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Music Major Records Single With Alumnus, Producer

Aug. 27, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

Nic Alaggio (back row, second from left), was joined by other Producers Workshop participants as backup singers for the single he and Bree Derbecker recorded with multi-gold and platinum record producer Gary Powell. They include (front row, from left) Daniel Cloud, Kiersten Ortiz, Hannah Miscisin, Rebecca Castillo and Maria Roos, as well as (back row, from left) Cliff Randal, Alaggio, Lauren Dickson, Justin Finch, Hubert Jones and Desmond Williams. The song, "Go World Go," is now available on iTunes.

On the home page: Alaggio practices guitar with audio engineer and producer Larry Seyer, whose client list includes Willie Nelson, Reba McIntyre and Trace Adkins.  —Photos by Gary Powell


SHSU senior Nic Alaggio is a self-proclaimed “band nerd.”

His interest in music started when he began playing the trumpet in elementary school, carrying over into high school where he performed with his marching and jazz bands. He came to Sam Houston State University with the plan to major in music education, hoping to eventually share his love of music with students as a band director.

His sophomore year at SHSU, Alaggio began writing and recording music with an old acoustic guitar and a program called Garage Band on his Mac Book.

“I found it so fun that I could record something that I wrote and listen to it over and over again,” he said. “It was such a creative outlet for me at the time, three and a half years ago, because I was playing trumpet in school here but had no way to truly express myself.
“I found that playing guitar and writing words for nothing other than my own pleasure was so rewarding.”

Last fall, Alaggio auditioned for a SHSU School of Music-sponsored workshop with Grammy-nominated, multi-gold, platinum producer and SHSU alumnus Gary Powell. The Producers Workshop was designed as an educational experience for students, coupled with what for many was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to work with Powell and to create and record a song of their own, which would be distributed through online music outlets.

Alaggio was accepted into the workshop, which was limited to 12 participants, and became one of the two students selected to record a song in Powell’s Austin-based studio. A song he wrote using his Mac Book and his old acoustic guitar was the song Powell chose to record.

“The song that was used during the workshop was on entitled ‘Go World Go,’ and I wrote it two years ago,” he said. “I still remember the day: I woke up early before school and turned on Discovery Channel, which I love, and there was a show on about a scientist’s view on how the world was created. Shortly after watching it, I had a small melody in my head and some words that I thought were interesting, and the song came together so easily.

“The songs that kind of write themselves are often the most fun to listen too,” he said.
A cash prize was split between Alaggio and Bree Derbecker as the two selected vocalists for the song.

SHSU alumnus Gary Powell has made a name for himself in the music industry through his work with Walt Disney Records, with which he has more than 1,500 credits. —Photo by Dee Jordan

“A lot of the reason I chose them both had to do with my discernment of their raw musicianship, their coach-ability, what they brought in terms of tone and texture in their voice, unique features of their voice that would make them immediately recognizable,” Powell said. “We like that. They both had all those qualities.

“They sang in tune, they were excellent musicians, they wrote really cool songs, and they didn’t sound anything alike—they couldn’t have been further apart in their singing styles,” he said. “Nic especially as a singer would never fit-in in any academic setting; he just doesn’t have that kind of voice. It’s just straight-up one-of-a-kind pop sound, but it’s cool.”

When it came time to record the song in his studio, which occurred earlier this year, Powell had a surprise for the remaining workshop performers who were not selected as the main vocalists.

“During the workshop itself we had created some really cool vocals textures in the song,” Powell said. “There were a lot of vocal parts that were enmeshed into the song, so I suggested to (School of Music director) Mike Bankhead that we bring all the singers to Austin so they would all have the experience of singing in the recording studio.

“I loved all these kids. I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving anybody out of this experience knowing that they all could do it,” he said. “My feeling was they all could step up to this, and they did.”

For the result, which bears the same name as Alaggio’s original song—“Go World Go,” Powell combined the parts of the original songs written by each to create a whole different piece.

“Bree’s chorus from the song that she wrote was in the same key as mine, so Gary had the idea to insert it in between my verses, and it fit,” Alaggio said.

Powell then turned two simple songs performed on a guitar into an end production that is “anything but simple.

“There are 26 tracks of vocals with anywhere between three and eight singers singing per track, so there are massive amounts of vocals recorded on this,” he said.

“It’s very primitive sounding; it’s about the earth crying for the abuse that we’ve given it,” he said. “I made it very ethnic sounding with some indigenous instruments from around the world, with multiple tracks of tightly voiced jazz vocals along with some primitive sounding vocals as well.”

Go World Go coverAlaggio describes the final product as an “acoustic-world-jamboree,” filled with “hand-claps and earthy-tones, all while staying close to the ‘pop’ genre, but not exactly entering it.”

Alaggio, who is now a music performance instrumentalist major, said working with Powell was “one of the greatest experiences I have ever had” and that it gave him a sense of the music world outside of academia.

“Personally, I absolutely believe that these kinds of opportunities should be integrated into our university's curriculums,” Powell said. “Of course, I've been lobbying for this since 1970.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, too, because I got to do what I love to do with young singers who are excited and want to learn and want to broaden their horizons a little bit,” he said.

Alaggio’s experience with the industry side of music has piqued his interest and inspired him to take his career down a new path.

“Working with Gary in the studio was such a positive experience,” he said. “Gary seems to know everything about everything, and it is really something special to watch him work in his studio.

“After this experience, I’ve decided to try a different route in the world of music. I want to be a recording artist and a producer, just like Gary. I feel as if I could influence more people with the music I create than I could by teaching a small group of students in a high school band setting,” Alaggio said. “After I graduate in December, I plan on moving to Austin and starting my music career. The details are not exactly in order yet, but sometimes that is the fun part, just going with the flow.”

Go World Go” is now available in a full and karaoke mix. It can be purchased on iTunes and other mp3 download sites.

Powell, who will return to SHSU in October for another Producers Workshop, has blogged about the experience at http://www.garypowell.com/.


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