Musician foregoing marketing career to pursue his passion

A 7-year-old brown-haired boy took the stage, anxious to perform his first solo. The boy’s parents had been told that their son had a great ear and could carry a tune, but they weren’t sure what to expect as their second-grader began to sing “Star Light, Star Bright.”

More than a decade later, Tim Halperin looks back on his debut performance and laughs, remembering how he felt like a girl as he strained to hit the high notes that were just out of his developing vocal range. His father, Howie Halperin, tells a different story.

“We were flabbergasted,” he said. “We were just surprised he could stand up in front of all these people as a second-grader with no fear.”

Now, 22-year-old Halperin has released two CDs, has eight songs on iTunes and has played numerous concerts. His fan base has expanded from an Omaha, Neb., elementary school gym to college campuses throughout Texas and Arkansas.

With the help of three guitarists and a drummer, the senior can croon out a tune that causes him to be mistaken for singer-songwriter Ben Folds. Halperin’s music showcases piano playing skills that show hints of his primary influences of Folds and Coldplay, but he sets himself apart by creating a hybrid of ballads and up-tempo songs with a hint of what he refers to as “funky jazz.”

Halperin and his four-man band have become familiar enough to college students that crowds now sing along at local shows.

The musician said he is still getting used to the recognition and recalls the first time a fan approached him on campus with a chuckle. On his way to his introductory marketing class in fall 2009, he was approached by a female student who blurted out, “I love your music!”

Halperin muttered back a quick and awkward “thank you” before continuing on to class, where he recounted the story to his friend and senior finance major Bobby Weinberg. Confused, Halperin told Weinberg he was just confronted by a “creeper.”

Weinberg said he laughed off his friend’s response to the fan and offered an alternative explanation.

“‘Tim, we need to get this through your head,'” Halperin said he remembered Weinberg saying. “‘They’re not creepers; they’re fans.'”

Acoustic guitarist Riley Kiltz said that as Halperin gains fame, the last thing the band has to worry about is Halperin getting a big head. The sophomore finance major, who has been playing with Halperin for a year and a half, said the shaggy-haired lead singer isn’t fazed by girls who swoon over his jagged chin-strap beard, baby blue eyes and suave-sounding voice. He is too goofy to become overconfident, Kiltz said.

“Tim’s made some seriously awkward comments while he’s on stage,” Kiltz said. Although Kiltz becomes rosy-cheeked at some of Halperin’s on-stage antics, he said he admires the way Halperin stays true to himself while performing.

“That’s just Tim – he really doesn’t hold back anything,” Kiltz said.

Even in his teen years, before Halperin had really begun to develop his own style, his Westside High School choral director, Doran Johnson, said a certain honesty came out in his songs.

“I think Tim’s greatest strength is who he is as a person, and I think that comes alive in his music,” Johnson said. “He’s very approachable as a person, so his music is very approachable and draws you in as a listener. It’s like a comfy chair-you just want to hang out in it.”

Maddison Grigsby, a senior international finance major and fellow Westside graduate, agreed with her former choral director, saying Halperin’s music reflects his genuine character and passion.

“He’s the first one to reach out to people if they’re not included,” Grigsby said. “He’s very confident in who he is.that comes out in the way he treats people.”

Grigsby said she’s really seen Halperin develop the most during the past couple of years. He’s finally come into his own style and a confidence in it, she said.

Halperin has noticed the change in his music as well. His most recent work, the three-song EP, “Make or Break,” which was released in October, shows the progression of his songwriting.

“It will still take a long time to voice and how I write music, but I think I’m starting to find that,” Halperin said. “Coming up with ways to express emotion in music is not getting easier, but I’m getting better at it, I think.”

Kiltz said his band mate’s devotion to writing lyrics that stay true to his emotions makes him stand out among other singers who don’t have the same personal attachment to their songs.

“They’re not just words that rhyme,” Kiltz said. “It’s actually what his heart’s telling him.”

Halperin is currently touring sorority houses throughout Texas and Arkansas in an attempt to build a stronger regional fan base.

Halperin traveled to five different college campuses in the past three months, playing his music and promoting his most recent album, “Make or Break,” to sororities. He decided to pursue what he refers to as the “sorority tour” after getting a positive response from university chapters that he played at before big shows.

The tour has led to local show offers in Austin, College Station and Waco and he hopes it will continue to open doors for him as he pursues music after graduation in May.

Although Halperin’s parents support his decision, they still remind him with e-mails and articles from time to time that pursuing music over a business career has its risks. In the end, Halperin decided to stick to his true passion: music.

“The practical side of me has always held on to business,” Halperin said. “This year I’ve just really learned through playing a lot of shows and really going after it and growing…that it’s my true passion.”

The four years he put into preparing for a career in marketing will not go to waste. Halperin said earning a living off music is almost like starting his own business and will require many of the skills he learned at the Neeley School of Business.

Grigsby said she has noticed a difference in her old show choir friend’s ability to successfully market himself. Halperin actively uses social media to interact with fans and encourages those he meets to download his newest EP for free on the Internet.

Choosing music over a marketing job may not be the safest bet, but Grigsby believes that Halperin has what it takes to stand out in the industry.

“I think a lot of people are talented and good, but they don’t have the drive and determination that he has,” Grigsby said. “If anyone’s going to make it, it will be Tim because he’s got the heart to do it and the talent.”

News Now reporter Matt Syme contributed to this report.

Upcoming Tim Halperin Shows

TCU Spring Show, headlining artist TBA

When: April 16

Where: Campus Commons

Delta Jamma

When: April 22

Where: The Aardvark