One University of Rhode Island alumnus has spent the last few years traveling the world entertaining people with his music, and now plans on creating a program to help other artists achieve stardom.

James Grande, acoustic rock singer and songwriter, graduated from the university in 2008 with a major in communication studies. After getting his heart broken at age 15, he picked up the guitar and began writing his own songs. Over time, he has learned that he loved performing, interacting with an audience, and making people laugh.

Grande continued to play throughout high school and performed at local venues like Java Madness, a coffeeshop in Narragansett. At URI, he often played at the 193 Degrees Coffee House with some of his friends and put on benefit concerts on campus.

“I really like to create personalized experiences for people,” Grande said. “I like to help people; that’s just part of the work that I’ve done over the years, and I feel like music is a really easy way to do that and get that gratification.”

In 2008, he released an album, along with a few singles. However, a year later, his dream was delayed after being diagnosed with Lyme Disease. He explained how he couldn’t perform due to some difficulty in his hands and cognitive abilities, and for a three year period, he was scared that he would never have the chance to play the guitar again. Although the condition is still present, it has subsided enough that he had the chance to pick up his instrument again in 2012.

After marketing himself, Grande was booked and contracted to perform with Carnival Cruise Lines. While aboard, he had the chance to perform in various places around the globe including Florida, California, New York and abroad in London. He spent two years on various ships playing full-time. His favorite performance was in New York City at the Lincoln Center, where he had the chance to play a few songs for a huge audience at a corporate event.

Grande explained that being a professional musician entails a lot of negative feedback from others who don’t believe in your dream.

“People always tell [me] ‘You should have something to fall back on’ and ‘What are you going to do if you can’t play music?’” Grande said. “I got sick and I couldn’t play music for a while so people were like, ‘Now what are you going to do?’ and that can be very defeating.”

However, during his time with the cruise line, Grande met Todd Christopher, known as TC, who not only became a friend, but also a mentor that believed in him and his music. Christopher taught him lessons on how to become more professional, and Grande eventually grew more confident in himself because of Christopher’s motivational words.

After Christopher passed away in July of this year, Grande started to read about Christopher and his life story, and found out that he had actually been a motivational speaker. While on cruise ships, Christopher had touched the lives of many musicians who transformed from shy introverts into successful musicians, including a professional piano bar entertainer and a contestant on the TV show The Voice.

In a sense, Grande wants to carry on Christopher’s legacy by launching a program to help musicians become professionals.

“I know how hard it is to be an aspiring musician and try to make a living just performing and putting out content and marketing yourself,” Grande said. “I have a few goals in mind – one is to create a website that is a resource for musicians, not only for me, but coming from other musicians as well.”

Currently, Grande has student interns working with him through the university. Aside from his music, he also does marketing for businesses and books musicians to different venues around Rhode Island. Through this, he said he wants to reconnect with the community and try to create a movement of musicians.

His latest music release was in 2015, but right now he said he’s taking a step back. Currently, Grande is receiving voice lessons from Angela Bacari, a well-known voice coach in Westerly, Rhode Island. Although he’s been performing for years, Grande believes it’s important to grow as an artist, because you can never stop improving. For a while, he was an entertainer, but he said he wants to become more of an artist again, performing his own songs like he did in college.

Since his return to Rhode Island in January of this year, Grande has started playing music full time and performs at a lot of local venues by the beach. In the future, Grande sees himself being a leader for musicians around the world. He hopes to be someone who inspires musicians to really “go after it” and not give up on their instrument.

“I know that in order for me to win a Grammy someday, there’s a lot of steps I need to take to do that, and part of that is working on my voice, part of that is working on my credibility as an artist, part of that is working on my marketing,” Grande said. “There are so many different elements that go into it, and I will do it someday.”  

For more information about Grande and to listen to his music, visit http://jamesgrande.com/.