Most recipes for success that we hear in success stories involve the same formula of ingredients: dedication, investment in musical education, practice, and the right mentorship.
Antonio Underwood’s story is proof that it also takes encouragement and dedication to attain success, as it has all made him into the renowned musician he is today. His admirable career and accomplishments over the past 30 years and the legacy he is taking forward in the world of jazz education are truly an inspiration for many. The legendary musician created his own music label ‘Tone East Music’ in 1994 after years as a performer and orchestrator.
Antonio’s interest in music began at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Englewood, New Jersey. Having been raised in a Southern gospel environment with a close-knit family and less money, the church remained an integral part of his early childhood. And that is where his desire to pursue music as a career was born. It further bloomed when he pursued music education at university, and his passion for solo tuba records was ignited.
The release of the groundbreaking tuba CD, Tuba Mirum by Antonio, set the standard for solo tuba repertoire in the music world. Just like any other innovator, he suffered from many failures and was acquainted with many pitfalls along his journey. But as a survivor and accomplisher, he remembers them as learning experiences. According to Antonio, his failure taught him to learn and think independently and develop a stronger sense of self-worth.
Apart from making a mark as a tuba expert, Antonio also lent his expertise to help develop a new jazz program in Novi Sad, Serbia, as a Fullbright Scholar in 2016. He led a series of free workshops on jazz music which gained immense appreciation. Community involvement inspires The Serbia Children’s Jazz Festival fund-raising. According to Antonio, there is a dire need to help the agenda he initiated a few years ago after the pandemic. Its goal is to continue imparting knowledge of jazz music within the context of cultural, historical, and socio-political aspects of life in the African American community that created this art form.
Antonio’s role as a music researcher and promoter of the development of jazz music both in the USA and other areas is worth appreciating. His efforts to educate young minds about the power of jazz and use revolutionary music for cultural awareness are commendable. His production label is also an excellent platform for new and budding musicians to learn and get the right kind of mentorship. Talking about how he was warned when he embarked on his musical journey, he says, “All the luminary composer teachers told of how hard it would be for me in that field… they were right.” Today, Antonio is making all the efforts to help rising musicians not suffer the same pain as he did and makes sure they have him as a guardian angel. That is what makes him a truly inspiring teacher of music.