Stephan Moccio’s I Believe CTV’s Olympic broadcast anthem becomes Canada’s 15th “Gold performance”
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to get into music – to make my living playing and creating music.” The boys flourished in a household where music was encouraged by the voluble combination of Italian father Len, and Claire, his French-Canadian mother. Stephan’s study of music would take him on a life-journey that would bring him together with Céline Dion, Sarah Brightman, James Taylor, Fergie, Nick Lachey and N’Sync, President Bill Clinton, his mentor David Foster – and ultimately the Vancouver Olympics. His current instrumental recording Exposure, has sold more copies than any other since Chariots of Fire 25 years ago. The bright lights of New York, Los Angeles and the CTV Olympic set in Vancouver are a long way from his boyhood home of Niagara Falls.
There are aspects of Stephan’s life that have a storybook quality. He married his high school sweetheart Hilary; set and accomplished professional goals for himself; and is riding the crest of fame and good fortune that accompanies success in the entertainment business. In real life – he has invested years of study, preparation, and the development of that all-important magical ingredient – talent.
Like an athlete whose Olympic dream begins at a young age, Stephan’s dream of writing an Olympic theme began while he was still a high school student. “During the Calgary Olympics in ’88, I was inspired when I heard David Foster’s music. I made a commitment to myself then; that one day – when the games come back to Canada, I would write the theme song.” It was a dream and a goal that stayed with the young musician.
Stephan followed his musical education through the Royal Conservatory of Music and then continued his university education at the University of Western Ontario. It was there that he first introduced himself to René Angélil while attending a campus performance by Céline Dion. “I approached René and told him that one day I would like to write a song for Céline.” Stephan continues; “Nine or ten years later I wrote her comeback song, A New Day Has Come, which became the name for her Las Vegas show.”
After graduating from university, Stephan played in jazz clubs and hotel lounges, with a repertoire that included many songs from The American Songbook. “It was amazing training, and gave the opportunity to work on my phrasing.” At the same time, he was working as a session musician, arranger and composer. While I’m a classically trained musician, I don’t hide the fact that I like pop music.”
Stephan’s high profile as a songwriter and his musicianship earned him an invitation to play for three benefit concerts commemorating Bill Clinton’s 60th Birthday in 2006. The fundraising concerts took place in New York, Washington and Toronto. Commenting on the former President’s legendary star power and fundraising abilities, Stephan says; “There was a lot of love in the room that night.”
Stephan’s music also caught the ear of Robert Redford, and he has been invited to the actor’s Utah ranch to perform private concerts for Redford’s family and friends; including what is becoming an annual pre-Christmas event. “I’m deeply touched that Robert Redford loves my music.”
The beginnings for the Olympic theme came years before Stephan won the contract to produce the anthem and song. “I was holding my newly born daughter Elle, and the opening notes just came to me. I knew then that I had something that I could use if I ever had the chance to write an Olympic anthem. I called myself and sang the melody into my voicemail – and kept it.”
When Vancouver was awarded the Olympics, Stephan knew that this was the opportunity to realize his dream. His friend and collaborator Alan Frew played a pivotal role. Frew (lead singer for the popular band Glass Tiger) organized a dinner with Stephan and another friend Keith Pelley. Pelley was President of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium. Stephan took a seat at Frew’s piano and played I Believe for the Olympic executive. “He loved it. Alan then wrote the lyrics and we recorded it.” Keith Pelley played the anthem and song for his colleagues at CTV. They were excited by what they heard – and Stephan Moccio’s teenage Olympic Dream was about to come true. Just like the athletes in the competition, the years of preparation were soon to pay off for the young musician from Niagara Falls.
CTV commissioned I Believe as the broadcast anthem for the Vancouver Olympics with a popular song based on the same music. Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky recorded the English version which set records for downloading; making it virtually an overnight #1 hit. Annie Villeneuve recorded the French version, J’imagine, which also became a phenomenal success. I Believe sold enough copies before the Opening ceremony that it qualified as a gold record. Stephan jokes; “In a way, Canada won 15 Gold Medals at the Olympics – the 15th being I Believe….”
Using the music from I Believe, Stephan prepared hundreds of musical cues for CTV’s Olympic broadcasts. The network needed arrangements to accompany athlete profiles, lead-ins to Olympic programming segments, and of course, the Medal Ceremonies.
“We sent recordings to 5,000 schools across Canada, and the children loved it. It practically became the new national anthem”
Stephan’s Olympic experience was indeed incredible. “I’d be on the streets in Vancouver and hear it being played and hear people singing along. It was like being a part of history. I was there when Alex Bilodeau won Canada’s first Gold Medal – and hearing it played before the medal ceremony was really special.”
“I got to play for the athletes on CTV near the end of the games. Being with so many medal winners and saluting them with my anthem was a tremendous experience.”
Stephan has recently signed a worldwide recording and distribution contract with Universal. He’s finishing up his second recording, and preparing for tours of Europe and Japan.
Stephan Moccio will bring his Olympic dream to Montreal for three nights, May 12, 13 and 14 at the intimate Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts. “We’re going to have some special guests with us for the Montreal shows.” For tickets please call the Place des Arts box office: 514-842-2112 or online: www.laplacedesarts.com
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