Oswego resident Tom Sharpe is a rock star, literally.
He tours with Dennis DeYoung (former front man of Styx) and Mannheim Steamroller and performs his own music with Sharpe World Music Ensemble.
Sharpe created Sharpe World Music Ensemble because he realized “If I wanted to start a real professional career, the only person who could get me where I want to be is me and I needed to sit down and write music.”
Sharpe said he started writing without any goals or any formulas, but to blend all his training – orchestral, rock and world percussion. The result was a full show, which he performed as a solo artist to sound like an ensemble, he said.
In 2001, the title song from his first CD, Like Setting Myself on Fire, won World Music Song of the Year in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. He performed his premier show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
“This was the beginning of everything for me. This set me apart from other musicians,” he said.
Shannon Greene Robb, founder and chairsoman of Arranmore Center for the Arts (ACA), met Sharpe in 1991 when they both studied music at DePaul University. Sharpe was the best man at her wedding and has recorded with her husband, Bryan Robb, an audio engineer.
“(His music has the depth of a classical piece; the breadth of a world piece; and the groove of a rock tune," she said. "It covers a lot of different genres. He is meticulous and has so many layers to his music. I can listen to the same tune and find new elements every time I listen.”
The Sharpe World Music Ensemble presents 25-30 shows each year. The touring ensemble includes: Sharpe, an electric violinist, electric cellist, fretless bass guitar, viola, bassoon, female vocalist, two percussionists, and ethnic-flavored dancers. A performance can include any combination of these artists.
In 2005, Sharpe started his second album. He said it’s finished but he’s waiting for the right time to release it.
“Dennis is a living legend and an amazing guy. … He sounds even better now than he did 30 years ago. Styx was my first record ever at age 10. I still get chills playing alongside Dennis DeYoung,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe is the touring drummer and percussionist for Mannheim Steamroller, Grammy-award-winning group most known for its Christmas music. Sharpe joined Mannheim Steamroller in 2007.
“I love the music. I remember listening to the music while putting up our Christmas tree when I was 14 years old,” Sharpe said.
From Nov. 1 until Jan. 1, Sharpe said Mannheim Steamroller performs nearly every night.
“On the road you have to have a moral compass. Everyone is professional and knows why we’re there," Sharpe said. "I don’t have to worry about a conflict in personality. They became family immediately."
Sharpe doesn’t consider himself a traditional teacher, but feels he is called to motivate and inspire students. He presents clinics, assemblies and performances at schools.
Sharpe participated in Arranmore's InspirEd, which enables students to collaborate and perform with professional artists. Greene Robb said Sharpe initially intimidated the students with his high caliber of music but that the students pushed themselves and were proud of their accomplishment.
Greene Robb said she’s not at all surprised with Sharpe’s success.
“Tom is one of the most disciplined musicians I’ve ever met. He’s always trying to improve himself. He sets the bar high and then he nails it," she said.