August 26, 2016

Acclaimed music industry veterans to visit campus

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two acclaimed producers, composers and artists, including Grammy Award-winning and Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus Darryl Phinnessee, will perform and share their thoughts on the music industry next week. 

Phinnessee, a 1979 SIU Carbondale graduate in music voice and education, will participate in a discussion, “Find Your Voice,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Sept. 2, in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts’ Soundstage, Room 1116. 

With Phinnessee will be Dorian Holley, the vocal director for the late Michael Jackson’s final tour, “This Is It.” Among his credits, Holley has been associate music director and vocal coach for “American Idol,” and a featured soloist for performers including Queen Latifah, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart. He was the lead singer in “The Rickey Minor Band” during the last three years of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to attend the presentation featuring Darryl Phinnessee and Dorian Holley at 1 p.m., Sept. 2, in the Mass Communication and Media Arts’ Soundstage, Room 1116. For more information, contact S. Todd Herreman, senior lecturer, Radio, Television, and Digital Media, by email at

S. Todd Herreman, a senior lecturer in Radio, Television, and Digital Media, who met Phinnessee in 1992 while working with Jackson ahead of the singer’s “Dangerous” tour, will serve as moderator. 

The event is open to the public. Admission is free. 

The session will include live a capella vocal performances by Phinnessee and a live vocal to tracked music performance by Holley, which Herreman said he plans to record for use in class. The performance will “truly highlight their singing,” he said. 

“It’s pretty electrifying when you see really good singers knock something out like that,” Herreman said. Herreman came to SIU Carbondale in 2004 after 20 years in the music industry, primarily in Los Angeles, Calif., where he worked as a songwriter, composer, engineer and session musician.  Herreman teaches audio engineering, producing and music business at SIU Carbondale. 

Phinnessee earned a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance with Clare Fischer’s “2+2+” for the album, “Freefall.” He also received an Emmy nomination for writing the theme to the TV show, “Frasier.” Phinnessee, who toured with Michael Jackson as vocal director and featured vocalist, has produced, composed and performed for theater, film and television, including Jackson’s “This Is It,” and the “Dancing With the Stars” television show. He has worked with artists including Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, The Black Crows, Lionel Ritchie, the late James Brown and the late Whitney Houston. 

One reason for Phinnessee’s visit over Labor Day Weekend was the planned reunion of the late 1970s Carbondale-based band, “Real to Real.” Reunion plans fell through, but Phinnessee and Holley will share their experiences and perspectives of the music industry. 

“I’m sure the students, given (Phinnessee’s) history, would like to hear about his career path and maybe get some insight about current opportunities in the music business,” Herreman said. 

Phinnessee, who is from East St. Louis, said his topic will be “Finding Your Voice,” and Holley’s topic will be “Performing and Working: The Music Business.” “Of course, there are overlapping themes and we will be instigating interaction and open it up to questions,” Phinnessee said. 

“I’m always happy to return to Carbondale as I have such fond memories of my college days there,” he said. “The discipline of studying and performing classical music created a unique and solid foundation. I had several excellent professors.” 

Holley said he is excited about visiting campus after hearing Phinnessee’s stories of his time at SIU Carbondale. It is also fitting that Herreman, whom Holley has known nearly three decades, works at the university, Holley said. 

The “Real To Real” band, comprised of students, including James Wall, now a senior lecturer in the Radio, Television, and Digital Media program, played live weekly over a period of about three years, Phinnessee said. Playing in the band, along with traveling to Europe performing solo with the SIU Chorale, was a “phenomenal adventure musically and a study in business as well,” he said. 

“These experiences and others made for a wonderfully eclectic mix, creating a wealth of joy and integrity which has most certainly influenced my professional artistic life,” he said. 

Wall, a bass player in the nine-member “Tower of Power”-style band, said the group’s influences included “Earth, Wind and Fire” and James Brown. Phinnessee, who was one of two singers in the group, was the “consummate singer and perfectionist, musically, even as a student.” 

“He always wanted the best out of everyone, which is admirable,” Wall said. 

Having Phinnessee and Holley on campus to discuss their careers and provide insight to the music and media industry is an “incredible opportunity,” Wall said. Their career paths toward success should encourage students to not give up, he said. 

“Anything is possible; if you have a dream, follow it,” Wall said. 

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, Department of Radio, Television, Digital Media, Global Media Research Center and the School of Music, and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities are sponsors. 

Darryl Phinnessee

Darryl Phinnessee

Dorian Holley

Dorian Holley