Walking onto a Los Angeles stage with hundreds of faces gazing up at you and a full big band behind you, on an evening set aside by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation to pay tribute to Harrison Ford and other notable attendees, would be a thrilling moment for any young singer. In Sergio Vellatti’s case, it would be his first public performance. What led to his stepping onto the stage at the Universal Hilton Hotel in September of 2011 is a story all his own, one that continues to surprise him as much as anyone who knows his journey. Just two years prior, Sergio had never dreamt of becoming a performer. He wasn’t even a singer. His thoughts, living in Phoenix, Arizona, were of paying off his morgtage, advancing his career, and building a normal life. In the summer of 2009, under the weight of the Great Recession, those plans collapsed.
First to go was his job as a designer for a top civil engineering firm. Wthin months, the career and security that he had worked so hard for was lost. If ever there was a time for soul-searching, this was it. Between job interviews, Sergio began to explore one of his dormant childhood obsessions – the human voice. Growing up in California’s San Gabriel Valley, the voices behind well-known characters in Disney and other animated works captured his young imagination… the world of the voiceover artist. With tape recorder in-hand, Sergio would devise his own elaborate narrations, involving plot, characters and music. By junior high school he began to have an interest in music itself, joining the band to play clarinet, and later switching to drums in the marching band in high school. Unlike most of his peers, he gravitated toward the sounds of big band, jazz and American popular music. Yet, the idea of singing never occurred to him.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2009, and the unemployed draftsman, curious to explore the boundaries of his voice, began to sing. Surprisingly, it came naturally. Recording a handful of standards to orchestral tracks, Sergio shared his new-found talent with family and friends, who encouraged him to post his recordings on YouTube. He did so and quickly developed a following. The continuous stream of positive comments from his on-line viewers launched Sergio into a concentrated effort. He began recording hours of music videos, sometimes working non-stop for two or three days at a time. He was writer, director, producer, cameraman and performer. His work ethic soon garnered him over half a million views on his YouTube channel. Despite the joy that this infant avocation brought him, the idea of singing professionally seemed out of reach. While in Los Angeles for a job interview, Sergio would be introduced to an award-winning record producer who had worked with some of the best known vocalists in music. The meeting would become a pivotal moment, radically changing the direction of Sergio’s life. At a personal low point when a life of singing seemed implausible, the nod of approval and even encouragement from a man at the top of the profession gave Sergio the self-knowledge and validation he needed to turn his passion into a career. Within months, Sergio abandoned his pursuit of finding work in engineering; He relocated to Los Angeles in September of 2011. Almost immediately he connected with the dean of the highly acclaimed music department at Citrus College. Impressed with his talent, the school offered Sergio an opportunity to work as an artist in residence, performing with the institution's touring big band. It would be the same month Sergio arrived in Los Angeles that he would find himself on stage at the Universal Hilton Hotel with the Blue Note Swing Orchestra in his first public performance. He went on to perform in other venues that included the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Cicada Club and Jonathan Club in Los Angeles; the Hyatt Regency and Moana Surfrider in Hawaii; and the Kravis Center, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Peabody Auditorium and Ruth Eckard Hall in Florida. Most recently, he performed before a full house at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in a joint performance with the Pacific Symphony. As he looks ahead, Sergio is concentrated on building a career as a concert performer and recording artist. The musical icons who continue to inspire him include Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams and Harry Connick Jr. Sergio would be the first to say he is humbled and grateful to the many people who, in the past few years, have offered their support and helped nurture his talent in what has been a dizzying journey to fulfill a new-found dream.