From Phantoms to Fandom—Georgetown Alumnus is Recognized for Musical Talent

Richard Trent

Alumnus Rich Trent (F'10) reflects on finding music and finding himself at Georgetown

Long before snagging his recent win for D.C.'s best entrant in the NPR national Tiny Desk competition, Richard Trent (F'10) sang at Georgetown as a member of the a Capella group The Phantoms.

While at Georgetown, Trent studied international politics and worked with the Center for Social Justice with plans to one day work in U.S. politics or for the U.N. However, after graduating and serving for five years as a program director for a youth development and education nonprofit in Alexandria, Virginia, he felt a need for a change.

Trent had dedicated some time to playing with bands in the past ("Mahogany" and "The Loons," respectively), but since everyone worked full-time jobs, they found that no one could really devote as much time as they wished.

Winning the Tiny Desk competition gave him the boost he needed to pursue music full time, and he decided this past spring to move to Brooklyn, New York. "I wanted to give it one last try before I lose all my sex appeal," said Trent jokingly.

So far, Brooklyn agrees with him. "I feel like my body has finally caught up with my spirit and it's great," he said.

In New York, Trent is a grant writer, but his heart is in his music. There, he is enjoying a level of access he wasn't able to reach in D.C. "The collaboration with musicians here is next level," he said. "There's so much density in New York, and it's refreshing to meet so many young artists."

Phantom beginnings
Trent still thinks fondly of his time as a Phantom and how the group helped him cultivate his own musical creativity.

"It's interesting now to look back on it. It's such a youthful expression of musical interest. As I got older I gravitated more towards using instruments, etc., but at the time, The Phantoms embodied a youthful desire to express ourselves no matter what, to be around others, and to share," said Trent.

Being in the group earned him some notoriety, he said, and soon other musicians were open to collaborate with him. He learned to play guitar, and by his senior year participated in various performances on campus.

“I saw Richard and I knew he was a star. He has an innate talent.”

—Teddy Zambetti (B’80), GEMA Rocks co-founder and organizer

During Trent's senior year, Teddy Zambetti (B'80), in-house composer and senior director of music production at Sirius XM Radio Inc., came across a video of Trent performing for a Georgetown Cabaret while searching for talent for an upcoming production of GEMA Rocks.

Zambetti co-founded and helps produce this semi-annual concert with the goal of giving back to Georgetown and bringing focus to the university's performing arts. He enjoys tapping new talents from current students and recent alumni.

"Part of the fun is doing the diligence to find the good, new talent," he said. After seeing Trent's Cabaret performance, he decided to reach out to him to see if he'd like to participate in the 2010 concert.

"I saw Richard and I knew he was a star. He has an innate talent," said Zambetti. He contacted Trent and got to know him, ultimately leading to Trent's taking part in multiple GEMA Rocks shows.

Richard Trent, GEMA Rocks
Richard Trent (F'10) performs at the 2014 GEMA Rocks concert

When Trent reached out to him last year and told him that he was ready to make the move to New York to really pursue music, it was no surprise. The two are now working together on a musical Zambetti is developing called "The Walk-In Closet," where Trent is slated to play the lead character.

Developing his craft with love
For now, Trent's focus is developing his music. He's currently working on his first EP of six original songs, and on creating visual content for it. He's also producing the song that won him the Tiny Desk competition.

Along with the opportunity to create more music himself, he hopes to see more representations of positive music in general.

"Nobody sings about love," he said. "I'm pretty frightened by how much ego and braggadocio has entered music. It's all artists—black, white, whoever. Literally, you can't get an honest word anymore."

Trent wants to be that honest voice in music.

"I feel like I have a chance to talk to people about things like waking up and not knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life, or realizing you're in a relationship with someone you don't care about anymore, or thinking about how much you and your friends have changed."

View a interview and performance from Trent on Georgetown's YouTube Channel, GeorgetownToday.

You can see Trent perform live at this year's GEMA Rocks VII concert, September 16–17. Follow Rich and hear more of his music at richdoesmusic.com.