Tony Memmel: A Special Kind of Concert
By Emily Hughes, Live Wire Staff Writer
On Tuesday, October 11th at 7:00 p.m., a one-of-a-kind performer graced the college with his presence once again. Award-winning musician and singer-songwriter Tony Memmel, in collaboration with MCC Cultural Programs and ICE Radio, held a free concert in the SBM Charitable Foundation Building Auditorium that was open to both students and the general public.
Born without a left hand, he learned how to play guitar by making a “cast” out of Gorilla Tape and placing his pick in such a way that it strummed the strings. After eight years of trial and error, it turned into the method that he uses today for all of his performances
Accompanied by his equally-talented wife, Leslie Memmel, they played a fun and engaging set list that was made up of both original material such as “Home” and “Lucky Fin” (which was inspired by his work as an ambassador to the “Lucky Fin Project”, an organization that helps children with hand and other limbic differences), and classic covers such as “American Girl” by Tom Petty; he even catered to the children in the audience by playing Randy Travis’ “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”, the theme song to the Pixar movie “Toy Story.”
When we spoke to Tony Memmel backstage in the green room, he showed as much passion and dedication to what they do offstage as he does onstage.
Q: My understanding is that you were a self-taught musician! What made you decide to pick up a guitar and learn it?
A: I have always loved music. I became interested in playing as a teenager when I saw my friend Max play. He was the one that inspired me to take up the instrument.
Q: What was the audition process like for the “American Music Abroad” program like?
A: It was really complex. The application was really long, and there were so many categories. Nevertheless, my wife and I submitted the form. Soon, we were asked to audition, and we ended up being selected to represent the United States. We traveled to four countries in South America, including Brazil and Paraguay. We performed in hospitals, schools, and concert halls. It was an amazing experience!
Q: What did you like (or dislike) about your time in “Make a Band Famous” competition hosted by “Vh1” and “Republic Records”?
A: There really wasn’t anything we disliked about it; in fact, we very much enjoyed the opportunity and were honored to be a part of it. One of my favorite elements was playing at New York Harbor. The backdrop of Manhattan was very inspiring.
Q: What role does faith play in your music and in your life as a whole?
A: It has definitely influenced me. I was born and raised in church, and I learned how to sing through being in choirs. I hope that my music helps demonstrate my faith and what I believe in.
Q: Can you describe the “The Lucky Fin Project” to us? What are currently doing with them right now?
A: “The Lucky Fin Project” is dedicated to helping children who, like me, have limbic differences. As a touring musician, I go to different places and teach some of these children how to play the guitar. I hope that I inspire them as much as they are inspiring me.
Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
A: In five years? I hope I can look back on everything I have experienced and the work I am doing now just to see how it all played out. To me, legacy is who you influence, and so I hope that I leave behind an amazing story that inspires others to be something bigger than what they are now.
His new album “We’ll Be Heard On the Radio”, is available now on iTunes. CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise can be found on his website, tonymemmel.com. Links to his Facebook and Twitter can also be found on his website as well.