After hours of practicing and fine-tuning, a final crash brings the music to a close. Casey Cangelosi, a percussion professor who’s been at JMU since 2015, presses the end button; the video recording of his latest composition is finished. After planning, writing and recording his masterpiece, it’s finally ready to put on his website, where hopefully, students and professionals alike will view it and try to play the piece on their own.
Cangelosi has been writing music since he was a kid. Back then, he mostly experimented for fun, but he still enjoys writing and playing. He says percussion is a relatively new field of music, so many new composers are beginning to write compositions to expand the industry.
“Writing is always just a part of it,” Cangelosi said. “You play music that’s written, so doesn’t it make sense to write it? That’s a very simple concept, and it was fun to learn how music is written and then write it yourself and then hear the results of that.”
When he first began his music career in 2005, Cangelosi uploaded videos of his compositions on YouTube and it took off. After receiving emails from people requesting to buy his sheet music, he finally decided to create a website. On this website, people can view his videos, buy his music and listen to his podcast. Cangelosi started the podcast with friends a few years ago as a way to continue learning and meeting people in the field.
The success of his website is why Cangelosi encourages students to make their own recordings, publish their work and put their name out there.
Because of these videos, many of his percussion students heard of him before coming to JMU, and some even came having already practiced his songs. Kai-Po Lan is an international graduate student working toward his doctorate in music performance in percussion. He first heard of Cangelosi while living in Taiwan and met him while completing his master’s degree at the University of North Texas.
“People started to buy his music in Taiwan, and even though it’s a different country — we speak a different language — but we still love Casey,” Lan said. “I think I know he’s a good player since that.”
Another of his students, freshman music major Ben Millesen, admits he watched Cangelosi’s videos before starting his music career. While attending several band camps, he repeatedly heard Cangelosi’s name come up. During one of JMU’s summer band camps, Milleson was finally able to meet him during a master’s class and even ran into him during auditions.
“He’s such a nice guy, and it’s weird — I heard this name being thrown around, and now, I have classes with him every morning,” Millesen said. “He’s an amazing player and just an amazing composer. Everything he talks about, I usually learn something from.”
Both Lan and Millesen encountered Cangelosi beforehand and, like several other students, made their decision to come to JMU’s music program to learn from him. While he’s not the only percussion professor, many of his students consider him part of a new generation of composers due to his unique style that branches out from older percussion compositions.
“There’s a lot of stuff that sounds the same, but his stuff sounds really interesting,” Millesen said. “It gives everyone a challenge, and people love listening to it.”
Over the past few years, Cangelosi has been invited to perform and teach masters classes internationally and across the U.S. at various educational institutions. He’s been to Portugal, Taiwan, Argentina and more. While it’s his job to perform at these events as an educator, the experiences fuel his passion as a composer and performer. He enjoys the good community and establishing connections within the field. Despite his “new generation” and well-known status, he remains humble in making music.
“My only hopes are to find more time to keep writing music,” Cangelosi said. “I like writing music and I definitely find time to do it, but when you get busier, it gets harder to find time. I don’t think I have really big dreams. You just do it because you like to do it, and as long as I get to keep doing it, that’s all I want.”
Contact Brittany Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.