by Liz Daube
By day, paralegal Vanya Arcusa and law professor Susan Daicoff Dunn work with the law. But when the sun goes down and the weekend rolls around, Arcusa and Dunn step on stage.
The pair, along with their husbands and a friend, formed the Rick Arcusa Band in 2004. All five members have full-time professional gigs, but they make time to practice and perform classic cover tunes on the weekends.
“Law is a pretty left-brained kind of act most of the time,” said Dunn, who teaches at Florida Coastal School of Law. “I feel the need to do something else to balance it out.”
Dunn said she’s been performing in some way all her life: dance, choir, drums, piano, violin, flute. But she only recently found the right instrument and the right man – thanks to Arcusa.
Arcusa introduced Dunn to her future husband, Kevin, at one of the group’s first informal gatherings. After six months and plenty of practice sessions, the couple wed. Dunn also fell in love with a new instrument: bass guitar.
“When you find your instrument, it’s kind of like finding your niche — all the pieces fall into place,” she said. “(When Kevin and I met,) it was like picking up the bass guitar. All the puzzle pieces fit together.”
Arcusa said she enjoys spending her free time managing and playing with the band because she likes to keep busy. RAB performs about once a week at a variety of venues, from the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association’s annual Judicial Jive at the Hyatt to Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe in Neptune Beach.
“Music is a way that people can unwind and relax,” said Arcusa. “It’s not work. We all decided that if it ever becomes a job, we’re not going to do it anymore.”
Arcusa plays keyboard for the band. She said the instrument allows her to balance three rhythms at once.
“It’s got about 300 simulated sounds, which expands the types of songs you can play,” she said. “It keeps me real busy, but I like the challenge.”
Arcusa also multi-tasks for her day job. She spends her days filing, answering phones and meeting with clients. Arcusa said she stopped working for about six months after getting married, but returned to work because she was “bored to tears.”
“I hate being bored,” said Arcusa, who always hoped to be an attorney, but she didn’t want to go into debt for law school. Arcusa finds some perks to paralegal work, though.
“I like dealing with the public,” she said. “When you’re the first person on a consult call, you need to be somebody they feel comfortable with. I’ve been through a divorce and I know it’s very emotional. A lot of times I just listen. They (lawyers) don’t have time for all that.”
Dunn said producing harmony with her voice or instrument is the best part of performing. Harmony resonates in her legal life, as well. She wrote a book on how lawyers can lead more fulfilling lives and she teaches a related course at Florida Coastal.
“The bottom line is you should always do something that you always wanted to do but somehow were always timid to do,” said Dunn.
“Lawyers tend to be so responsible,” she added. “They dismiss it (their passion) and say, ‘I’m too old’ or ‘I’ve waited too long’ or ‘I can’t.’ This is about doing what I’ve always wanted to do, what my heart cries out.”