Think of a young, Wagner-flavored Billy Joel. That starts to give you an idea about the self-titled album released by Chris Sabol ’12 earlier this year. (It is available on Spotify, iTunes, and other media platforms as well as YouTube.)
The unique part of it is that the album is not only about Wagner student experiences, but it is also a total Wagner family effort. In addition to Sabol’s lyrics and music, and Sabol’s performing on vocals and keyboard, the album features Alexander Kazanecki ’12 on drums, Anthony Babino ’09 on guitar, Steven Babino ’13 on bass, Leanne Surace ’10 on vocals, Ryan Cole ’12 on vocals, and Kelsey Pierce ’12 on vocals.
Furthermore, Ernie Jackson ’87 produced the album, which was recorded at his home studio. Kazanecki also served as the co-producer, and Jackson’s amazing guitar-playing is also featured on one track — “Comfort Counselor,” Sabol’s favorite.
The album art was created by Billy Aberle ’13. And, the album received a live premiere in May 2019 at Exit 82 Theatre Company in Toms River, New Jersey, a place founded by Keely Davenport ’11 and Billy Cardone ’11.
By the way, mentioning Billy Joel is not just a matter of this writer’s opinion — Sabol himself says that the music of Joel as well as that of Elton John are major sources of inspiration to him.
At Wagner, Sabol majored in arts administration with a concentration in music, participated in numerous musical ensembles, and co-founded Student Run Musical Theatre — an additional outlet for musical theater talents on campus besides Wagner College Theatre. Sabol also served as president of Theta Chi fraternity.
During many hours spent in the Campus Hall practice rooms, he built a body of work inspired by the thoughts and experiences of his student years. Relationships, breakups, ferry rides, the city skyline, and the jitters of leaving college are a few of the familiar feelings and images found in his lyrics.
The friendships and connections he built during his years at Wagner were essential to bringing the work to completion — a five-year process that occurred while doing “a million other things,” Sabol says.
These longtime relationships from the years the student musicians spent together at Wagner flavor the album, Sabol says. Feeling so comfortable together allowed them to take risks and try new ideas in music-making.
At the same time, Jackson’s expertise in production gave them focus and added valuable music direction.
Jackson, who is a professor at Queensborough Community College, was teaching classes at Wagner at that time. Nevertheless, Sabol met him not as a professor but as a musician, when Jackson agreed to play guitar for an SRMT production. Jackson and Sabol established a mutually supportive relationship — for instance, Jackson had Sabol play for a demo video for the electronic musical instrument company Korg.
The relationship between Sabol and Jackson, who has promoted the careers and musical endeavors of many Wagner students, led to the album’s being recorded.
After graduating from Wagner, Sabol decided he wanted to go into teaching. He earned a master’s in music education at Boston University and landed a job as the choir and orchestra teacher at Monmouth Regional High School. There, he works alongside Kara Krichman ’13, the drama teacher. The two collaborate closely on the new Performing Arts Academy special enrichment track within the high school.
Last year, Sabol brought his performing arts students to Wagner to see a WCT production and meet with the faculty.
He also returned to Wagner this fall to speak on an alumni career panel sponsored by OutWagner, a new LGBTQIA+ alumni group.
“Even after you graduate, it’s a tight-knit community,” Sabol says. “We come back and tell students about our experiences and provide them with job advice and opportunities.”
This ongoing connectedness should be a comforting thought to today’s students, who may worry, as Sabol expressed in the song “The Graduate”: “These last few months flew by like a hurricane / Who knows where the wind will lead us next.”
Sabol’s post-graduate life experience shows that Wagnerians’ friendships can endure through the strongest winds of change.
— Laura Barlament | Editor, Wagner Magazine | November 20, 2019