Student Spotlight: Anthony Perry
Anthony Perry grew up surrounded by music.
“My mother sings and my aunts sing. My grandmother also sings and plays the piano, and when I was little I always enjoyed watching her play,” he said. “On Sundays, we would be at church all the day long, and there was always a lot of singing and dancing. I learned a lot from Rodney East, one of Chicago’s best keys players. He was the main musician at the church, but he was also busy playing for many big artists. When he would go on tour, I started to cover for him. He told me that whatever I do, learn how to play in every key – and to practice.
“Once I got my driver’s license, I would contact churches in the area to see if they were looking for a keyboardist, and I found several that were.”
After transferring his credits from the Technology Center of DuPage to College of DuPage, he initially decided to study video.
“When I first started using a sound board, I fell in love with recording,” he said. “So it was about being able to create music for my own videos. What I didn’t know was that the Music program at COD was so extensive.
“After finally starting in the Music program, I met Professors Lee Kesselman and Tom Tallman. They became my mentors and saw so much in me, and they really push me. I was introduced to jazz at COD, and while I always played music by ear, I began learning how to sight-read. I knew by previous experience that I would need to be completely comfortable with reading down a lead sheet.”
Perry, who is also a working musician, takes classes in between going on the road. He has toured with a variety of bands that perform everything – soul, funk, blues, rock, reggae, R&B, hip-hop and fusion – and has played at such locations as the House of Blues, Martyrs’, Park West and South by Southwest in Texas, which he called an eye-opener in terms of how the music industry works. Perry has worked with bands and artists such as How Far to Austin, Nasty Snacks, From Tha 99, Tyisha Brown, Roy Davis Jr., and Mathien, helmed by Chris Mathien, which has a “really phenomenal” sound.
“I always try and take something from each experience that I have,” he said. “For example, I was on the road a lot, going to gigs and rehearsals with Marty Farrelly, a fellow musician and friend who also does live sound engineering, and I loved listening to him expound on it. When I’m working on my own music, I try and utilize some of the ideas he taught me, among what I’ve also learned from other producers and engineers along the way.
“It’s important to develop multiple skills, because you have to be versatile in this business. And you have to learn how to network and communicate, because part of being in music is marketing yourself.”
Perry is working hard at College of DuPage to finish two degrees and a certificate: the Associate in Fine Arts – Music, which he plans to complete in spring 2017; the Music Business degree; and the Audio Production certificate.
“Dr. Kesselman and Dr. Tallman talk with me and encourage me to get it done. They made me want to stay and finish,” he said. “Dr. Ken Paoli is also one of my favorite professors. The guy is a genius. He hooked me with a job in one of the best studios in the area. I’m not going to give up and they know that.”
Perry has composed more than 300 songs and copyrighted over 100 of them. He is currently creating music for use in commercials and movies.
“I don’t want to find fame,” he said. “When my pops passed, I dove deeper into music. My heart was hurting and other than prayer, music was my way to cope. People really need hope and I want my music to give that to them.
“The longest ‘regular’ job I’ve held is three months, because I always want to play music. My four sisters, nephew and mom are my foundation and my encouragement. It can be difficult at times, but they believe in what I’m doing.
“College of DuPage is also behind me. Once you dive into the Music program, you must be ready for it, because music is a tough career. But if you work hard and truly love music, then it’s totally worth it. If you know how to communicate and interact with people, take advantage of it. School is a place to network, so talk to your fellow students. Let them hear your story and listen to theirs. I know what I’m getting from COD is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m grateful for it.”
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