Winnacunnet High School Alum is World-renowned Musician, has Played With Sting
By Beth Bassett
Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 15, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Editor's note: The Hampton Union is publishing the Winnachronicle's Alumni All Stars series highlighting Winnacunnet alumni. Interviews are completed by students from the school newspaper. An archive of alumni will soon be on the Friends of Winnacunnet Foundation Web site, www.winnacunnetfoundation.org.
Life after Winnacunnet. It is something all Winnacunnet students fantasize about from freshman year to senior year.
Many Winnacunnet alumni have gone on to be successful and do amazing things, including the multi-talented Barry Danielian. Danielian has become a world-renowned musician who has performed with the likes of Sting, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow and Mariah Carey.
Danielian grew up on Hampton Beach and graduated from Winnacunnet in 1980.
"Sadly, I wasn't a very good student in high school," Danielian said. "Not due to the lack of intelligence, but the fact that I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a musician, so all of my focus was on that goal."
While Danielian should have been hitting the books, he was constantly practicing and studying music. Danielian did, however, enjoy some classes outside of the music and art departments, like history, psychology and "Bible as Lit." However, most of Danielian's days were spent practicing his trumpet.
"I didn't really play team sports because of the time commitment," he said. "Again, I was pretty dedicated to hours of practicing my trumpet."
There is one pastime Danielian made time for — martial arts. In fact, Danielian is now an apprentice instructor in a Malaysian martial art called Silat and a certified instructor in a Philippine martial art called Kali.
"I've been to the Philippines to study and compete. I teach classes in NYC," Danielian said.
After his high school years, Danielian went on to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"That was a big wake-up call for me. I was no longer the best player; I was with people who were all the best players," Danielian said. "I was fortunate to be there at a time when there were some truly amazing musicians. Getting to play with them helped me grow so much."
While studying at Berklee, Danielian met jazz musician Branford Marsalis whom he credits for being a major inspiration and influence of his.
"He turned me on to a lot of the history of jazz," he said. "What records to study, what players to study, etc."
After spending two years at Berklee, Danielian was ready to move to New York City where he could further his career in music.
"My parents were not down with that," he said. "They insisted on me finishing college and getting my degree."
Instead of getting right into the music industry, Danielian transferred to William Paterson University in New Jersey, just 20 miles from New York City. At night, Danielian was able to go into the city and either listen to music or sit in at late-night jam sessions. "This was a very exciting time for me," he said.
Following college, Danielian spent the next 15 years on the road, spending 30 to 35 weeks at a time traveling the world.
"I would encourage everyone that can to travel," Danielian said. "I've been to so many places and have discovered that despite our different cultures and foods and languages, we're all so much alike."
Some of Danielian's favorite places included Japan, South America and Central Europe. In 1997, after his world travels, Danielian became re-established in New York City where he worked on Broadway for several years, on shows like Billy Joel's "Movin' Out," and "The Color Purple."
"Broadway is my 'bread and butter' work. It's a union job so I get health care for my family and a pension. You don't think about that stuff when you're young, but it becomes very important as you get older and have a family," he said.
Danielian has also played on more than 200 albums, and made countless appearances on TV and radio. In fact, Danielian has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry; most recently he finished working on a Tony Bennett album.
"What a thrill that was," he said. "Big band with a full string section — all live."
Not only does Danielian record for albums, he recently performed at a charity concert for the Rainforest Foundation, a charity group founded by the artist Sting and his wife, and every two years they hold a charity concert.
"It's a band of the top players in NYC directed by Narada Michael Walden," he said. "We back up Sting, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz and Sheryl Crow. This year the theme was 'Woodstock,' music of social change. It was very moving."
Currently, Danielian is working on his second album, and getting ready to record for Lenny Kravitz.
"My favorite part about my job is playing with all the amazing musicians I get to work with. It keeps me growing and keeps me on my game. My advice for the students is this: You're going to inherit a world that is out of balance.
"It will require passion guided by wisdom to restore some sort of balance. The problems that young people will face are problems that affect everyone on the planet regardless of race, economic status, religion or military power. The methods and mentalities that got us into this mess are not going to get us out of it. It's illogical. So we need a paradigm shift. Whatever you decide to do with your life, do it with the intention of making this world better for everyone.
For information, visit www.barrydanielian.com.