Alumni Spotlight: JB Baretsky ’10
Music of the Heart: One Alumnus’ Journey from the Classroom to the Stage
by Valerie Esposito
Two years ago, JB Baretsky ’10 was a recent graduate from the Long Island Campus of St. Joseph’s College, a school he chose for its small class sizes and close proximity to his hometown of Commack. Since then, Mr. Baretsky – a singer, piano, keyboard and harmonica player – has become a rising star in the local music scene, earning recognition and positive reviews from fans and critics alike.
For Mr. Baretsky, who earned a B.A. in Speech, music has been a hobby since he started performing for people when he was 5 years old. As he grew older, he chose to pursue interests that he felt other kids his age were pursuing, such as sports, and it was not until he arrived at SJC that he found a way to transform his musical hobbies into a way of life.
“I enjoyed being a part of the theater group and jazz club at SJC,” Mr. Baretsky said. “S. Grace [Rowland, Ph.D., director of the Clare Rose Playhouse on SJC’s Long Island Campus] helped me start performing again and Professor Piekut [Paul] helped me develop my skills in jazz band, concert band and orchestra.”
SJC was not only a place to fine-tune his musical talents, it was also the place that helped Mr. Baretsky form connections with others who shared his passion for music. When he met Tom Sheridan ’12 and Sommer O’Malley they formed a trio and began performing together, even going on to win the SJC talent show two years in a row.
After suffering the loss of his uncle to Lou Gehrig’s disease, Mr. Baretsky’s life was transformed and he felt inspired to pursue his dreams. To honor his uncle’s memory, he performed his first solo concert six months after his tragic death. From very humble beginnings, his venues and fan base have grown and he is now performing in clubs and music halls across Long Island and New York City, including Lincoln Center and a residency he held at Huntington Social in Huntington Village, NY.
“I knew I never wanted to live with any regrets,” Mr. Baretsky said. “I decided not to fear what other people would think of me and just go after what I wanted.”
Nowadays, when he takes the stage dressed in a formal suit, he feels at home with his current bandmates; Tom Sheridan on lead guitar, Bob Pollio on bass guitar, and Bill Gerardi on drums and percussion. There is no presence of stage fright, only excitement and adrenaline running through his veins.
At just 25 years old, Mr. Baretsky is a seasoned performer, selling out shows throughout the New York area. In addition, he has been featured in numerous publications and will be releasing his debut album, “Less is More,” later this year. He will also be headlining the 29th annual Oyster Festival, the East Coast’s largest waterfront festival.
“People may never know how much hard work has gone into this,” Mr. Baretsky said. “Performing is like breathing to me, and my only fear is that I won’t be able to do this for the rest of my life.”
When he is not performing, you can rest assured that he is thinking about performing. But his life off-stage could not be more different. By day, Mr. Baretsky is an assistant store manager at a local CVS and by night, he is reviving classics at local venues. He credits his family with keeping him grounded and when he’s at home with his family, he’s mowing the lawn or taking out the trash.
“In this business, it may seem rare to be down to earth but I don’t put on an act,” Mr. Baretsky said. “I’m not trying to fool anyone, this is me.”
When he is not doing chores or working his full-time job, he practices for upcoming gigs, writes his own music and records songs as much as possible.
Even with his full plate, he makes time to see his friends.
“When I’m out with my friends, people tell me that they don’t recognize me without my suit,” Mr. Baretsky said. “It’s kind of like people not recognizing Batman without his mask.”
Much like Batman himself, Mr. Baretsky has little to fear and a future that seems to be written in the stars. He is looking forward to his upcoming performances, including one at Somethin’ Jazz Club on Saturday, August 11, and his first headlining performance at the Oyster Festival on Sunday, October 14.
On the brink of becoming a household name, Mr. Baretsky looks back at how far he has come and offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid of what people think and don’t fear criticism. For every unfavorable review I’ve received, there are 20 positive ones. I can’t let the negatives bring me down.”
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Liu and Brent Eysler