Mike Tedesco: How the National Anthem launched a music career.
Torrington: For anyone who has ever listened to our National Anthem at a sporting event, let’s be honest.
It can be two or three of the toughest minutes for anyone to stand through if done poorly or a couple of spectacular minutes of pride and joy.
Francis Scott Key must have had a great sense of humor because he must have known how tough this song would be for singers to ace.
For one Torrington High School student though, the song started a journey which has taken him to places even he could not have imagined when he decided to get serious about a craft he now lives for.
Mike Tedesco is now a senior at Hofstra University majoring in Jazz and Commercial Music.
He played in Connecticut on Thursday, June 28 at The Space in Hamden with a band that he helped put together less than a month ago.
Tedesco has played clubs in New York City, Long Island and Connecticut since moving to Long Island after graduating from THS.
How did he get to this point and was he one of those kids who could sing, dance, write music while playing multiple instruments?
Not quite, but close.
“I started playing the piano when I was nine.” Tedesco said. “I just started singing when I was 16 -years old and I entered the Northwest Idol contest.”
The immensely popular Idol brand had gone local all over the country after the national shows success and cities like Torrington embraced as a way to give local singers a chance to show their talents, even if Simon and Randy and Paula were not on hand.
Tedesco, who played baseball for four years and basketball for one, took his shot and won by singing a song you would not have thought of for a 16-year old male.
“The choices were limited.” Tedesco said. “So I chose “Save the Last Dance for Me”. I had heard Michael Buble cover it and did his version.”
It worked and Tedesco walked out of Coe Park with a win and something else which was much more important to him.
“It was a great experience and it showed me that I could do this.” Tedesco said. “From there I just kept on singing whenever I could.”
He started singing the National Anthem everywhere. From basketball to football, soccer or a local club, Tedesco never passed up a chance to get out and sing.
Even Santa heard him at Christmas Village one year. He too, was impressed.
I will always remember hearing Tedesco for the first time while standing for the Anthem at a Raider basketball game and needing to congratulate him for a fine effort.
Now mind you, this was in the hay-day of the Raider crazies inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium where one normally didn’t get to the home of the brave without the crowd erupting.
Not when their guy Tedesco was singing though.
Their reaction was important to the Raider sports guy with a great voice and the guts to get up and sing in front of his peers.
“I wasn’t sure at first how they were going to react but they were all real supportive.” Tedesco said. “I would sometimes sing before games I was playing in but never caught any grieve.”
The Anthem and Idol were fine but were was this journey going to go?
“As I thought about getting more serious about my career, I didn’t really have a good plan until my dad sat me down and told me I needed to master my instrument, the piano and start writing my own music.”
He would go for the trifecta in the trade. Singing, playing the piano while writing his own music.
‘I remember thinking, okay I can do this.” Tedesco said. “Writing music wasn’t hard, it kind of felt right and I just went with it.”
His names as his influences greats like Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Elton John and Dave Matthews, amongst others.
He doesn’t write break-up songs in the Taylor Swift mantra but does take into account how he views the world around him when he writes.
“The medley comes first then the words and the story.”
When it comes to finding work in the entertainment industry here or anywhere in the music world, one need to be aggressive, constantly promoting one’s self.
Tedesco was a master at it and it started to pay off.
“I would play at friends or families parties or weddings at first during the cocktail hour.” Tedesco said. “I heard there was a wine tasted in Litchfield at the Saltwater Grille and was offered the job. I was real nervous but when it was over they invited me to come back and play every weekend.”
He would stay with the Saltwater Grille gig for a couple of summers until he went away to school.
His first show in New York City was at the Ella Lounge on the East Side.
Ella Lounge is a throw-back to the 20’s and 30’s inside with jazz in an intimate setting that packs them in pretty tight on the weekends and Tedesco pounded away on the keyboards while singing up a storm.
It’s not always like that in clubs though, sometimes intimate means just a few.
“Sometimes you’re just playing for one drunk guy.” Tedesco said. “It’s all part of paying your dues along the way.”
Name a great musician and they too have played the dives, the hole’s in the wall before making it big.
Tedesco was a one man act until the fall of 2012 when he met a drummer by the name of Steven Cowit at Hofstra.
“We were out at a club one time and just started talking.” Tedesco said. “We decided to start working together and since then have grown the band to between 5-6 members.”
He now has a base player (Adam Baine), a guitar player (Max Ross), a sax player (Jordan Cohen) and a potential sixth member in Paul Talbot, who plays the banjo along with several other unique instruments.
“We need to stand out by doing something different and unique.” Tedesco said.
He is his own agent and promoter and works tirelessly to get better at his craft while getting his brand of music out to the masses.
He tries to keep his band busy and has several large gigs coming up in July.
July 6: The Webster Theatre in Hartford, CT
July 24: Sullivan Hall, NYC
July: The Space, Hamden, CT.
These are not small joints.
Not bad for a young man who so loved playing the piano he would sneak into the Torrington High band room whenever he could to practice his craft.
His passion and drive seem to be relentless. Success never comes easy and Tedesco seems to understand that and is embracing the time and energy it takes to fulfill one’s dream.
From all of us who enjoy a great National Anthem at any time, we thank you Mike and wish you nothing but the best.
Could you please work with Rosie O’Donnell though?????