Jazz pianist and composer Tuffus Zimbabwe will play a concert next Sunday, at Roxbury’s historic Highland Park. Zimbabwe, who is a Roxbury native and graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is currently the keyboardist for the Saturday Night Live Band.
The concert on August 7, will feature Zimbabwe and his group, as well as special guest vocalist Danny McClean. This free event is a part of Berklee’s Summer in the City concert series, which promotes the preservation of cultural events through music.
Zimbabwe began playing music at the age of 5 and started exploring gospel music at a Roxbury church when he was 12. He then began to study jazz through Berklee’s City Music Network, which offered him a full scholarship to attend the college as a member of the class of 2005. He has since taught music through the program as well as at the Piano School of New York City and various youth centers. Besides his gig on SNL, Zimbabwe plays concerts around the United States with his band.
★ Celebrity connections, HEC exclusive: Spotted at the Boston Harbor Hotel on the morning of March 15; Venus Williams and Apollo Anton Ohno, in town for a charity event. Spotted at the TD Banknorth Boston Garden, Matt Damon taking in the Lady Gaga concert.
★ Yale paper gets told off by James Franco after publishing an article about his poor performance as host of the Oscars.
★ Matt Damon criticizes President Obama, while his buddy, Ben Affleck is busy, first teaming up with Cindy McCain, before appearing at the House Foreign Affairs committee hearing.
★ Berklee alum and successful movie score composer of films like The Polar Express and Forrest Gump returns to Boston to conduct Back to the Future concert.
★ NECN’s “TV Diner” co-host, Billy Costa, appears at Cambridgeside Galleria’s 20th Anniversary Cupcake Celebration on October 3.
★ Medford resident, Frank Imbergamo, was featured on ‘Emeril Live!’ for his winning meatball recipe.
★ Casey Affleck nearly goes bankrupt making movie about Joaquin Phoenix.
★ The Social Network becomes third made in Mass. flick (after The Town and Shutter Island) to top U.S. box-office. The film creates questions about Facebook co-founder from Harvard. Turns out, Harvard grad Natalie Portman helped with research on movie.
★ Michael Cunningham (below), author of The Hours, the book which the movie was based on, signs autographs at the Boston Public Library on October 6.
★ The Improper Bostonian features Brittany Curran (above), featured previously here on Hollywood East Connection!
★ Queen Latifah accepts an award from the Boston Women’s Fund at event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
★ Insiders report that Tom Cruise completely lost his cool on the set of Knight and Day.
★ “Glee” star Jane Lynch marries her girlfriend in Sunderland, MA over Memorial Day weekend.
Actor/Singer Bob Tella has been entertaining New England audiences ever since he was in high school. While still studying at Berklee College of Music, he performed with the local Touch of Broadway singers, performing at business functions, restaurants, and holiday events throughout the Bay State.
He has appeared in several independent and feature films, including the Academy Award winning Mystic River, The Proposal, and Mall Cop. Tella has guest starred with the Saugus Players, won Best Musical Direction for Stop the World I Want To Get Off for the EMACT Festival, and played dual roles in Grease as both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine. He can also be seen as Colonel William Kabrich in the PBS special, The Living Weapon. He is currently a background actor in The Company Men, which is filming now, in and around Boston.
HEC: How did you get started in your career as a performing artist?
I was always singing as a kid so I knew that I wanted to perform. It felt like a natural thing for me to do. I always thought everyone could sing but in junior high school, where I did my first play, Dr. Doolittle, I found out that singing was something that I could do and other people had a hard time doing.
HEC: How has your degree from Berklee helped you?
Berklee College of Music has taught me discipline. The teachers that I had were tough but without them, I wouldn’t have been hard on myself to always reach for more. My voice teacher at Berklee with whom I still study, Mili Bermejo, never lets me become lazy where I am vocally. She always tells me to never be complacent about it. Always strive to get better. Bring the acting into the singing. Don’t get a big head and think “Okay, I don’t need lessons anymore because I’m great!” Always keep learning. So that’s how I live my life and career.
HEC: What has it been like as an extra on The Company Men?
It was fun. There were around 30 background actors that got called and we all got to participate in the scenes. The assistant director sets you up on where to stand and what to do. My friend Polly and I got to be in the shot with Ben Affleck. We were told to react to him in a certain way. People think you don’t have to act as an extra but you do. That’s why I prefer to be called a background actor because you still have to be knowledgeable and know your craft. People can always tell when you’re just standing there like a statue in the scene with nothing going on inside your head.
HEC: What are the best/worst parts of your job as a background actor?
The worst part of the job is the sitting around for long hours. You have to be there at an early call time and sometimes they don’t need to use you right away. You may have to just sit there for four hours or more. Sometimes, if they have to set up the scene for a different angle, you have to go back to the holding area and just sit and wait. Always bring something to do. Read, knit, play cards, use a laptop; it helps pass the time. The best part of this job is working with great actors and directors. You can see them work at their craft once you are on the set. It’s like going to school: you watch and learn. On my last one, The Company Man, there were Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones. All of these Oscar winning actors. Kevin Costner had finished his shooting because he was done with his scenes. Watching them work was priceless. When we all had lunch, you would look over your shoulder and you see Ben Affleck and Chris Cooper or Clint Eastwood sitting there eating along with everyone else. That’s cool.
HEC: Any advice for new graduates (perhaps something that you wish someone had told you before you got started)?
It seems cliché but really, you need to keep the balance in your life. This is a small part of it. Enjoy your family and friends and don’t let striving for success consume you. Also, be professional on the set. I’ve seen quite a few people misbehave in one manner or another. They were asked to leave the set and the casting office was told to never send over those actors again. People will remember.
HEC: Most memorable job experience thus far (any job you have had in film)?
There were two memorable experiences and they both involved Clint Eastwood during the filming of Mystic River. I arrived for the shoot early, put on my state trooper uniform and was looking for the catering truck for breakfast. When I found it, Clint Eastwood was standing there drinking his coffee. I didn’t want to disturb him so I started to go back when he called me over and said “Oh, here is one of my police officers. Good Morning.” I spoke with him briefly before he left to get his morning started. Most of the actors keep to themselves but he took the time to speak to me and that made me feel great for the rest of the day.
The other memorable experience was also during the filming of Mystic River. Clint Eastwood doesn’t say action or cut as most directors say when he or she wants to begin and end the scene. He spoke very quietly and said “go” or “okay” when he wanted the actor or actors to start. When he wanted them to stop he would say something like “okay, that’s good”. I didn’t know why at the time he did that but sometime later he explained on “Inside the Actors Studio” that when he was in the position of being an actor, when the director would shout “action” or “cut”, it would jar him and the other actors. He now speaks to them in his own manner so the actor will be comfortable. That’s why he is so well respected. You don’t have to throw a tantrum on the set to get respect. He’s a very considerate director and person.
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