Singing Into Stardom: Nate Tao bypasses job and launches solo career

By Andrew Buraczenski
05/13/10

While most college seniors anxiously await answers for job opportunities Nate Tao is busy keeping track of how many people have downloaded his album.

Tao, a senior music major at Ithaca College, released his first solo EP “Lost In the Music” on Apr. 24 and made it available for free download on bandcamp.com. In just over two weeks, the EP has been downloaded close to 800 times. After a month, Tao will put “Lost” on iTunes, where it will have to be purchased.

Tao says having a unique release strategy is beneficial to artists such as himself who are looking to launch a solo career.

“I don’t think I would have gotten that amount [of downloads] if I had just sold it right on iTunes,” he said. “Especially for new artists, people want to know that this artist is popular, because if he’s not, they’re not inclined to listened to him or her.”

Although Tao doesn’t have any personal experiences with advertising, he utilized the many resources available on a college campus to help promote his EP.

“My friend Jimmy Knowles luckily got me to be a client for these [public relations] classes,” he said. “I was working with 11 or 12 students who were in this PR class and they were making campaigns for me. They were giving me info as to ‘you should do this’ and ‘this would be more effective to get the word out.’ ”

The EP provides listeners with five total songs — three up-tempo pop tracks and two ballads. Tao says it’s important to give listeners a variety, but artists still have to be mindful of the general feel of the music they create. For Tao, his main theme is liveliness.

“I want them to think of and feel energy and excitement about what they’re hearing,” he said. “Like, ‘oh man, this is Nate Tao, come on we have to get up and dance.’ ”

Tao says the EP’s first track does just that.

“ ‘Take Me Away’ — that’s a huge one and a reason why I put it first because you just jump right into the fun,” he said.

Christopher Miranda, Assitstant Conductor of Ithacappella, the all male a capella group of which Tao is a member, says the energy felt on Tao’s EP is also experienced at a live performance.

“Every concert when Nate walks out to do a solo, the crowd just explodes like no other,” he said.

At select concerts, two faces in the crowd stand out from all the rest. Brandishing a smile only parents could provide, Anni and Mark Tao are ecstatic to see their son perform, even though they cannot hear him sing. Becoming deaf after receiving a small pox vaccine in their native Taiwan, Nate’s parents have to follow along with an interpreter during a performance.

Miranda says one of his most moving concert experiences is when he performed with Nate in the Ithaca College Choir while Anni and Mark were in the audience.

“Being at a concert where there was a signer who was interpreting all of our songs for Choir to his parents and seeing his parents cry just through the words was really moving,” he said.

Lawrence Doebler, Professor of Music Performance and Director of Choral Studies at Ithaca College says he too has fond memories of Tao on this year’s Choir tour.

“In Choir we strive to understand a text and be able to internalize it in such a manner that we convey our feelings to our audience,” he said. “This year’s tour to his home town, in front of his parents, I saw Nate express emotionally in a very meaningful way. In speaking with his parents through a sign interpreter following the concert it was clear that they really understood Nate’s passion for performing. I think this will help him to continue to grow as a musician, communicator and performer.”

While in Tao’s hometown, sophomore music performance and education major Katie Sullivan says she saw first-hand how much Nate is loved on and off the stage.

“Everyone was like ‘Nate how are you, we miss you’,” she said. “It was the genuine, ‘we really miss you at this school.’ You can tell that he’s a really big part of their school and everyone misses him.”

Although this Choir tour was some of Miranda’s last performances with Tao, Miranda says he will remember Nate’s strong work ethic, a trait one cannot help but notice.

“[Nate’s] always there doing his work and putting in his time,” he said. “He definitely is dedicated, especially between all of the music stuff that he does — between Ithacappella and Choir. He always knows his part and you can always count on him.”

Although he’s graduating a year early, Tao says he’s apprehensive but ready to take his work ethic out into the real world.

“It’s scary to think ‘oh, I’m going to L.A.’,” he said. “I’m not going to have a job, I don’t know where I’m living, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want to do it. I have to do it. Otherwise, I could be sitting at home in Virginia, thinking about doing it. I have to do it. I have to jump in the pool.”

For Sullivan, Tao’s positive attitude and focus on music is going to prove him well.

“He’s just your typical down to earth, here to sing, here to have fun [kind of guy],” she said. “It’s all about the music to him.”

Although Tao is eventually looking to make a living off of being a performer, he looks at his solo debut for what it’s worth — the music.

“I think that excitement is really what I want to portray and hopefully what people will hear,” he said. “But mainly, I just want people to have fun.”

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