On April 24, 2024
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From small-town Vermont to Taylor Swift and ‘Barbie,’ brothers stay busy in creative careers

By Rebecca Olshan, Community News Service

Editor’s note: Rebecca Olshan reported this story on assignment from The White River Valley Herald. The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost.

Student theater technicians, clad in black, skitter backstage at Randolph Union High School, their spring show about to start. Anthony Fiorillo moves confidently behind the scenes. He has the lighting and sound for the musical all figured out, and he knows it. After all, he’s been working shows since he was 11. 

Down the road at the Chandler Music Hall, the Green Mountain Youth Symphony warms up its string section, sound swelling in the chamber. Joe Fiorillo, Anthony’s younger brother, wields his cello, poised to do what he loves — make music. After all, he’s been hooked since he saw Yo-Yo Ma perform on a rerun of “Mister Rogers.” 

That night — in 2009 — encapsulates the brothers’ parallel paths through the creative world. Anthony, now 33, would pursue a career as a lighting technician. Joe, now 31, would go into sound mixing. And their busy, art-filled upbringings would take them from auditoriums in Randolph to arenas and stages worldwide, working with famous singers and on famous sets. Take two of the past year’s biggest pop culture spectacles: Anthony’s been part of Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour,” and Joe worked on set with Ryan Gosling for the “I’m Just Ken (Merry Kristmas Barbie)” music video, which by early April had garnered 5 million views on YouTube.

“When you’re growing up in a small place or a place like Vermont, it’s easy to feel like you’re miserable. But then looking back on things when you’re an adult and you have more context, it’s truly an idyllic childhood in a lot of ways,” said Joe. “Being surrounded by the arts and people who are really supportive of the arts is truly unique, and I don’t think that’s something that every place has.”

Both brothers, just a grade apart growing up, went to Emerson College in Boston, a school known for its history with the performing arts. Anthony studied theater design and technology, while Joe studied sound design and audio post-production. 

“When I found out I could be paid to do theater design, instead of work in a restaurant or something, it was a pretty sweet feeling,” Anthony said.

Joe came upon a similar realization: “I had dumb jobs in college. I valeted for a while, I also worked at our equipment center in the rentals department,” he said. “I quit those jobs my junior year and was able to pay rent and bills with just sound mixing work.” 

He did so by taking advantage of equipment at the college to employ himself, doing a lot of “extremely Boston” commercial work with businesses like Dunkin’ and the Patriots.

Anthony headed to New York City after he graduated, and a year later Joe flew west to Los Angeles. 

“I did some kids’ theater tours when I was younger, but the first concert tour I did was in 2017,” said Anthony. “It’s been pretty consistent with concert tours ever since, minus that little gap in everyone’s resumes between 2020 and 2021.” 


Submitted
Joe and Anthony Fiorillo, brothers from Randolph, each at work.

He started with series like “Dinosaur Train: The Traveling Exhibit” and “Sesame Street Live,” both based on PBS TV shows, and soon moved to blockbuster events including John Mayer’s “Sob Rock Tour,” the Weeknd’s “After Hours Tour” and then the ultimate jackpot —  “Eras,” Taylor Swift’s ongoing phenomenon.

Anthony has worked on that tour since last January. He is not close with the pop superstar: “I’ve met her indirectly — she’s around all the time and very friendly — but it’s sort of taboo for us to say hello.”

But the perks of working for the highest-grossing concert of all time more than make up for it. Anthony has traveled to countries as disparate as Brazil, Singapore and Latvia as the tour moves through its 150 or so scheduled shows. 

Joe, too, has trekked across the world through his freelance gigs. His sound work on Red Bull TV’s “Red Bull Drop in Tour” series brought him to Australia, Japan and Europe to film local skateboarders. A job for Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” brought him to what he described as “hidden corners of America, in these sort of forgotten pockets of the country.” He helped record dialogue for Billie Eilish’s Apple Music documentary, “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” in 2021.

Then, of course, came the “I’m Just Ken” video shoot, with Gosling and collaborator Mark Ronson performing surrounded by Christmas lights. You can find Joe as the credits roll on the clip.

To add to his freelance work, Joe has recently joined a group of college friends to produce feature films under the name Omnes Films. The collective has two upcoming releases this year: “Eephus” and “Christmas Eve at Millers Point.”

The brothers don’t often work together, and they do live on opposite coasts of the country, but their worlds intertwine nonetheless. “I think we’re a lot closer now because we just fell into similar fields. There are a lot of parallels in our lives, weirdly enough. It’s a very small big world,” said Joe.

While Joe was working on the Billie Eilish documentary, other crew members asked him if he was Anthony’s brother, he said. Camera operators on Swift’s tour have told Anthony they’re friends with Joe.

“I did also get you that one job — so you’re welcome,” Anthony reminded his brother when the two sat for a recent interview.

The Fiorillo brothers have much gratitude for growing up in Vermont. They agree the state is a place where small towns and eclectic personalities foster something they can identify anywhere. 

“It’s fun to find the few Vermonters in the world because there aren’t that many,” said Anthony. “One of the first companies I worked with in New York hired a lot of people from Vermont, and it was always very funny. We would make jokes about how we all sort of stumbled into this together.”

The brothers both keep busy bopping from country to country, job to job. They’re quick to credit folks back home, opportunities in Vermont like the Green Mountain Youth Symphony and Chandler Music Hall’s high school volunteer program.

“To be able to monetize a passion of some kind is hard, but it’s very rewarding,” said Joe. “It just makes for a happy life, you know?”

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