The Iowa City 52240 Years

John Cerreta began composing as a wee lad. Just how “wee” he doesn’t quite recall. He does recall that his attention was drawn to the music that accompanied his favorite television programs, mostly of the western and detective variety. Although not yet armed with notation skills in the language of music, he made some frustrating attempts at transcribing his favorite themes. Attempts at transcription eventually evolved into attempts to document the music within his head. Young John emblazoned the innards of a spiral notation book with oodles of dark black note-heads, no stems, no clearly defined rhythms or melodies for that matter, and that remains his style to this day. What was important was that he had found his calling. That very precious notebook is now archived at the Cerreta Historical Museum (at the bottom of a box in his bedroom closet).

As a tween and beyond, John had a voracious appetite for music. The money that began rolling in from his first job, at Mannie’s Soft­Serve, enabled John to feed his new addiction to recorded music, and he reveled in any and all types of music. The same job also enabled John to feed his new addiction to ice cream. John took piano lessons for many years. However, he hated practicing and preferred banging on the piano. In the photo to the right ​the post­-tween is captured in a rare moment, gently caressing the keys.

10 Fingers Jones

Fast forward to​ The College Years:​

John found it most convenient to attend the University of Iowa, where he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in music composition. His teachers included Richard Hervig, William Hibbard, and Peter Todd Lewis. Beyond his required studies, John took advantage of every opportunity to collaborate with other artists, creating music for dance, theater and film. He also explored music of the more popular genres of the time. To the right are pictures of EMS II, the electronic studio that became John’s home away from home.

Composer Doug Fulton and John Cerreta are pictured in a live performance electro-­acoustic music.

For two consecutive years he submitted recordings of original songs to a regional battle of the bands competition. He was a finalist both years, and as such, he was required to perform his songs live with his band. He had no band, but was fortunate to have friends who could back him up for a couple of live performances. Guitarist Rob Gal, a friend, helped organize the the ensemble. A kinship between bandmates was born out of the competition performance and a decision was made to continue as the band Whambo Jamboree, performing mostly original works by Gal and Cerreta.

The Atlanta Years:

John moved to Atlanta Georgia in the late 1980s. He continued writing and performing in/with bands with Rob Gal, who had moved to Atlanta a few years prior and established his own Snack ‘n’ Shack recording studio. Bands included The Coolies, Anne Richmond Boston, 6X, and Paul Melancon. Anne Boston introduced John to the C​enter for Puppetry Arts,​ with whom he’s had a long and ongoing relationship, collaborating with the Center’s Artistic Director, Jon Ludwig.

In the mid-­nineties John was a partner in a​n “alternative” commercial music production company​ SuperModel Music Agency,​ with Rob Gal, Michael Lorant and Josh Joplin.

John also partnered with J​oey Bargsten,​ Howard Wershil, and S​cott Burland​ in one of the many incarnations of the experimental electro-acoustic ensemble, PHOBIA NOVA (TM).

September 1997 ­ In conjunction with The Arts Festival Atlanta, PHOBIA NOVA (TM) was the curator of Sound Alley, a multicultural and panstylistic electroacoustic installation, where sets of stereo speakers were hung from the windows up and down an alley in downtown Atlanta, Four nationally recognized composers (Eric Malone, Michael Farley, Dick Robinson, and John Cerreta) were commissioned to write music specifically for the installation