Antonio Underwood has never hesitated to take the road less traveled, which led him to be one of the most inspirational people in the music world. While he is mainly known as an African-American music enthusiast who enjoys producing quality music and teaching simultaneously, not many know of his struggles, passions, and the ‘tuba’ story.
Antonio is a Yale School of Music graduate and Fulbright Alumni Scholar running an almost 30-year-old label, Tone East Music LLC. It is a trademark multi-faceted music and education production company. The label has more than forty songs with Pop Score Awards on Jango Radio streaming worldwide. As a musician, Antonio’s accomplishments are endless. He received the Grammy Award with the McCoy Tyner All-Star Big Band and was also unanimously nominated as a Yale School of Music delegate for 2022-2024.
A highly talented musician and composer, Antonio has won various accolades and awards over the past 30 years and says he has been lucky to go to great schools and universities with fantastic teaching and mentors. Remembering their efforts, he said, “Thanks to all the people that have given advice, developed our versatile skills, and given us hope along the way. Many have passed along. Thank you to the late Dr. Mary Perry Smith, of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, in Oakland, California, and Norman Dale Baker for their support in getting to film school.”
While many thought that with the right mentorship and skills, Antonio would not risk playing and composing music with the Tuba as it was not very popular— he proved them wrong.
When inquired about the significant milestone achieved in his music career, Antonio smiled and said, “The tuba story… and the process that I had to create and go through to produce it and even hear it that way. Many just hear the trumpet and saxophone. What? Tuba? You have to be crazy! The blessed opportunities as a young person in New York City, finding things out, and spending time with the older artists who took me in and encouraged my individuality. These were the NYC ‘cats’ who lived and died for the music.”
Antonio performed as a sideman for luminaries in Jazz, Classical, Theater, and many other popular genres for a long time. Still, he always had an inner desire to feature the sound of the tuba as a solo instrument. Many of his high school musical classmates chose to pursue other, more popular music genres like R&B and Hip Hop, but Antonio loved the sound of tuba and wanted to record it. He attained a degree in Classical Music with a major in Tuba from Yale University. While still in university, he started his production label and created one-of-a-kind tuba solo records.
Today, Antonio’s excellence as a tuba expert and Jazz enthusiast distinguishes Tone East Music LLC from any other independent music label in the country. His efforts to promote jazz music amongst today’s youth through his collaborative initiatives in Serbia and Bosnia and raising funds for jazz workshop activities in the region are also noteworthy. Antonio says there is a lot in the pipeline as he is gearing up to take Jazz across the world and produce more music, and we cannot wait to see what he will bring next.