Tyler Korponai – Online Editor
It is raining heavily at night in Middletown, Connecticut, and musicians rush to get inside the Mac 650 Art Gallery and Artist Co-Op to keep dry their amplifiers and instruments. Among them is Sean Connelly, a Southern student and music major. He plays drums for Mandala, a Connecticut grown band hitting their stride over the past year.
Among the other musicians, Connelly with a few select pieces of his drum kit quickly gets inside. But the rain, all things considered, is hardly a set back for Connelly and his ensemble.
If anything, as a gigging musician, Connelly has faced much more severe trials during his career.
Outside and away from the sounds of the other performing acts, Connelly and his lead guitarist, Chris Desiderio, explain how getting out to play their music has challenged them in the past. In particular, they remember breaking down in New York City.
Taking the lead Desiderio boldly said, “It’s a landmark in my life as a terrible day.”
Getting into Brooklyn, the band’s car with all their gear died a few blocks away from the venue after an axle broke. After pushing the car to the side of the road they carried all of their equipment to the venue and still played the show. Well into the early hours of the morning afterwards, the band got towed by AAA and drove back to Connecticut in Connelly’s car. Upon reaching Connelly’s hometown of Cheshire, his car also breakdown, and yet Connelly still made it to his job at seven in the morning.
It’s just another challenge of the job.
“Half your day is going to class and spent doing homework,” said Connelly, “and the other half of your day is however hard you want to work at booking a show and thinking about the future. Communication is a huge factor. So we try and do the best as possible. When it comes to making a record you have to come together. If we weren’t in school it’d be a completely different story. I’d be practicing every single day.”
Morgan Fasanelli, the lead vocalist of Mandala, agrees with Connelly about the levels of dedication required to make their passion come to life.
Fasanelli said, “We’ve learned that it takes a lot of planning. Right now in the beginning of February we’re planning for April and May and June already. And sometimes that sucks because last minute shows come up and we’ll already be booked. The biggest interference is work.”
Nevertheless, it’s worth it for Connelly.
Connelly said, “Being an active drummer, I love it. It’s very hard. But I just try and work with it the best that I can. Traveling is amazing. Philly is definitely one of the furthest places I’ve gone. I played a show in Delaware. I’ve played in DC before. That was with Mandala. I have played in New York City and upstate. Some shows in Vermont. We try and hit every corner of the east coast. It’s great. I never really traveled my whole life.”
Middletown is just another stop in the musical journey for Connelly and Mandala. Now inside and getting warmed up among the many prints and paintings decorating the walls, Connelly looks primed to play. Seated behind the drum kit you can imagine what’s going through his head and why the challenges are overwhelmed by the irreplaceable experiences of performance.
Connelly said, “My favorite part about playing a show are the moments before. The last hour before you go on is always interesting. I love being in the moment. Not remembering anything and just being in the zone. All in your head and you’re thinking about the music and sometimes it’s all instinctual.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai