Video game industry icon and Cathedral graduate speaks to students at Pope Francis

Story and photos by Carolee McGrath

Tommy Tallerico 1

CHICOPEE – Never give up on your dream and don’t take no for an answer.

That was the message Tommy Tallarico gave to students at Pope Francis High School in Chicopee, Monday, May 15. Tallarico, one of the most successful video game composers, helped changed the industry, writing music for video games for the last 27 years.

Tallarico brought his widely acclaimed show, Video Games Live, an audio and video concert celebrating video games and symphonic music, to Symphony Hall in Springfield Saturday evening, May 13.

Tommy Tallarico

“I never played in Springfield, Massachusetts. Finally that came together Saturday night,” said Tallarico, a 1986 graduate of Cathedral High School. “To me, to play on that stage was a dream come true.”

Tallarico is credited with changing the video game sounds from bleeps to sophisticated scores. Close to 1,700 people attended the concert, many of whom had never been to the symphony before. The show featured music from the most popular video games, performed by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and chorus. The seats were filled with young people who were captivated by the lights, the music and the video presentation. Tallarico, who played the electric guitar during the show, said that’s the goal of Video Games Live.

“I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant video games have become. My other goal was I wanted to help usher in a whole new generation of young people, to appreciate the arts and symphonic music,” Tallarico said.

At Pope Francis High School, he was focused on inspiring the young students. He explained how he worked hard to achieve his dream, leaving Springfield when he was 21 years old and heading out west with three T-shirts, no job and no place to live. He said he slept under a pier on the beach, but never lost focus.

“I used to cry every night under that pier. But I wanted that dream so much, I wasn’t going to take no for answer,” he told the students.

He also explained how when he came up with the concept for Video Games Live, people called him crazy.

“They said people who go to a symphony don’t play video games and people who play video games don’t go to the symphony. So no one will go to your stupid show,” he said.

He has since performed more than 450 shows in 42 countries.

“I wanted to make a statement on how important this music was,” said Tallarico who has won more than 50 industry awards.

He also kept the students laughing, telling them how he was kicked out of class a time or two. Leslie Perreault, a history teacher at Pope Francis, taught Tallarico when she was a new teacher in the early 1980s.

“I think it’s phenomenal to have him come back after all these years. He’s done tremendously well and he’s an inspiration to all of these kids,” said Perreault.

Tommy Tallerico 3

Many students asked him questions about his favorite video games. Even the students who don’t play video games left the talk motivated by what they heard.

“I thought it was cool. I liked his story of coming from nothing and then being successful as he is,” said Emily Boutin, a freshman at Pope Francis High School.

“I also like how he still wanted to come home and talk to everyone in his hometown. A lot of successful people forget their roots,” Boutin added.

Tallarico said he can’t wait to come back to Springfield.

“Over the last 13 years of touring the show, we are introducing young people to the symphony. At the show we had a couple thousand young people clapping for the Springfield Symphony and video games and symphonic music. When has that happened in the history of music?”

Tallarico grew up in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield. He belonged to St. Catherine of Siena Parish and attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School.

A video version of this story will be featured on an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” which airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.