It’s Saturday evening and you’re tuned in to WRUW, FM91.1. You’re listening to the smooth voice of Tony Marotta broadcasting his Radio Italia show, a program featuring an incredible variety of Italian music: from ageless Neapolitan classics to Italian opera to the sounds of modern rock and pop. Since May 2008, Tony has dominated the Saturday evening 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. timeslot on the station with one single goal – to bring Italian music to the masses. Whether through his own private, extensive Italian music collection or his annual broadcast from the Feast of the Assumption in Cleveland’s Little Italy or his weekly Radio Italia show, Tony wants to give people the opportunity to hear Italian artists, past and present.
Tony’s parents hailed from the southern region of Molise in Italy and his Italian roots hold strong today. He beams with pride of his heritage and is passionate about Italian music. “I have always felt it was my responsibility to make others aware of the vast amount and incredible variety of artists and styles that exist throughout the Italian music landscape. Pick any musical style and it exists in the Italian peninsula in abundant quantities. The trouble is that precious few of these wonderful melodies see the light of day in America. My job, therefore, is education and enlightenment. I hope to serve as the conduit between the artist, who seeks exposure, and the consumers, who bring their voracious musical appetites!” And, that he does! Not only does Tony use the radio to share the art of music with his audience, but he takes time each month to contribute a music article to La Gazzetta Italiana.
His specialty is finding new-to-the-scene musicians and bands that aren’t well-known to the world yet. How does he find these up-and-coming musicians to write about? “I stick my nose into any online publications and websites and Facebook, every day, until I stumble upon that gold nugget.” He claims that being persistent and nosy does the trick and once the artist realizes that Tony is not someone playing a trick on them, but someone who is genuinely interested in their music, the story takes life.
Most of the artists Tony interviews for radio and print aren’t attached to a label yet and he “just wants to give them as much exposure as possible” to help with their musical journey. When talking with Tony, one is quick to see the passion he has for Italian music. “I found this Sicilian band, Marilu, on a website and immediately knew they were something special. Between my bad Italian and the lead singer’s not-so-good English, we were able to meet via Skype. We maintained online communications and recently I had heard they were coming to NYC to play a show. I contacted them again and asked them to come to Cleveland. They told me ‘Tony, if you find us gigs, we will play!’” “So, I did! In four or five days, I found them a few gigs around town, one being at Dante’s CODA in Tremont. They rocked every venue and I was so proud to have been a part of that.”
It’s an understatement to say that Tony Marotta plays a significant role in the exposure of Italian music to the local area. Every week on the radio, every article he writes, every conversation he has about music – all play a huge role in sharing the art of Italian music. “Italian music has a stigma that it’s only Sinatra. But it can get your toes tapping, it’s rockabilly, indie, high energy. The stories that these people have are amazing.” “I do it because I enjoy it. It’s a blast!”