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Success: Sudbury’s Joey Niceforo on finding success as a solo

After more than a decade performing with groups like the Canadian Tenors and Destino, Niceforo is finding success as a solo artist. His last album, ‘Priceless’, made the Top 100 charts in several countries, including the U.S.
Joey Niceforo is a performer from Sudbury who was part of the groups the Canadian Tenors and Destino. His latest album, Priceless, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with an 80-piece orchestra.

While it can appear that way, success doesn't happen overnight. 

Singer Joey Niceforo knows this very well. After some ups and downs, 20 years after making his professional debut with the original Canadian Tenors and classical crossover ensemble Destino, he is finally enjoying well-deserved success as a solo performer.

"I have never been busier. And I could not be more thankful for all these opportunities, but it took a while," said the 44-year-old classically trained tenor.

He performs on a regular basis with the Casa Loma Symphony Orchestra in Toronto and is looking forward to a tour in Florida where he will entertain snowbirds.

Snowbirds "love to hear Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin standards," he said. And he enjoys singing them.

In November, Niceforo organized the Harmonizing Hearts - Music for a Cause concert at Roy Thomson Hall in support of the Canadian Foundation For AIDS Research (CANFAR).  

Making his first appearance at the legendary concert venue, Niceforo performed with opera singer Sara Papini, jazz legend Jackie Richardson and Toronto’s Singing Out choir.

This past October the Sudbury-born singer was a headliner at the Kiwanis Festival of Sudbury’s 75th anniversary concert where he charmed an enthusiastic hometown crowd.

Just a few years ago Niceforo briefly considered changing careers and going back to school to become a music teacher. Instead, he decided to get serious about singing and a solo career.

"To be honest, I always had a nice voice, but I was lazy and I didn't know how to use it. So at times it would be good and sometimes it would not be. It took me years to figure out what I was doing musically.

"When performing with the Canadian Tenors or Destino, I could cover myself, but when you end up doing it alone, it is a different ball game. It is just you on that stage and you can't fall back on anyone."

Niceforo worked with an opera singer who taught him "about a natural way of singing with my breath and how to use it and how to save my voice," he said.

His father, Joe Niceforo, the former Valley East councillor who died in 2014, had always encouraged him to pursue a solo career. Now he had the confidence to do it.

"It goes to show if you are persistent, and you work hard and try to be nice to people, you can make something of yourself, no matter what it is."

He may never had reached his potential if he had been any good at sports when he attended Collège Notre-Dame.

"I was horrendous," he said. "When I was 16 I got a Three Tenors CD for my birthday … I heard ‘Nessun Doma’ (from the opera ‘Turandot") and I cried. I did not know that music could do that to me."

When he tried to imitate the famous tenors, he found he had a voice. His sister suggested he take singing lessons.

He began studying with Diana Holloway who helped him prepare for his audition at the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory (GGS) in Toronto.

"Joey has paid his dues. Now, he is well on his way to achieve the dream he always wanted," Holloway said. "There are auditions and many years of self-doubt when performing and perfecting your instrument of choice."

With Destino, he performed at the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics, Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas, and did a national tour with the Rankin Family.

When he was just  22, Destino performed in Rome, Italy. Sophia Loren was in the audience.

"That was when I was very green in terms of everything. That night I sang well, but every high note was a gamble. Sophia Loren blew me a kiss and I blew her a kiss. It was a great night."

In 2015, Niceforo began working on his first solo album, "Priceless," at London’s Abbey Road Studios with an 80-piece orchestra and accomplished producers and technicians. It was released in April 2018.

"I would say my high point was recording the album at Abbey Road,” he said. "It was something I feared. I get awful stage fright. I had the same experience working with some of the best players in the world.

"I kept thinking I am not good enough, what am I doing? And I was able to do it, and I proved to myself that I belonged. That was huge for me. It really gave me a boost."

"Priceless" debuted on iTunes Canada at No. 3 and made the Top 100 charts in Ireland, Australia, the United States, and South Africa. 

The solo album featured contemporary songs such as ABBA hit "Winner Takes It All" and Diane Warren's "Note to God."

Niceforo says he hopes to perform a concert in Sudbury in 2024. 

He remains close to his mother, Jeannine Pharand-Niceforo, and sisters, Kimberly and Natalie.

Like many veteran performers, Niceforo, who lives in Toronto with his partner, still gets nervous before a performance.

"It's an awful feeling but when you get on that stage, and you remember why you are there, there is nothing better," he said. "Success to me is challenging myself and being successful at it (after) knowing I have worked hard, regardless of pay or the size of the audience.

"Having a constant job, that is great, too."

Want to learn a little more about Niceforo? Check out this video from his YouTube channel, 73 Questions with Joey Niceforo.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelancer writer. Success is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.