Tom Sharpe has staked his musical reputation being in the background -- literally, as the drummer for Mannheim Steamroller and, until recently, former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung's band.
But with the 2014 release of his symphonic piece "Lifting the World," the percussionist from Washington Township is stepping into the spotlight himself.
"It's been a different year for me for sure," Sharpe, 45, says by phone from Chicago, where he now resides. "I'm definitely more visible, in a different way, than before. I'm doing my life's work this year, and it's a great feeling. I'm performing the work I feel I was meant to do."
Sharpe -- who studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy before getting Bachelor and Masters degrees in music at DePaul University -- had been working on "Lifting the World" for quite some time, but only last year did he feel that "it was the right time after years and years of composing and tweaking." "I didn't rush it," Sharpe explains. "The themes are fully developed. I could look back and listen and say I did it the right way because I was very careful in crafting it. It's a complete picture, so I'm very proud of it."
In the wake of "Lifting The World's" release, Sharpe has stepped out more with his own performances, including a "one-man orchestra" presentation that allows him to deliver the music in a different -- but, he promises, authentic -- manner
"A lot of people think, 'What's this going to be? A two-hour drum solo?'" Sharpe acknowledges. "It's not that. And it's not just hitting a button on my CD player or iPad and playing along. I'm creating things on the spot. It's a very large sound; if you close your eyes, you'll think a number of people up there creating this.
"But the unique thing about how I play is you don't want to close your eyes. It's very interesting how I'm doing all this at once. i try to make sure the performances are something interesting to see as well as hear. It's a very unique thing. It makes me feel like, 'OK, I'm doing the right thing here.'"
Sharpe is also spending time offering master classes at universities and high schools, and he'll be doing a residency at a high school in Aurora, Ill. (yes, the home of "Wayne's World") during early 2016. Mannheim Steamroller hits the road for its annual holiday tour in November, but Sharpe says we'll certainly be hearing more of his own music in the future.
"I have a back catalog of things just waiting to be recorded," he notes. "I'm always creating, and I have ideas for something new. I don't want to take as long to record my next work as I did for this one.
"But at the same time I think right now I'm enjoying this ride. I'm going to enjoy the success of 'Lifting The World' and this new way of touring, which for me is very interesting. But, yes, there will be more, and soon I hope."
7L30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.
Gray's Opera House in the Romeo Masonic Temple, 231 N. Main St., Romeo, Mich.
Tickets are $20.
Call 586-752-5700 or visit starkweatherarts.com.
Note: Sharpe will also perform with Mannheim Steamroller during its Dec. 18 concert at Detroit's Fox Theatre, and he's planning his own show during April at the Trinity House Theatre in Livonia.
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