Zupe ... A not-so-brief history
For the ardent fan ... for everyone else, just long-winded!
Zupe made his first recording at age 5. (Hey … you were warned this version could be long-winded!) Okay, so maybe he was years away from finely honing a professional vocal performance. And perhaps his choice of Partridge Family cover tunes wouldn't be so hip, by today's standards. But it was, indeed, a sign of things to come!
Zupe grew up in a small coal mining community in southwestern Pennsylvania. His earliest musical memories are of his father playing the accordion, and filling the house with polka music. (It was a big house ... but it was a loud accordion.) By the age of 8, Zupe was enrolled in the school's elementary music program, learning the basics of trumpet playing, and singing in various school concerts. Through the years, he continued playing trumpet, but also learned to play several other brass and woodwind instruments, drums, and of course, the piano - his instrument of choice, today. "Both, my music teacher and my voice teacher, were cats from the big-band era," recalls Zupe. "So of course, they taught me an appreciation of their music. I was the only kid in my class opting to listen to Tommy Dorsey or Charlie Parker over Led Zeppelin!" Musical nerdiness aside, Zupe's early music education culminated with honors, being chosen to represent his school and performing with the Pennsylvania State Choir in the spring of 1984.
Throughout school, Zupe also performed bugle duty, playing Taps for local V.F.W. and American Legion ceremonies and funerals. His close association with veterans, including his own grandfather, guided Zupe into following their footsteps and serving his country. In July of 1984, Zupe enlisted in the United States Air Force.
During his four year stint, Zupe found several outlets for his music, becoming the student director/arranger of the Sheppard Air Force Base Drum & Bugle Corps, and once stationed in Germany, winning various talent competitions, including a National Champion title in the "Self-Accompanied Vocalist" category. Zupe also performed in various piano bars (even playing for fighter pilots at the Officers' Club, but that's another story) and playing keyboards in a high-energy rock band. All the while, Zupe befriended, and became an apprentice, of Juilliard Master composer/pianist Paul Amrod in Kaiserslautern. Through Paul's guidance, Zupe honed his compositional skills and applied them to the technologies of the time. It was here, that Zupe began experimenting, and making music with the use of computers.
In 1988, Zupe was honorably discharged, as a decorated sergeant, from the United States Air Force. He quickly made a name for himself as a modern-day one-man-band, using computers, keyboards and drum machines. Zupe performed a Top-40 show in various bars and nightclubs, and eventually the hotel circuit. "I learned a lot about showmanship in those days," he says. "Being the only guy on stage, I was forced to make it interesting. And given the unstable nature of computers at the time (a Commodore 64, by the way), I quickly learned the art of improvisation!" Yet, he managed to make it all work, and quite successfully at that.
The mid 1990’s saw Zupe spending less time on the road, and more time in the studio. Together with guitarist Dave Nichols, Zupe was carving a new niche, writing and producing jingles for radio and television, as well as pitching his own material. In 1995, the American Red Cross adopted Zupe's song, The Light, as the theme song to their campaign - which benefitted their disaster relief services - raising tens of thousands of dollars, due in part, by sales of "The Light.”
In 1998, Zupe joined Taxi, the world's leading independent A&R (artist & reportoire) company. "Taxi is the ultimate 'go-to guy,'" Zupe explains. "Record labels, producers, and tv/film executives tell Taxi what type of music they're looking for. Then Taxi notifies its members. If my music fits the description, I send it to Taxi, who screens it. If it meets their high standards, it gets forwarded." Since joining Taxi, Zupe has found more and more success. His works have appeared on a variety of network television programs, as well as cable networks, such as A&E and The History Channel.
That same year, Zupe also released his instrumental holiday album, Christmas Piano. (currently in its third pressing) and has sold thousands worldwide.
The new millennium found Zupe going full speed ahead, continuing his work with Dave Nichols and producing a progressive jazz/rock fusion CD called Speechless. This award winning album made notable headlines with one track (Rib Joint) holding the #1 Position on Broadjam.com's Chicago Blues chart for 29 weeks, while another track (Step On It) was nominated by the Hollywood Music In Media Awards for Best Instrumental Composition.
In the years to follow, Zupe released two more CDs. 2010's Dance was specifically designed for the ballroom dance enthusiast, but found a loyal fan base of non-dancers, as well. "I think the various styles on the album are a direct reflection of my writing for television ... either my Gemini sign coming out, or just musical schizophrenia!” suggests Zupe. But his popularity, in the ballroom dance scene, has grown exponentially with Zupe hosting his own Caribbean ballroom dance cruises on Holland America Line.
In 2011, Zupe answered the call of his Christmas show audiences and released a second Christmas album, Yuletides. Only this time, Zupe sings the most popular of his Christmas arrangements. “Everyone loved my arrangements on Christmas Piano, but I was constantly asked why I didn’t sing on that album. I thought that album’s title was self-explanatory. Apparently, not!”
In recent years, Zupe has honed his stage persona into that of a world-class entertainer. His ballroom dance shows have made him an authority in the multiple music genres that ballroom requires, and his quick wit provides spur-of-the-moment humorous exchanges with his audiences on a regular basis.
Zupe’s latest endeavor comes, in part, from guest appearances with accordion master Alex Meixner, and his band. Inspired by Alex’s preferred music, as well as Zupe’s childhood memories, Zupe proudly released his own polka music album, entitled Na zdrowie! (Nostrovia!).
Today proves that things have come full circle for Zupe. He still performs as a solo artist on area stages, performing the music of Sinatra, Ellington, Nat King Cole, and Elvis. And it seems that all those Top 40 tunes he was doing in the 80's and early 90's are now deemed "classic tunes," making Zupe a hip commodity in the bar scene again! Still, at the end of the day, you’ll find Zupe in his studio, writing music. And when that "record" light comes on, you can be sure he's not singing "I Think I Love You."