A notable gig that I recently picked up is working as the in-house studio consultant/engineer for Joe Soprani. For the uninitiated in the Philadelphia accordion scene (no shame in admitting that), Joe is a real legend. But really, he’s performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra (under Ormandy!), Pavarotti, and has even played for President Eisenhower.
I’ve been given the task of setting up Joe’s studio and will be engineering sessions of him playing the accordion once we are up and running. At 77, Joe has this intense desire to record as much of himself as possible, as he thinks that his hands are starting to lose some of the dexterity and motor skills of his younger years.
To meet Joe is to understand how his hard work has paid off over time with such illustrious gigs and a long and successful career. At no more than 5’5”, Joe is a fireball. He gets up at 6 AM everyday, practices for several hours, and can’t fall asleep before midnight or 1 AM (he’s also pointed out that he regularly does push-ups, the kind where you launch yourself into the air a bit). Joe just lives and breathes music. It’s incredibly inspiring to see such energy from an elder statesman (seriously, how many 77 year olds do you know that want to learn Pro Tools 10?!). Joe only reaffirms my belief that music is a fountain of youth. It is painfully obvious that music is what gets him up in the morning, keeps his mind and body active, and what helps him maintain this youthful curiosity and respect for the craft. If you need any more proof of my theory, just look at 103 year old composer Elliot Carter. This is the kind of inspiration that keeps me going as a young & struggling musician/composer/engineer/whatever it takes to pay the rent.
So far, the gig is going great. The highlights are when we take breaks for coffee or good Italian wine (depending on the time of day), and a slice of pie. This is when he tells me stories of his life as a musician, educator, and husband. I’m exceptionally lucky if he’s in the mood to play a bit of his accordion. Joe’s still got it.