OSWEGO — Mix two original musical compositions, an orchestra, a big band, a rapper, additional vocalists, a campus grant, a crowd-sourced Kickstarter campaign and an ongoing learning project.
The result is an ambitious Quest presentation by SUNY Oswego senior music major Tony Iannone.
Iannone’s session on April 17 for Quest, the college’s annual celebration of scholarly and creative activity, features the live debut of two songs he created and arranged: “I Can,” blending orchestral music with hip hop and a rhythm section, and “Well I Know,” a big-band number.
Iannone described them as “inspirational” songs with positive, encouraging messages.
For the audio design and production minor from Buffalo, the whole process required plenty of learning and a cast of musicians at “more than 30 and counting,” he said while mixing tracks in the Tyler Hall recording studio.
“A lot of musicians are doubling, playing with both ensembles, performing different parts, playing different instruments” for recorded versions, he said.
The group is mostly students, plus faculty members and community musicians, assembled from scratch.
He wrote “I Can” on guitar, then shared it with a friend in Buffalo, rapper Ian Logalbo. They collaborated on lyrics, taking some inspiration from Aretha Franklin, with the result an upbeat “everything is going to be OK” vibe, Iannone said.
SUNY Oswego student Michael Beshures adds vocals during the song’s chorus.
With the unusual pairing of hip hop with classic orchestra, “you could chalk it up to ‘you can do whatever you want.’ That plays into the theme as well,” Iannone explained.
“Well I Know” is “a song I wrote for my band, Soul Underground, and I thought it would be cool to be accompanied by horns, since we don’t normally do that,” Iannone said.
He wrote the music, then the band’s lead singer and songwriter, fellow SUNY Oswego student Matt Baluyot, penned lyrics.
The song is “an emphatic understanding of what people go through on a daily basis,” Iannone said. “It’s about overcoming the little adversities we all deal with. If you let them get to you, they’ll destroy your whole day.”
Base of support
Iannone started recording music when he was 13 after his brother acquired some equipment.
“I just started recording for my friends, who were musicians in middle school. They needed some recording done and I had a cool mom, so she let me make a whole lot of noise,” he recalled.
“When I came to Oswego, I wasn’t exactly the best musician,” Iannone admitted. “I could barely read music. It’s a testament to what this department can do for you. This department has made me what I am. I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities and time with my professors. It’s a small program, an intimate environment, so you can take advantage of so many experiences.”
A Student Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee grant seeded the project, then Iannone turned to online crowd-funding community Kickstarter, which enabled expansion of the scope, possibilities and professionalism.
“I’m thankful for the support I’ve had from friends and family via Kickstarter,” Iannone said. “We raised $2,500 through Kickstarter in addition to the $1,000 grant. It’s been more than I expected it to be and that’s because of all the people who supported it.”
Those funds paid community musicians, travel for Logalbo to come in and perform, purchase of editing software and other incidentals.
Emeritus music professor Stan Gosek has provided helpful advice on bringing together both the composition and logistical elements, Iannone said, while music department audio technician Dan Wood has been an encouraging and educational resource.
“I composed the music for all instruments. That was incredibly daunting, but also incredibly awesome at the same time,” Iannone said.
He wrote lines for many instruments he had little to no experience on, which he called a tremendous learning opportunity.
At Quest, the ensembles will perform the pieces live at 4 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium, followed by an informal talk with Iannone, the lyricists and some soloists about the pieces and the creative process.
“Hopefully we can give some freshmen a blueprint to do this kind of thing,” Iannone said.
Parking is free April 17 for visitors to Quest, when hundreds of talks, panel discussions, demonstrations and concurrent events will take place largely in the Campus Center and nearby Lanigan and Snygg halls.