By Kelcey Norris
Anthony Taddeo, a graduate student studying music composition, has a love for a unique genre of music that stems from his ancestry.
Fascinated by Italian culture, Taddeo created Alla Boara, a musical group composed of Youngstown State University students who play Italian folk music. The name translates to a type of song that blue-collar workers would listen to while on the job.
“I wanted to focus on the music of the peasant, rural people, not the classical, more operatic music that is traditionally tied to Italy,” Taddeo said. “Folk music was the peoples’ music, and even though I have mixed elements of new music … it’s still coming from that place in Italy’s rich history when music was a tool used in everyday life, inseparable from the day-to-day tasks.”
Taddeo, a percussionist, has studied this style of music on and off for the past 10 years, even learning directly from extended relatives in Italy.
“My dad is from Italy and I’ve grown up my whole life as a proud Italian American,” Taddeo said. “But I never knew how diverse and eclectic the folk music was until later in my adult life.”
Recently, Taddeo conducted a musical research project for one of his classes at YSU as part of requirements for his master of music in jazz studies degree. Twice a week, Taddeo and a few other YSU musicians started practicing the songs he’d written for Alla Boara. He described this experience as “a dream.”
“My whole career, I’ve been a utility or a side man, which means I am whatever someone needs me to be,” he said. “With this project, I have a place to focus musically. … I finally have this chance to create something that’s focused, beautiful and my own. I can create my own way of expression, which is really special.”
Taddeo has also recruited professional musicians to join Alla Boara and help share his elegant arrangements with a broader listening audience.
“I have an ensemble of professional Cleveland-based musicians that are going to be a part of the group,” he said. “We’re going to start touring around the Midwest and around the country. And hopefully, one day, it would be really cool to have some shows abroad in Italy.”
Ian Kinnaman, a music education major at YSU, plays bass in Alla Boara.
“[Taddeo’s] playing ability can definitely be intimidating, but he’s extremely encouraging. He’s always asking for our ideas and our feedback,” Kinnaman said. “In a way, it’s like Salvador Dali asking you to paint with him.”
All of the Italian folk songs Alla Boara performs are written by Taddeo. According to Kinnaman, that allows the band members the opportunity to improvise freely, resulting in a “deep, immersive and powerful experience.”
“I have more freedom to play what I hear rather than what’s on the page in front of me,” Kinnaman said. “I’ve been told by audience members that performances are like a journey that takes you in and makes you forget where you are. Anthony also tells the stories behind the folk tunes he used as inspiration during the performance.”
In addition to his skills on the drum set, Kinnaman said Alla Boara’s founder is an excellent leader.
“One of the signs that Anthony is a great leader is the growth of everyone in the group,” he said. “My playing ability, confidence and musical maturity have taken off as a direct result of joining Alla Boara.”
Professor Dave Morgan was one of Taddeo’s earliest supporters when he started writing his own music and formed Alla Boara.
“At first it was just going to be one or two songs that I would write, but [Morgan] helped me dream of making this even bigger with a greater purpose because it had potential,” Taddeo said. “I decided to make it an actual group, be a performing group.”
Morgan, a professor in the Dana School of Music, said after two years of teaching Taddeo at YSU, he was proud to help inspire Alla Boara’s creation.
“A common trend amongst leading jazz musicians today is to find their own voices and authenticity by exploring and incorporating the indigenous music of their heritage,” Morgan said. “By fusing the sounds of modern jazz, American popular music and indigenous folk songs, exciting new forms of music are being created.”
Morgan said Taddeo distinguishes himself from his peers with his prior education at The New School, located in New York City, and his experience as a professional musician.
“He brought a lot of real-world experience to the academic experience and was incredibly excited to be able to explore ideas more deeply,” Morgan said. “Plus he’s just a great drummer and overall musician and a fun, high-energy guy with empathy for others.”
According to Morgan, Taddeo’s busy schedule never interfered with class work.
“Even though he has a young family and tours around the country as a musician, he always came to school prepared with excellent work and full of questions,” Morgan said. “The sky’s the limit for Anthony Taddeo.”