Country Road: Rhea Francani’s path to Nashville
On the day she graduated from Teachers College, Rhea Francani (M.A. ’15) faced a fork in the road. One path would lead to a teaching career in music – her concentration at TC – while the other would take her to Nashville, where she’d try to become something far chancier: a country singer.
“I remember thinking, ‘if I’m going to take a shot at pursuing my own music, now is the time.’”
“I remember thinking, ‘if I’m going to take a shot at pursuing my own music, now is the time,’” recalls Francani, a graduate of TC's Music & Music Education program in the Department of Arts & Humanities who performed twice during Convocation, regaling the audience with her own performance and also stepping in when another act cancelled.
Now, a year and half later, she’s an established part of Nashville’s country music scene, with a new album, a few hit singles and her own recording label.
The album, appropriately titled Now or Never (July, 2016), contains the hits “Dizzy” and “Shotgun Baby” and is under consideration for a Grammy nomination. Francani’s songs are available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play and Pandora. (View her music video here.) And just this past week, she performed at the WYRK Fall Acoustic Concert in Buffalo, where she opened for some of the biggest names in country music: Big+Rich, Maren Morris and Chris Janson.
In short, Francani is living the dream – and she credits much of her success to what she learned at Teachers College. Randall Allsup, Associate Professor of Music & Music Education, was particularly adept at helping her find her creative wellspring, she says. Other professors helped her make the connection between performing music and teaching in front of a class, emphasizing that musicians and teachers alike must do research and practice their crafts. Both must also hew to lesson plans or music scripts while having the confidence to allow for improvisation and spontaneity, Francani says.
Francani says she also learned a great deal from her fellow students, “who lived and breathed the creativity that fills the air of New York City. “I said it then as a student and I’ll say it again: enrolling in Teachers College was the best decision I ever made, and it was an honor to have been accepted.”
Francani, who grew up near Buffalo, started singing when she was a child. She later studied piano and discovered musical theater, which she majored in at Wagner College in Staten Island. After graduating, she applied to Teachers College, thinking she’d become a music teacher. But while at TC, she became smitten with country music, especially the lyrics, which dramatized “the heartache and happiness” of everyday people. She also visited Nashville a few times and fell in love with its vibrant music scene. Right after she graduated in 2015, she moved there.
“I said it then as a student and I’ll say it again: enrolling in Teachers College was the best decision I ever made.”
Now, Francani spends her days writing songs and developing her record label, which she likens to a startup company. She records her music at a major studio in Nashville and distributes and releases her songs herself, retaining all publishing rights. At local venues, she sings and plays piano with accompaniment from some of Nashville’s top musicians.
Though she loves playing music, she can see herself returning one day to her other great passion in life: teaching. Coming back to the classroom, she says, would bring her full circle.
“Right now, I’m young and going full throttle with my music,” adds Francani. “But I can see myself working passionately as a music teacher. Students would benefit from having a teacher who recorded songs and toured and worked as a professional recording artist. I’d like to call upon that wealth of experience to teach students all that I learned at Teachers College.” – Robert Florida
Published Monday, Oct 31, 2016