Tallarico performing with Video Games Live in 2016
|Birth name||Tommy Tallarico|
February 18, 1968|
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Genres||Video game music, symphonic, rock|
|Occupation(s)||Composer, musician, producer, sound designer|
|Instruments||Electric guitar, piano, keyboard|
Tommy Tallarico (born February 18, 1968) is an American video game music composer, musician, sound designer, television personality and live show creative director and producer. He has worked on over 300 video game titles since the 1990s and received numerous awards for his contribution to the video game industry. He is the creator of the concert series Video Games Live (VGL), a multi-award-winning symphony orchestra that has played video game music across the world since 2002. He also co-hosted the television shows Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run from 1997 until 2006. VGL and Tallarico hold several Guinness World Records.
Tallarico was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on February 18, 1968. He spent much of his youth around music. His parents took him to see Springfield Symphony when he was 9 years old. He taught himself to play piano and guitar, and at the age of ten, Tallarico cites John Williams's score for Star Wars and Bill Conti's Rocky score as inspirations, and becoming "hooked" on classical music. Tallarico was also inspired by his cousin, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Tallarico would attend his cousin’s concerts as a kid and grew a desire to become a musical performer.
Tallarico was introduced to video games as a child. He and his father played Asteroids and Space Invaders. Tallarico would take his father's tape recorder to the arcade to record the songs. He would splice the tape into background music, and then perform guitar over the result for his neighborhood friends.
Tallarico attended Cathedral High School, and later Western New England University for a year. However at 21, Tallarico went to California to try and obtain a job in the video game industry. While homeless and living under a pier, Tallarico took a job as a keyboard salesman at the Guitar Center in Santa Ana, California. On his first day, Tallarico caught the eye of an employee of the new video game company, Virgin Mastertronic, because he was wearing a TurboGrafx T-shirt. Tallarico was then given a job with Virgin to be their first play-tester.
While play-testing, Tallarico often petitioned his bosses to let him create video game music. Since he had never produced video game music before, Tallarico offered to write the music for free in his spare time. Tallarico's first musical project at Virgin Interactive was for the Nintendo Game Boy version of Prince of Persia. The resulting music, a "plodding, ominous synth" as a soundtrack, impressed Virgin enough that they let him continue to make music, making him head of the audio division six months later. Given the constraints on video game cartridges, Tallarico focused on making catchy—but short—MIDI melodies that could be looped repeatedly. "The main focus of writing video game music back then was it had to be simple and have a great melody," Tallarico said. Tallarico advocated for more space on cartridges being devoted to audio, and became an early pioneer in bringing real sampled sounds of instruments into video games. 
Tallarico worked on a number of other titles while at Virgin Interactive, including The Terminator, Aladdin, Cool Spot, The 7th Guest and Global Gladiators. Several games he worked on received awards for their music. Tallarico was the first composer to commercially release album compilations of video game music around the world. Released by Capitol Records and titled Virgin Games Greatest Hits, the first volume appeared in 1994, and the second volume was released in 1996.
Tallarico continued working with Virgin Interactive as head of music and video division until 1994, when he went on to found Tommy Tallarico Studios. His friend David Perry formed Shiny Entertainment at the same time, and the two new studios worked together to create classics such as Earthworm Jim and MDK. His studio has been involved in several games since, including Spider-Man, Time Crisis, Sonic and the Black Knight, Tomorrow Never Dies, Madden NFL '95, and Metroid Prime, which was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Sound.
Tallarico wrote a complete orchestral score for Advent Rising performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which won Best Original Score from IGN.com, Mania Music, and Play Magazine. The score was termed by Gamespot as "one of the best-produced musical scores ever put into a game".
Tallarico announced in May 2018 that he plans to launch a new Intellivision console system. He purchased a stake in Intellivision Productions from the estate of former owner and founder Keith Robinson. He relaunched the company as Intellivision Entertainment, serving as president.
In 1995, Victor Lucas—who runs the Electric Playground website—interviewed Tallarico at E3. The two built a rapport that enabled Lucas to ask Tallarico to work with him on a show. In 1997, Tallarico and Lucas wrote, produced, and co-hosted Electric Playground TV, which provided new, previews, and reviews on video games. Tallarico played the irreverent, raunchy funny man to Lucas’s straight man. The program went on to win the 2001 Telly Award for Best Entertainment Cable Program. In 2002, the reviews section of Electric Playground—Reviews on the Run—was spun-off into its own program, which Tallarico and Lucas hosted as well. In the U.S., Reviews on the Run was broadcast on G4 TV as Judgment Day. The Electric Playground remains the longest-running video game television show in history.
In 2006, as Tallarico spent more time with his new project, Video Games Live, he started to spend less time on the show, missing almost all of 2007 and 2008. In 2009, Scott Jones took over his spot as full-time co-host with Victor Lucas.
In 2002, Tallarico formed Mystical Stone Entertainment, which concomitantly formed Video Games Live, a symphony orchestra that plays music from video games, with Tallarico hosting and playing guitar. The goal of VGL is to bring video game music into the mainstream as a legitimate art form. Tallarico also creates the visuals—scenes from video games, as well as lights and lasers—that are played in sync with the music.
The New York Times has noted that Tallarico "puts on a captivating, proudly bombastic show. But that demonstration of community on the part of the audience was almost as impressive as anything on the stage." Before each concert, Tallarico holds a small festival, featuring video game set-ups, meet-and-greets, and costume contests. VGL premiered at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to an audience of 11,000 in 2005. Since then, the show has performed for millions of people across the globe, playing in 42 countries on 5 continents, including in the Middle East, China, South Korea, Japan, Europe, South America and Australia. In 2015, he performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with more than 200 musicians, including the Colorado Symphony and Choir. In 2016 he performed 2 shows at the Bird's Nest National Olympic Stadium in Beijing to over 30,000 people. Tallarico chooses different songs for each show, based upon the area's favorite game series and by asking fans at future venues what songs they would like to hear. Over the past decade, VGL has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the National Taiwan Symphony, the Spanish National Orchestra, and the Polish National Orchestra, among others.
In 2010, PBS hosted the symphony as a National TV Special that appeared in 90 million households in the United States; it was also broadcast multiple times on Sky Arts in the United Kingdom and other European countries. VGL has been awarded two Guinness World Records: one for the most videogame concerts performed (357 at the time), and another for largest audience to ever view a video game music concert live (752,000 people in Beijing, China in 2015). The symphony has spawned several imitators. VGL was on the cover of Symphony Magazine in 2014. It regularly performs at gaming events, such as E3, Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, the Game Developers Conference, Gen Con, San Diego Comic Con, and others.
Tallarico has produced seven VGL albums. The first album, Video Games Live Volume 1, debuted at No. 10 on Billboard Top 10 for Classical Music Crossovers, and was named 2008 Best Video Game Soundtrack for both IGN and G.A.N.G. The second volume, Level 2, also sold as a Blu-Ray DVD concert, debuted at No. 8 on the same Billboard list. However, Tallarico received lukewarm support from the recording industry for the albums. He noted, "they don't believe in the culturally artistic significance of video game music and they don't believe that people are interested in listening after the game is turned off." In response, Tallarico crowdsourced the third album Level 3 on Kickstarter. The project beat its goal and raised $285,081 for the album. Since then, Video Games Live has brought out two further albums, Level 4 and Level 5, through Kickstarter.
In 2014, Tallarico and electronic dance music artist BT began working on Electronic Opus. As with Video Games Live, Electronic Opus presents EDM music alongside a symphony orchestra. They used Kickstarter to fund an album, raising over $250,000. The show opened at the Miami Winter Music Conference in 2015.
In 2016, Tallarico co-produced the Capcom Live world tour with Shota Nakama.
Besides video games and music, Tallarico is an avid baseball and Spider-Man fan, and collects balsamic vinegar. He is also a vegan and has a dog named Houdini. His father and brother currently work for him. According to the LA Times, his house in "San Juan Capistrano looks as if a 12-year-old with a huge bank account went wild", including a life-size Indiana Jones, several Star Wars characters and a statue of Merlin.
Tallarico became increasingly interested in promoting video game music appreciation. He and others petitioned the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS/GRAMMYs) to consider video games for Grammy Awards. In 2000, the Grammy’s agreed, changing the instrumental soundtrack category to "Best Instrumental Composition Written for Motion Pictures, Television or Other Visual Media," so that video games could be considered as well. Tallarico pushed video game music writers to join NARAS board of governors to provide more legitimacy to the field and help video games receive the award.
In 2002, Tallarico founded the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), a non-profit to recognize video game music and audio. Every year, members of the video game industry vote on their favorite audio of the year, as well as fund scholarships for students pursuing audio design and lifetime achievement awards. The G.A.N.G. awards have become increasingly large and organized, with the 2016 featuring the Videri String Quartet playing video game themes. Tallarico remains on the Board of Directors. Tallarico was elected to the Board of Governors for NARAS/GRAMMYs in 2005. Tallarico is an advisory board emeritus for the Game Developers Conference, and received the Ambassador Award for his work with G.A.N.G. and Video Games Live. He is a nominating peer leader for the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.
In 2007, Tallarico's charitable works were recognized by the Hollywood Arts Organization when they chose him as the first honoree and recipient of their Dream Award. In 2012, Tallarico received G.A.N.G.’s Lifetime Achievement Award. G.A.N.G. president, Paul Lipson, said that he "has literally helped hundreds of people get into the video game industry and realize their dreams. There has never been a more deserving person for this award." In 2013, he gave a TED Talk entitled "Video Games – Art in Disguise."
- Tommy Tallarico - Virgin Games Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (1994)
- Tommy Tallarico - Games Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1996)
- Tommy Tallarico - MDK Original Game Soundtrack (1997)
- Tommy Tallarico - Tomorrow Never Dies (Video Game Original Soundtrack) (2000)
- Tommy Tallarico - Advent Rising (Music from the Video Game) (2005)
- Tommy Tallarico - Earthworm Jim Anthology (2006)
- Video Games Live - Level 1 (2008)
- Video Games Live - Level 2 (2010)
- Tommy Tallarico - Treasures of the Deep (Original Video Game Soundtrack) (2014)
- Tommy Tallarico - Wild 9 Soundtrack (2014)
- Video Games Live - Level 3 (2014)
- Video Games Live - Through Time and Space: Chrono Piano Album (2015)
- Video Games Live - Level 4 (2015)
- Video Games Live - Zelda Majora's Mask Piano Album (2016)
- Video Games Live - Level 5 (2016)
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Tommy is a cousin of rock star legend Steven Tyler (nee Tallarico)...
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