Roger Ceresi, one of Rhode Island’s most accomplished artists, grew up in Johnston. Like many of his peers, he did things like play the trumpet and drums, played youth baseball and went to public schools.
“But that almost didn’t happen,” said Ceresi, who has enjoyed a 30-year career in music. “I lived in the projects. Life was difficult…but I was able to rise above bad luck, thanks to my grandparents.”
It was Ceresi’s grandparents – Salvatore “Charlie” and Esther Ceresi – who provided the music man with “a humble home in Johnston” and helped shape his life.
“I was very fortunate they rescued me,” he said. “They changed my life for the better. I used to go back and forth from this home, but my grandparents really stabilized my childhood.”
Ceresi’s desire to express himself through the arts first emerged at the age of 5.
“Growing up in the projects was not at all easy. I found that dreaming about becoming a performer helped me escape the difficulties of that period of my life,” Ceresi continued. “My grandparents were my saving grace. They took me from that unhealthy environment and into their loving home that I can only describe as heaven.”
Now in a stable environment, Ceresi’s first venture into the musical world came in the fourth grade when he attempted to play the trumpet. He soon replaced the horn for the drums.
“The drums were an instrument on which I could really excel,” Ceresi recalled. “This gave me an outlet to release my spirit in a powerful and energetic fashion.”
Ceresi took drum lessons with several great drummers, namely Rocco Ruggiano, Arti Cabral and the world-renowned Allan Dawson. He went on to major in classical piano and voice at Rhode Island College, where he was offered a scholarship in classical voice.
From there, Ceresi went to Berklee College of Music, where he majored in piano and arranging and composition. He played the drums for many years in rock, jazz, horn and show bands. He lived in Boston and Los Angeles and played all over the country, “from the East Coast to the West coast.”
There was a time when Ceresi used to come out front during show band performances and do an Elvis impersonation.
“The audiences went crazy,” he said. “That’s when I realized that fronting a band is where I felt most alive.”
Ceresi never looked back. He began studying voice with Boston’s Dante Pavone, who tutored artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Steven Tyler, and then in Los Angles with Seth Riggs.
Ceresi fronted the successful rock and roll band The Breakers during the 1970s and ’80s. That group played up and down the East Coast. He headlined groups like The Good Thunder and Freeway Philharmonic in Los Angeles as well. He did extensive studio work singing on video and movie soundtracks and also studied acting at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Ceresi performed in plays and a comedy film before moving back to Rhode Island, where he started to sing with R&N horn-bands.
At the same time, the energetic Ceresi began fronting a band from Massachusetts called The Kidds, later renamed as Roger Ceresi & The Rockin’ Soul Horns. That band performed successfully throughout New England for seven years. During that time Ceresi also co-wrote the group’s CD entitled “Don’t Take Away the Night.”
But for the past decade, it has been Roger Ceresi’s All-Starz & All-Starz Horns, an eight-man music machine that prides itself on playing high energy jump blues, rhythm and blues with a bit of rock and roll.
Ceresi enjoys the excitement of being a headliner but knows that without a great group backing him it wouldn’t be the same.
“This is the best group of guys I’ve ever performed with, hands down, no doubt,” Ceresi says of the All-Starz. “I love this band. I have found my home and I’m loving it.”
The All-Starz Horns includes Carl Queforth on trombone, John Abrahamsen on trumpet and Barry Fleischer on saxophone. “Riverside Rob” Nelson plays guitar and sings along with Ceresi, while Papa Dick Souza plays electric guitar. Matt McCabe plays the electric piano and Joey Sullivan is the drummer.
“All these guys have quite a list of credits,” Ceresi said. “They’ve all played with such legends as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Rawls, Pat Benatar, Martha Reeves, Gladys Night...the list is endless and the same holds true of their individual talents.”
To contact Roger Ceresi’s All-Starz and All-Starz horns, who have just been invited to Waterfire for an eighth straight year, call 465-8432.