CAMPBELL NORTH ’17
For Brandon Serafino ’14, the sky is the limit when it comes to exploring his creative potential. As a member of the Accidentals, actor in many of Trinity’s musical theater productions, dancer in the Elemental Movements, the on campus hip-hop group, and composer of original work on a variety of instruments, his days are shaped by his artistic passions and extracurricular activities.
The roots of his continually blossoming appreciation and exploration of the arts, especially in music, can be traced back to his childhood. Growing up, parts of Serafino’s house acted as physical evidence of his family’s love for music. His father, who was a guitar player and traveling musician, filled their basement with instruments. Serafino would often go there and swivel a tree that held a group of guitars, and marveled at all the different worlds each set of those six strings could let him into. His father showed Serafino the genres of blues, jazz, and classic rock while his two older sisters exposed him to the popular 90’s music at the time, ranging from Jay-Z to the Spice Girls. This eclectic combination first introduced him to the possibility of crossing and mixing genres.
Serafino’s interest in music persisted throughout his adolescent years, where he sang in church and school choirs, as well as performed in musical theater. However, it was not until his freshman year at Trinity where he elevated his love for music from a hobby to a vocation. As a member of the Accidentals, he started to take voice more seriously and declared his major in music, with a concentration in ethnomusicology, the study of how music and culture affect each other.
As a participant in the InterArts program, Serafino was required to produce a final project by the end of his third semester, halfway through sophomore year. He decided on a music piece that he created electronically. However, his project was not composed of notes, but rather everyday sounds, like a spoon hitting a cup, an electric toothbrush, and a siren from the street, that he had recorded and hooked up to his computer. Serafino described this as the first work he produced that he was fully proud of because it was innovative and eccentric.
This appreciation for the atypical culminated into one of Serafino’s main themes in his current work. He aspires to create music that is a non-conventional “mish-mash” that is soulful with heavy rhythms and a flare of hip-hop added in for attitude. Additionally, he loves incorporating a little bit of Brazilian flare, like the Samba, especially after spending six weeks there this past summer.
One of the most valuable things that Serafino brought back with him from Brazil is their concept of music. “Brazilians don’t think about music so concretely,” Serafino said, “it is not something you have to do in an academic space or only if you’re trained, music there is for everyone, played on every street corner, it is in their blood.” This new notion has helped Serafino think about music in a more holistic way. He noticed that much of Brazilian rap also focused on social inequalities. This helped to illuminate his theory of how music can be used to affect social change.
As the main student organizer for the International Hip-Hop Festival, Serafino has been able to directly witness the impact music can have. The kind of hip-hop emerging from the Middle East inspired by the Arab Spring has been used as a platform to talk about social issues.
Two artists who preformed last year from Syria and Iraq inspired Serafino with their ability to use their ties to their countries as a way to move their society forward. “Music, especially hip-hop as a revolutionary form of music, is an affective, nonviolent way to get people riled up and spread awareness about issues,” Serafino explained.
Serafino also drew upon this aspect of music in general when describing why he loves to preform and sing; “I love being able to interact with the audience and have the chance to spark them, singing can wake people up, make them feel good and communicate emotion.” This passion was sparked when he went to see Savion Glover tap dance. “It was just him with a jazz quartet behind him,” Serafino recalled, “his feet were moving at an unbelievable speed, he was pouring sweat and it was all improvised, three hours straight.” The ability to see this force and creativity in a person reinforces the power music has over our soul.
After graduation Serafino hopes to work as a representative for a record label and then produce his own music. However, his ultimate dream is to be able to record an album and collaborate with musicians from around the world and give back to those communities. “I want to travel, share the musical history of different countries and build a community through music,” Serafino shared.