Beats and balances
“I experience music in colors and shapes. I see it happening” he said. Izzo, who is a double major in accounting and music, possesses a rare ability known as synesthesia, and what he sees depends on the music genre. “Electronic music evokes wires and jagged colors while classical music comes through as warmer colors with more complex layering,” he says.
He recalls listening to Gloria Estefan’s ‘Turn the Beat Around’ as a kid. “Everyone else just listened and thought it was a cool song. I saw all the colors and shapes, and that song still has a special meaning to me.”
At the time, he didn’t realize that most people didn’t share his gift, and it wasn’t until he came to Furman that he realized the value of his unique talent.
“I was talking with my Furman roommate, and he seemed really surprised that I literally saw music “I looked at him and said, ‘You don’t?’” That’s when he started doing some research and found out that there is a name for it—synesthesia, the fusing of senses that usually operate separately. And it has been a valuable element of Izzo’s development as a musician. But sound and color aren’t the only fusions he has achieved.
His mother was once a professional dancer and his father aspired to play Major League baseball, but they pushed their interests to the background in order to secure more stable careers. But neither parent totally abandoned their passion.
When it was time for college, Izzo followed suit, deciding to major in both music and accounting—one to fulfill his passion and the other to secure a career. “My parents weren’t comfortable with me just majoring in music . . . partially because I have an uncle who is a ‘starving musician,'” he says.
Having a degree in accounting as well as music is a strategic move when it comes to the marketplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 452,000 new positions for accountants and auditors will be created by 2020. It is a career that holds up even if the economy turns sour.
And when it comes to the liberal arts, Forbes magazine recently reported that music, drama, philosophy, and other majors, are in demand at software companies in U.S. technology hubs such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, and Austin. The tech war for talent has moved to non-technical jobs, particularly sales and marketing.
“The Business and Accounting Department has many non-business and non-economics students, and the accounting program has liberal arts majors, particularly in the arts, political science and pre-medical, who want to learn something about accounting they can use in their fields,” said Dr. Marion McHugh, associate professor of business and accounting.
That combination of technical and liberal arts classes is becoming a must for an educated workforce, said Paula Krebs, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Liberal arts students need to take some science and technical classes while STEM majors should consider taking philosophy, history, English or arts classes, she said. Many of the technology-related jobs don’t require huge amounts of technical expertise, but they do require the employee understand and not fear the technology.
Izzo, a New York native, moved to Fort Mill when he was four years old and has been a Sandlapper since. However, attending Furman University wasn’t something he planned, he said.
“When I was looking for schools, I was way late,” he said. “I’m the oldest kid. I didn’t know what to do and neither did my parents. I barely hit the late deadlines.”
A friend of his, also a percussionist, planned to attend Furman and suggested he apply because of the strong music program. Izzo was also looking for a rigorous accounting program because he planned to double major. He applied but expected to attend the University of South Carolina because of the cost differential, he said.
When visiting schools, “I really liked Furman. Everything worked. I went to USC and it was the opposite.” With financial support from the Music Department and academic scholarships, he is now a proud Paladin.
Izzo plays marimba in Furman’s Marching Band, The Paladin Regiment. This year, he’s enjoying a blast from the past since Estefan’s “Turn the Beat Around” is part of the band’s 2015 repertoire.
His plans for the future are big. Once he graduates from Furman in May, he will pursue a graduate degree in accounting, probably at Wake Forest University or the University of South Carolina, with the goal to become CPA in the tax field.
“When I land that job, I can go to graduate school in music at night,” he said.
Music is a tough career field. “The jobs are out there, but it’s inconsistent,” he said. “For a musician to really survive, they have to be 100 percent. If you’re 99 percent, you’re behind someone else. Music is a lot of luck. If you don’t win the lottery, something to fall back on is comforting.”