Tony Underwood is a 2016 Fulbright Scholar to Serbia, developing jazz programs at the University of Novi Sad, Academy of Arts. The 1st Fulbright Music Professor in this type of assignment.

Tony is the 1st African-Cultured American given the Alumni Award at the Yale School of Music in 1987, as a Classically trained Tuba Major, Antonio Underwood has been a member of the two-time Grammy Award winning McCoy Tyner All-Star Big Band; Playing all the major jazz venues throughout the world. Tony began his career playing in NYC clubs (Lush Life, Sweet Basil’s, Village Gate, The Vanguard, the Greenwich House, The Public Theatre, Alternate Museum, etc) and festivals (JVC, South Seaport, etc.) at the age of nineteen. Tony has shared the stage with some of the greats like percussionist Jerry Gonzalez, Julius Preister, Paul Motian, Christian McBride, Cecil Taylor, Cecil Bridgewater, Vincent Herring, Joshua Redman, Javon Jackson, Ray Anderson, Delfeayo Marsalis, Robin Eubanks, Luis Bonilla, the late Lester Bowie, Tom Harrell, Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Charlie Haden, Eddie Henderson, Billy Harper, Olu Dara, John Zorn, Steve Turre, Virgil Jones, the late John Stubblefield, Joe Lovano, John Purcell, Joe Ford, Alex Foster, Gil Goldstein, Dave Bargeron, Bob Stewart, Howard Johnson, the late Ray Draper, Muhal Abrams, the late Leroy Jenkins, the late Julius Hemphill, Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyril, the late Fred Hopkins, the late David Townsend, and many more.

He has been an original cast member of the Obie Award winning musical, Juan Darien by Academy Award Composer Elliot Goldenthal and Tony Award Winning Director Julie Taymor, as well as a regular in the Tony Award Winning play, Jelly’s Last Jam, featuring the late Gregory Hines, “One Mo’ Time” and “Further Mo’“ are other shows performed.

Tony is the first African-American to become a George Lucas scholar to the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at USC. He studied extensively with the late Dr. Norman “Buddy” Baker (former music director of Disney studios), Elmer Bernstein, David Raksin, Joe Harnell, etc. Tony’s popular composition and orchestration credits include recordings by Be Be Winans (Atlantic Records), Terry Dexter (Warner Bros.), John Purcell (Pony Canyon, Japan), The World Saxophone Quartet (Justin Time Records, Canada), Debut CD of Anthony Montgomery, (Universal/Germany), etc. Owner of his own published material (400 and counting) at Tone East Music Ltd., brass quartets published by TAP Music (Iowa), and Jazz compositions published by ENJA Music, Germany. Film scoring credits included: Rumbling of the Earth (Filmmakers Library),Shadows of the Dead (Horizon Entertainment/First Look Entertainment), and Eeaya's Story (PowerLight Studios/Inclusion Films), and others.

Here is what Tony has to say:

What Musical Genre Do You Feel Best Describes Your Music And How Would You Describe Your Sound?

Classical, Jazz, Latin, R&B, Country,Gospel!

Musical landscape in a Tone Poem, storytelling collage, describes the musical sound with tuba as the lead voice.

How Did You Get Your Name? Is There A Story?

Well the Name Tone East, comes from being called "Tone" for so many years.The tuba was my voice for so many years.

The "East" part is the always cool demeanor the tuba sound surrounded me with. Zen quality, creating a calmness. Funny how so many think I'm mean (ha,ha,ha) You know growing up in a modest neighborhood can get rather complicated, so having such an instrument to practice and perform with, helped for as smooth a transition to adulthood as possible. Not many of the New York musicians ever really heard me sing, but those that grew up with me, knew i learned music in choir, and played drums in my earlier years, as well.

What Are or Have Been Your Musical Influences?

I love the music of McCoy Tyner, played with him for many years. He has a very strong body of work. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Mingus, Duke, Count Basie, Kenny Garrett, Ahmad Jamal,Fania,Mongo, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow The Beatles, Earth Wind & Fire...Benny Goodman, Lester Bowie...Tito Puente...some many

I listened to James Cleveland, the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha,Whitney, Dionne Warwick, Pavoratti, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart,Prokofiev,Shostakovich, Strauss, Geswaldo, and so many, many more!

What Are You Working On Now? Any Future Collaborations We Can Look Forward To?

I am working on a children's jazz festival for Nis, Serbia. Fulbright sent me to Serbia, 1st to Novi Sad, to develop a jazz program, as an independent professor, teaching jazz history, theory, and performance. African American in Serbia...

It was difficult, but quite rewarding. I think the students learn a lot. Cultural diversity and exchange of ideas, was successful. The community was very welcoming and working, with the Novi Sad Children's Choir, in concert, with the college students, was wonderful. So, University of Nis, Faculty of Art has asked for a full jazz program. They are new to the art of jazz, and want me to help develop their understandings. I look forward to premiering the camp and workshops, that will enhance the workable application of the artform and multimedia techniques, into the their community and world, in general. So, this year is spent creating the manual, and course outlines, while working on my next CD projects. Getting calls from international artist to produce them in the sound of Tone East Music LLC. Will feature such an artist on my next CD, TPX. My son, Bassell, works with me, and plays trumpet on many of my compositions that need is uplifting performance. He will help with the camp in the West Virginia area, we plan to develop in the coming years. He is a college counselor of great attributes. "Helping Kids Help Themselves"

What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry? What Is Your Plan Of Action?

We have developed over the years, a unique sound, featuring the tuba. Our CD's are featured on our Radio Air Play {Jango} Station, reaching many fans everyday. We have been noted in the Top 100, throughout the world and in multiple genres. So, the lead voice of the tuba has been gathering traction since our 1st CD, Tuba Mirum, in 2007. Friends in Los Angeles, like George Lucas, Norman "Buddy" Baker & David A Braun, have supported our movements, since being invited to attend the scoring school of motion pictures and television, at USC. The move from New York/New Jersey jazz performer of notice, theatre regular, and teacher, was major. We have done a few films, but plan to participate further with our own productions in the future. So, industry films maybe our next venture. Also, we plan to produce young talent...preferably those that also have the vision of teaching others, and or supporting young people, at some point in there lives.

What Is Your Favorite Track To Perform Live and Why?

There is a song I wrote as a building manager, in Los Angeles. It was a great job, because I could work on my computer skills and productions. Anyway, I would admin and help many tenants-day to day issues- from all over the country and world, working on their industry dreams. Was talking with this younger tenant, and she was very thankful for the support I gave. I wrote the song, Sun That Shines, after that. Great to feel appreciated for helping others

What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far?

Transitioning from the performer of notice, to composition and production has been a real challenge. Developing a track record in the recording business hasn't been easy. Did some arranging, in the mid90s, for major labels, and "A" list writer , artists, with the help of a childhood friend, who was a very established senior A&R record guy...kick started the move. He moved in the industry direction early, and i did the school thing.

I'm a bit older now, to be recognized as a popular type artist... but the music speaks to the younger generation.

Financing, for a minority owned small record label, is always a struggle. Especially, with such a new, risky venture, as producing tuba records. "Buddy Baker, taught me how to "do-it-your-self !" The independent label i have developed since the mid-90s, is starting to get noticed with the development of the internet. As we consistently stay focused, we have developed a much better valuation, so financing is coming out way in the coming years. Then, we can move like the more larger companies. And at their rate.

We don't give up!

What’s Your Typical Songwriting Process?

My creative process, is why i am developing camp/workshops. It is one that has many ways to write a song, in different genres. Taking different musical data, or ideas, and transforming them in different ways.

How Has Social Media Influenced Your Career As An Artist?

The internet and social media, has allowed many, who wouldn't have even know about my projects, access. Artist can be heard, independently of the major labels, more easily than ever. Now, we have to figure out how to collect the royalties proper due.

What Are Some Tracks and Artists Currently On Your Playlist?

Mostly classical and traditional jazz, on down time. No one in particular. Try to vary my tastes.

What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music?

I started playing jazz in New York at the age of 19. So, music, along with other jobs to get by, was always in the mix. I have worked all types of jobs, from factory, to sales of mainframe computers...worked with all types of folks.

Perspective changes as you meet people where they are. Ivy League educated, seen that side of things, also.

Any Advice For Young People (Men or Women) That Want To Succeed In The Music World?

It is so important that young people see influences as a starting point. Ultimately, people will notice you, when it is you they are listening to. Keep your own style and develop it from the baby stages over time.

What Would You Change In The Music Industry If You Were A Top Music Executive?

What a difficult job. Maybe allow a few more original opportunities. Still would have to work within the framework and investors. Not easy...change. Small steps and before you know it!

How Do You Feel About Originality?

Tuba as a lead voice...original enough. After being featured with McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, and Henry Threadgill, This after, then Head Capitol & Blue Note Records guy, Bruce Lundvall, came to hear Max Roach at the Blue Note. He wanted to hear what I wanted to computer thing throw him a bit :)

I remember working with a friend, Jerry Stucker, who produces for Capitol Records.

Brought the idea of a tuba CD to him. We tried to do a thing...matter of fact, we did a think, Uba Dance, on my 1st CD, Tuba Mirum. It was cool...Jerry is wonderful. He even said, he learned how to hear the thing from our project and other CDs I've done. Originality moves things forward...then becomes the tradition.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know About You Or That You Would Like to Add?

What a wonderful time playing real audience music with great performers, in NYC. It all changed when moved to LA... Great film scoring influences being around Buddy Baker, Elmer Bernstein, etc. Would see great jazz drummer, Louis Belson, out with Buddy and then at the jazz festivals...we vibed. The diverse musical life, I've lived has never been more profound then when Gregory Hines, would tease me from the stage, at the Virginia Theatre, in Jelly's Last Jam, on Broadway... he would say, as the "cats" would play cards, before the show, "You are just too honest". There were cues the conductor would have to bring in my tuba notes in, with his tap dancing, and he would look at me, in the pit, and throw her{conductor} a curve, on purpose. Trying to knock me off...I stopped looking for her to get, i would just watch is movements...he said, after the performance, "you got it!" with a smile. Sometimes you have to follow your own instincts. Gregory was one of the greatest pure talents I have ever had the privilege to be around.

What a blessing to have been there! Look forward to helping kids to have those opportunities!

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