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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 15, No. 8 May 2010

Stephan Moccio: I Believe

by Crystal Chan / May 1, 2010

Flash version here.

Stephan Moccio was just a teenager when the 1988 winter Olympic games were held in Calgary. But for him, the highlight wasn’t the score of the day—it was the music. As soon as he heard David Foster’s score he promised himself that one day, he too would write an Olympics theme.

That theme came to composer Moccio like a lightning bolt over a quarter century later, as he was sitting at home with his baby daughter on his lap. Moccio quickly sang it into his answering machine, where the theme sat idle for a few years. A flurry of fortuitous meetings then set the project in motion. After another year and a half of hard work, Moccio’s music was finally unveiled at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Beyond providing the perfect backdrop for the games, his theme, titled “I Believe,” has shattered industry records. The single boasts Triple Platinum status and the English version is the most downloaded track of the year to date and #1 on Billboard’s HOT 100 Chart (it’s the first time a Canadian artist has held the position since 2007).

Moccio wrote hundreds of pages of orchestral score by hand for the project, comprising 208 cues for television as well as French, English and instrumental single versions. “Film composers are typically given six to eight weeks to do a whole film,” Moccio explained. “I was working 15 hour days at one point, over a year and a half!”

Moccio is no stranger to hard work. The 37-year-old jack-of-all-trades is a self-described “double-edged sword : a classical musician with the training of a studio musician.” His mother, a piano teacher, started him on the piano when he was four. But growing up in Niagara Falls, Moccio listened to a lot of American radio and fell in love with all forms of music beyond classical. He started playing piano for jingles and other studio work as a child and teenager and then studied composition and piano performance at the University of Western Ontario. “I literally lived and breathed music 24/7,” he said. “I would get up, practice and do classes, play at a jazz club to make some money, and then record at the studio.” Straight out of Western, he was offered a publishing degree with Sony Music. Moccio turned down a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music to embark on his career. At Sony, he wrote hit after hit for stars such as Céline Dion, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban and Olivia Newton-John. In 2003, he started his own company, Sing Little Penguin (SLP); Moccio recently signed on to Universal Music, which will manage royalties leaving Moccio still able to produce under SLP.

Now that the Olympics project is over, Moccio looks forward to his second album, a collection of solo piano works to be released this spring. His first album, Exposure, received rave reviews and was the highest charting instrumental record in Canada since the Chariots of Fire soundtrack. Having conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the Hollywood Studio Orchestra, Moccio is also eager to write an orchestral piece on commission. In the meantime, he will continue with his pop projects and also meet with several film execs in the hopes of writing music for film.

Moccio performs May 13-15 at Place des Arts. www.stephanmoccio.com

(c) La Scena Musicale