to make. He began his Christmas career working at churches, schools and corporate holiday events.
“Some of my most astounding events have been at elementary schools,” he said. “They’ll bring a keyboard or a piano out into the middle of a gymnasium and I’ll have 400-500 kids singing along to Christmas carols with me.”
He said that he grew out his beard for the role for the first time in 1999, which coincided with his first appearances in the mall circuit as Singing Santa.
“My favorite part about being Santa is just the reactions of everyone to seeing Santa doing something other than sitting in a chair and talking to kids,” he said. “I have such exposure to it doing my corporate work prior to this, so I knew that it would translate to this venue effectively.”
Singing Santa does, indeed, sing Christmas music. He also dances and sings other music such as football fight songs and fight songs for branches of the military, just depending on who’s there to see him. And of course, he’s always open to requests.
This year, Singing Santa is at Brookwood Village, but you may recognize him from other years at the Riverchase Galleria as well as the Summit. However, he takes his disguise pretty seriously.
“When my son was six years old, I had just started playing Santa and I went to his school and played the piano in front of him and he didn’t recognize me,” he said.
Pennington said he collects Santa outfits from all over the world and has more than 30 in his collection. He has everything from camo-themed Santa outfits to full-length velvet capes as well as the classic Santa uniform in many different colors.
“I decided if I was going to do the Santa sing-alongs, I was going to be the best-dressed Santa anywhere,” he said.
Pennington said this year’s hot Christmas wish list items are iPads, tablets, Zoomer Kitties, Xbox Ones, Star Wars Lego kits and Shopkins for the smaller children.
“I constantly stay in touch with the real Santa,” he said, laughing. “Thank goodness for social media and email. It lets us keep up with the lists and keep the toy orders up to date and make sure all the elves are delivered on time after Thanksgiving.”
Singing Santa will be at Brookwood Village for photos each day through Christmas Eve. For more information on photo pricing and hours, visit www.shopbrookwoodvillage.com.