Western grad strikes all the right notes

Stephan Moccio reflects on what it takes to make it big

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Stephan Moccio

Courtesy of Andrew MacNaughton

Stephan Moccio

Perhaps the Roman philosopher Seneca said it best when he declared, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” For Western alum Stephan Moccio, nothing could be closer to the truth.

The Montreal-born artist is gifted with an exceptional talent for music and a dedication to his craft.

“I was very disciplined. You always have to follow school through somehow, while factoring in an insane amount of practice " usually eight to 10 hours a day,” Moccio explains.

But his hard work paid off in many ways. Upon graduating, Moccio was signed by Sony/BMG at age 22. Moccio already has a number of accomplishments under his belt. In particular, he co-wrote Celine Dion’s 2002 hit “A New Day Has Come,” which spent 21 weeks at the number one spot on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.

Moccio has also worked with other major artists like Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban and Edwin, and has even conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on several occasions. The opportunity to work with well-known artists left a lasting impression on Moccio.

“The variety of artists I’ve worked with is extraordinary. Edwin is a really open-minded artist " and here I am as a classical musician working with some big names in different kinds of music. It’s simply fantastic.”

Though Moccio has encountered a number of great artists, he finds it difficult to name a single source of inspiration.

“In one sentence?” Moccio laughs. “At Western I had some great professors. Then of course, there’s Glen Gould and Leonard Bernstein ...”

When it comes to a preference between classical and pop music, Moccio prefers the simplicity of the ivory keys.

“I love both pop music and classical music. Being lucky enough to be classically trained, I decided to go back to square one: one man, one instrument without video or radio. I love it,” Moccio confesses. “Working without technology is quite challenging because these days you can record something and have the computer fix everything.”

Moccio’s expertise as a performer is part of the reason he’s succeeded. Having recently played at Aeolian Hall, Moccio graced the crowd with brief interludes between musical numbers, which included a variety of interesting “behind the music” stories. One story that stood out was how he first came to write for Dion.

“I first met Celine during my undergrad at Alumni Hall. When her husband Renée introduced me, I was young, ambitious and cocky, so I said: ‘One day, I’m going to write you a hit song.’ She laughed and we took a photo together,” Moccio explains. “Nine years later, after I wrote ‘A New Day Has Come,’ I received a call that Celine wanted to meet her songwriters. When we met again, she didn’t recognize who I was until I showed her the photo from nine years ago. You should’ve seen the look on her face; it was amazing.”

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