On Saturday, April 26, local musicians held a concert in the backyard of some students’ house on Main St.
The event was called Genesis, and was the first of a hopeful new tradition for Castleton students as a way for local musicians to perform.
The performers showed up early, a stage set up from wooden planks and rugs, a tent was pitched for the performers and their friends, music blasting from a laptop and massive speakers- the gig was legit.
But one performer showed up a bit later than others, about half an hour before the official concert was about to start. He had a track meet earlier that day.
That kid was tyler serrani, and yes, he prefers his name without capital letters.
serrani, originally from West Rutland, Vermont, was born into a family of music lovers. His grandfather played music often, him and his friends playing Johnny Cash covers at bars.
“I grew up around music my whole life. Also helps that my dad was an audio technician for like 35 years. So I was at shows a lot. Whenever I was like seeing him whenever he was gone, I would always be at a show or around music in some way,” he said.
During the quarantine period of 2020, serrani delved into making music himself, writing and producing his own songs. Since then, he has come to Castleton as a music major, and has released a handful of singles, one EP and one album. His sound consists of upbeat, pop-rocky beats like his song ‘love u regardless,’ and moody, punk inspired songs like “basket case.” His lyrics are relatable and understandable. And he’s even garnered some fans, screaming his name in the front row of the Genesis concert.
At the beginning of April, renowned Vermont videographer and extreme concert-thrower Kelly Butts-Spirito announced a college musicians competition to open for his sold out Love, Kelly concert at Higher Ground. College musicians around Vermont could submit their songs to ultimately end up in an online voting.
“So I was just like, thinking about it one day, and I was like, what if we did like a contest,” said Butts-Spirito. “It would be really cool to give a college kid that opportunity and just like, get the whole college scene involved. And then that’s sort of how it went.”
Butts-Spirito said the contest was crazier than he ever imagined, from getting 30 submissions to the final round of voting getting around 3,000 votes.
One of the submissions was from serrani himself.
According to serrani, he and Butts-Spirito met previously when they shot a music video together after serrani found out about him on Instagram and sent him one of his songs.
“He ended up getting in contact with me about the contest and how he was thinking about putting on another show. And he thought that I should submit my song because I’m a college artist, of course.”
Soon, he would pass the first round. Then he made the final six. Voting opened.
And Castleton was going to make sure he won.
You could not go a day without hearing a “vote for tyler serrani), it was flooded on Instagram, posters were hung.
Even professors like Heidi Welch of the music department made sure students voted before class started.
“I had listened to some of Tyler’s recordings that were on his Spotify channel, when I first found that he was my student, And I really was impressed with his music,” said Welch. “We had some tyler serrani appreciation days around here.”
Welch said it was important for the music department to champion serrani because in the music department, they are family.
“It’s important to let the students know that they have their support outside of the academic place,” she said. “He’s a musician, a writer, and he’s a very talented young person. So championing our students, not just with their academics in their grades and what they’re doing in class, but their pursuits out of class is really important.”
It was a close call, and Serrani ended up tying with the UVM group, Blu Pak. After another round of voting, both Blu Pak and serrani won the chance to open, but serrani did win by just a few votes.
“I was so hype when Tyler won. We were constantly checking Instagram, telling friends, family, and social media followers to vote prior to the decision so it was crazy to see him hit the stage at Higher Ground,” said Castleton student Will Buck, who also entered the contest and co-founded the Genesis concerts.
After the concert at Higher Ground, serrani found a management team, and plans to make more music and line up more shows, like Genesis.
“The show wouldn’t have happened without Tyler. his name, his influence, his connections, and his access to equipment were the key force behind the energy of this concert,” said Buck. “ I’m glad he headlined. He deserves every ounce of respect for what he’s accomplishing.”
For now, serrani will be known as the kid who brought Castleton together.
“It was a great feeling having everybody rally behind me. It really just put into perspective how close knit of a family that Castleton is,” he said.