They Started in Erie
By Ginny Tonkin GoErie.com staff blogger
They Started in Erie celebrates those successful stars who've lived and started out in our big, little town.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1915
Posted: August 10th, 2010
Guru of sound

From diva Barbara Streisand, music legend Quincy Jones, The Carpenters, and Queen, he’s worked with them all. The Academy Awards shows and the soundtracks from Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and Iron Man 2—his engineering magic is behind them all.

This original Erieite was transplanted to California when he was young, but drawn into the music business during the golden age of recording. When the industry took a turn from dynamic, soulful albums to manufactured hip-hop wonders, his career track veered to the movie industry, a lucrative turn that’s allowed him to grow his business and his success.

He’s seen it all, done it all, and has the recording rap sheet to prove it.

Tommy Vicari moved from Erie when he was 9

Tommy Vicari, award-winning sound engineer, has worked with some of music's greatest.

Who’s who: Tommy Vicari

Why care: A multi-award winning sound engineer, Vicari has been in the biz over 40 years, and does his own independent contracting in LA today.

This guru of sound garnered four Emmys for his work mixing the Academy Awards shows (and was nominated for eight more), and snagged a Grammy for his work with music legend Quincy Jones (although he’s six-time nominee).

Erie link: Born in North East, Vicari lived in a house that his family shared with his uncle and grandmother. His father, Frank Vicari, worked for GE and Welch’s, but moved the family of three kids out to California for job opportunities when Vicari was nine.

All in the family: Vicari credits his mother, Rose Iannello, a big band singer, for his music appreciation. His uncle, Joseph Iannello, was an entertainer with the stage name, Joey Day, during the 40s.

Lucky break: Although Vicari didn’t finish college, he was drawn to the music business, determined to break in. Starting out in the mail room of Capitol Records, he eventually worked his way into the recording studio, befriending a producer and watching him work his magic behind the mixing board.

Personal triumph: “When I record an Academy Awards show, I walk past the mail room. It’s my own personal triumph to see how far I’ve come,” said Vicari.

Lived with Prince: Vicari recorded Prince’s first album, For You. He “lived with Prince for six months,” as the teenager recorded his debut album. Even though the record wasn’t a breakout success, Vicari says he’s still “really proud of that record.”

Visits Erie: The last time Vicari visited Erie was in the 80s. Working a gig in Illinois, he saw a sign that said “Erie, 80 miles.” Borrowing a car, he drove the whole way east to visit his hometown.

Success is: “Making a living doing something you enjoy.”

Advice: “There are three reasons I go to work: the people, the project, or the money,” said Vicari, who considers himself pretty lucky getting all three very often.

“Don’t burn any bridges—it just doesn’t make any sense!” He credits his success with the relationships he’s maintained over his career. “I do the same job for every artist. No matter how small, I would give them the same attention as Streisand or Jones.”

Who do you want to see? Let me know at gtonkin@goerie.com.

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