Singer says music makes him want to keep going

County library hosts series on the song business

Special to The Sun: Filipino native and Air Force vet Oliver Dagum has been singing since he was 9. His songs – composed of acoustic and easy listening – was part of a program he hosted on the business of music and songwriting at the library.

Singer-songwriter Oliver Dagum presented the second class of his three-part series, “The Business of Music and Songwriting,” at the Burlington County Library on Jan. 24. 

Dagum’s series discusses how to market your own music, how to collect royalties, how to copyright music and other topics.

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According to his website, Dagum, born in the Philippines and a veteran of the Air Force, has been singing since he was 9. His music is composed of acoustic and easy listening, and in 2015, he was one of 70 performers selected to audition for Music Under New York (MUNY), part of MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) Arts and Design. 

People who audition are competing for a slot to perform in the subways of New York City, and in 2015, Dagum was notified he was one of 26 musicians selected. He shared where the idea for one of his original songs, “Runaway with Me,” came from. Dagum wrote it while traveling to and from New York City.

“ … I drove to Hamilton train station, from Hamilton train station I (took) the subway … Then I (went) to 14th Street … But I was like, ‘Let me write a song about two lovers traveling,’ because I was inspired about taking the train and running away from it all,” he recalled.

Through his connections at the county’s amphitheater, Dagum brought his program to the library to share what he’s learned along his journey with fellow singer-songwriters.

“ … I pitched my idea (to the library) and said, ‘Hey, I want to do this class about music publishing or how to record your own music and publish it yourself, because I know that there was a market on it because I was in that position myself.’”

According to his website, Dagum was selected in 2008 out of 80-plus vocalists to go to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where he was one of 10 performers chosen to be part of “Tops in Blue,” one of the oldest and most widely traveled entertainment groups of its kind in the force. The tour consisted of performing more than 130 shows to boost the morale of troops and their families at Air Force bases around the world. 

After the tour, Dagum changed stations to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, from where he was able to travel to and from New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City. He shared experiences he’s had with people for whom he performs.

“ … The one that made me nearly tear up, it’s already hard enough to get people to tip you …” Dagum remembered. “This one disabled lady, she was across the other side of the room, and she literally made her way with all these problems and she was struggling, just trying to walk to give me a dollar.”

“I’ve had people leave me notes that (say) I make their day better,” he continued. “ … Those ones to me are like, ‘Okay, it makes me want to keep on going.’”

The final part of Dagum’s series will be held on Feb. 21 in the county library’s auditorium at 6 p.m. To register, visit For more information on Dagum, visit

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