Singer/Songwriter Anthony D’Amato ’06 Reflected on ‘A Life of Music’ at Skeptics

A decade into his career as a singer, songwriter and musician, Anthony D’Amato ’06 shared thoughts on “A Life of Music” at the Society of Skeptics on February 23. To view his presentatin, please click below:

Playing music professionally has been a lifelong dream for Mr. D’Amato, even though he says it “didn’t seem like a particularly realistic or practical path” as he grew up in Blairstown. Undeterred, he began pursuing his dream during his student days at Blair, playing French horn in the Wind Ensemble and working as a freelance music journalist for local New Jersey publications. He continued writing online pieces for Paste, SPIN and Rolling Stone as an undergraduate at Princeton University and took a job as a music publicist when he graduated.

Interviews and show reviews were not the only things Mr. D’Amato was working on during those years—he was also writing and recording his own music and songs. His first two albums, “Down Wires” (2010) and “Paper Back Bones” (2012), both home recorded, caught the attention of NPR, The New York Times, American Songwriter and the BBC. In 2014, he signed with New West Records, and with this record deal, Mr. D’Amato was able to start playing music full time. 

He emerged to international acclaim with his 2014 release of “The Shipwreck from the Shore,” an album that was inspired, in part, by his Princeton studies with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. Among the rave reviews for this work, NPR noted that Mr. D’Amato “writes in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen or Josh Ritter.” His 2016 release, Mike Mogis-produced “Cold Snap,” resulted in his first national TV appearance and recognition from Rolling Stone for his “folk music raised on New Jersey grit.”

Having performed throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia during his career, with artists ranging from Ben Folds and Ziggy Marley to Valerie June and Shawn Colvin, Mr. D’Amato says touring is probably his favorite aspect of his work in music. “I’ve met so many wonderful people and seen so many incredible things around the world thanks to music,” he said. “But, honestly, I enjoy it all—the challenge of writing, the creative freedom of recording and the human connection of performing live.”

Mr. D’Amato released the extended play, “Five Songs from New Orleans,” in early 2020 and recorded several singles during the coronavirus pandemic, including “Merry Christmas, I Guess,” a song for everyone who spent Christmas 2020 on their own. He currently has a new record that he is hoping will be released later this year, and he “can’t wait to get back on the road” when the pandemic is over.

“The pandemic has upended pretty much every aspect of the music industry, so it’s hard to make any kind of predictions at the moment as to when I’ll be able to resume touring,” he said. “But I’ve got my fingers crossed that music will see the light of day soon, and I’ll be able to start playing live again.”

In the meantime, Mr. D’Amato looked forward to sharing some of his work with the Blair community at Skeptics and talked about about his life in music with students. “If I can serve as an example of a non-traditional career path that's available to students who perhaps don't feel like they fit the mold, that would be a wonderful thing,” he said.

Read more about Mr. D’Amato here.

History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

(Photo by Matthijs van der Ven)

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