Carl Baldassarre: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in The Music Industry

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
11 min readMar 4, 2023

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Give them everything you got: All of us contain multitudes as Walt Whitman once said. That means we have more than one strength that makes us special. Bring all your strengths to the world and you’ll be impossible to ignore. For example, I’m a good composer, guitarist, writer, speaker, conversationalist, problem solver and dresser! I bring all of that to everything I do.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in the music industry, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Carl Baldassarre.

In his nearly 50 years as a professional musician, Carl Baldassarre has been lauded as an exceptional guitarist, ingenious composer and a music scholar. And now, on the eve of releasing a new album (Grand Boulevard), he’s also becoming a YouTube classic rock sensation.

We’ll explain: When he’s not touring or creating music, Baldassarre serves as a foremost authority on rock’n’roll, particularly from the ’70s. His YouTube channel (where he’s dubbed the Professor of Classic Rock) started on a whim during the early days of Covid. But just two-plus years later, he’s already amassed over 1.5 million views for his clips, which focus on great guitar riffs and techniques, song composition and a bit of rock history, highlighting the best of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and Rush (among many others).

“I’m bringing my knowledge of composition and classical music to the world of classic rock analysis,” he says.

You could say this was a gig 52 years in the making. “When I was 11 years old, in 1970, I had an older sister who came back from college and had been exposed to all this great progressive rock,” says Baldassarre. “She brought home all this vinyl and told me to sit down, put on headphones and listen to it. I heard [Led Zeppelin’s] ‘Heartbreaker’ and that was it — that was an awakening and the beginning of my journey.”

While his YouTube channel started out from a place of isolation, it was also a project Baldassarre long wanted to tackle — going back to his roots and taking his decades of musical knowledge to relearn everything these greats bands had done from a technical perspective. “I realized how improperly I was playing the music,” he admits.

For his channel, Baldassarre spends less time on the note-for-note explanations of these great guitarists and more on the reasoning behind the music. One particular guitar hero was Jimmy Page. “It’s not just one thing with him. His solos, when he opens up, there’s an unbridled danger there, and even a sexiness. I don’t know (laughs), his soloing is sensual. And as a composer, I’m really impressed with his willingness to explore different genres — he’s done everything from Middle Eastern to blues to country, Celtic, funk, soul, classical … he shape-shifts through genres.”

The same description could be applied to Baldassarre’s own career as a musician and composer. Born and raised in Cleveland, his first band, Abraxas, received a recording contract when he was 19 years old. From there, he found success with his progressive rockers Syzygy, but later felt pressured to find a day job. “I’d been on my own since I was 17, and I learned a hell of a lot being on the road early on,” he says. “There was a lot of instability in my upbringing and we were poor. I loved music but I needed a job. And I realized I was good at figuring out life in other areas, like business and finance.”

While not entirely leaving the music industry, Baldassarre went on to a highly successful white-collar career in finance. But in 2014, he pulled back from his job, dieted, cut out sugar and dropped a lot of weight (and regrew his hair) and relocated to a lake house in Madison, OH where he could focus exclusively on his music. “My career in finance kind of broke away from me,” he admits. “I was moving away from what I was as a composer, musician and educator. I was getting sick. I had to get back to how I started.”

Now working full-time as, yes, a composer, musician and educator, Baldassarre’s own catalog includes everything from progressive rock to beautiful pieces of classical music, all recorded in some of the best-known studios in the world. And with each new work, he remains impossible to pigeonhole, deftly leaping through styles and genres. As Baldassarre wryly notes: “A Grammy-award winning producer once described my music as ‘somewhere between Christmas and being burned alive.’”

The most impressive and expansive release in Baldassarre’s catalog might be the forthcoming Grand Boulevard, an album that deftly steers through guitar rock, funk, gentle ballads, R&B, reggae and even a bit of orchestral pop that would make Burt Bacharach (a personal hero of Carl’s) proud. It’s decidedly modern, but you may hear a hint of the classic bands he loves seep in. “I think ‘Sands of Tarifa’ has a bit of an Eastern, ‘Kashmir’-like feel,” he admits. “And ‘Gin With Alice’ is a Steely Dan-inspired song. But I think they’re all pretty original songs which grew out from their earliest inspirations.”

How to sum up a multifaceted career? “I just have this crazy passion to inspire and educate people and occasionally make their heads explode with new insights,” he suggests. “I love playing and writing. But I was also, at one point, a sought-after private equity investor. It’s been a crazy journey.”

Even with his continued passion for the rock legends of yore, it’s Baldassarre’s own work that he remains proudest (and much of which the world hasn’t heard yet due to Covid).

“Out of everything, I care mostly about my own compositions,” he says. “And that’s how I’d want to be remembered. I want it to say on my tombstone, ‘‘Here lies a composer. The boy had range.’”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you Yitzi! It’s a pleasure to be with you!

I grew up with challenging circumstances. My family never had any money, never owned a home or a car. We moved six times in six years during one stretch. I didn’t know any better until I was school age. That’s when I realized things weren’t great. Unfortunately, both my parents struggled with addictions and eventually my mother succumbed to a drug overdose when I was 17.

I wound up living on my own while finishing high school. But looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so many great life skills including resourcefulness, determination and most importantly, the power of imagination and positive thinking. As a child, I spent countless hours visualizing a better future which ultimately happened. I now realize what you believe, is what comes true. So, I’m really thankful for it all.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s been a winding path driven by necessity. Being on my own at such a young age I just did what I was good at playing guitar, composing music and being a performing musician. Within a couple of years, I formed a rock band and received a recording deal. I began touring for four years non-stop, playing over 1,000 shows. That evolved into another band, a critically acclaimed progressive rock group called Syzygy which released four albums and achieved a number one album in Germany.

Most interestingly for me, I was able to create a dual career path in the finance industry simultaneously. I helped build a very successful private equity group in the U.S. I believe that being a composer taught me to think creatively and solve challenges in business and life. I think the lesson is that sometimes the path is unpredictable, so you just ride the horse in the direction it’s going.

My dual career paths allowed me to provide for my family and break the cycle of poverty, addiction, and abuse I experienced in my childhood. My two sons, Teddy and Matthew, never had to go through the same trauma. Now, I’m happily back where I started: exclusively performing and writing music for a living.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There were two people who greatly influenced my life and helped me get to where I am today: a family member and a teacher. As a child, my maternal grandmother “Gertie” used to pick me up on the weekends and bring me to her house. She provided safety and sanity at a very critical stage of my childhood. She was a “straight line” in a world of “crooked lines” and modeled how things “could” be.

The other big influence was my music teacher Dante Picciotti from the Cleveland Music School Settlement. He and his wife, Suzetta (also a teacher) took me into their home and taught me so much about classical music: especially theory, harmony, and composition. They instilled in me the majesty and wonder of the music from the great composers of the classical era. It was life changing and that sense of wonder never left me. In fact, it is something I try to pass on to others every day.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Gosh, there are just so many moments. I guess I would say that the experience of having two career paths (music and business) made me realize how important pattern recognition is. Once I realized the predictive power of patterns in music, business and life it changed my trajectory. If you’re going to develop one skill: be a sharp observer.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was young and on the rock and roll circuit, I made a lot of mistakes and as funny as they were, It’s best I leave those stories to the imagination. But I can tell you the most important lesson I’ve learned in both music and business: Don’t make the same mistakes twice, because you’ll make enough new ones to keep you busy!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have a few exciting projects I’m working on now. First, I’m releasing my solo album, “Grand Boulevard” on April 28, 2023. I believe it showcases my compositional range as each piece is stylistically different, covering genres such as guitar rock, orchestral pop, blues, reggae, musical theatre, R&B, and world music. The songs reflect different aspects of my life from tragedies to triumphs, and I’m sure everyone can relate to the stories in some way.

I’m also focused on building my YouTube channel “Carl Baldassarre, The Professor of Classic Rock & more…” It started as a covid project inspired by my oldest son Teddy Baldassarre’s success at building the world’s largest YouTube channel on wrist watches. With his guidance, I’m building a channel that brings an edutainment approach to music for guitarists and music-lovers alike.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

It’s all been said before, but I’ll repeat a few things…

Number 1: Figure out what excites you and do that.

Number 2: Trust your gut and never give up.

Number 3: Don’t waste time.

Number 4: Take risks and go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is.

Number 5: Embrace failure and when you fail, fail beautifully — give it all you got.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the music industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Nothing will burn you out faster than working with the wrong people. Only you can determine if you’re collaborating with the right people and the right situations. It’s incumbent upon you to learn how to be a good judge of people.

It comes down to recognizing true quality and fit. The hard truth is that sometimes what was working in the past may no longer be effective. Exiting people and situations can be the toughest part of the business (and life). Don’t be afraid or hesitant to make changes no matter the history involved. Great people will help you thrive.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in The Music Industry” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Perfect your craft: constantly work to improve your skills. Try to get a little better each day, and time will take care of the rest. For me it’s important to keep practicing as well as learning something new each day. I measure success by how far I have come versus how I compare to others.
  2. Maintain discipline and focus: develop habits and routines which nourish your mind, body, and spirit. It’s incredibly hard for me to maintain balance, but I try to be diligent about it.
  3. Be prepared: The late, great concert pianist, Leon Fleischer once said at a Master Class I attended “If you want to work, be prepared.” To me this means, know your material, know your role, be alert and be on time! Professionals prepare to succeed. Arrive at a session or a gig with everything you could possibly need.
  4. Be easy to work with: If you make it a point to be considerate and a good hang, you will always be in demand. I can’t stress this enough. People like to work with energy givers, not energy takers.
  5. Give them everything you got: All of us contain multitudes as Walt Whitman once said. That means we have more than one strength that makes us special. Bring all your strengths to the world and you’ll be impossible to ignore. For example, I’m a good composer, guitarist, writer, speaker, conversationalist, problem solver and dresser! I bring all of that to everything I do.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The secret to being happy is…to practice being happy! That would be a good movement! If everybody practiced being happy every day, the world would be a better place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Design a Life That You Love.” Really think about that sentence. Which word is the most important to you? I’ve concluded it’s the word “Design”. I find that if you are the designer of your life, you’ll love what you do. I learned the hard way that if you DON’T design your life, someone else will design it for you and that is usually NOT a good thing.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’ve always admired the guitarist Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). He is such an incredible artist. Truly a modern-day impressionist as a musician and composer. I’d give anything to meet him and thank him for the inspiration. I’d love to talk about the writing process with him.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

www.carlbaldassarremusic.com

www.youtube.com/@CarlBaldassarreMusic

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much for the conversation! It was a lot of fun!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator