BOSTON, Mass. – The life of a student-athlete is an arduous one that includes an immense level of dedication to both academic and athletic endeavors. Now, add the workload involved with the creation of an 18–piece big band called Thinkin' Big. Next, take on the bandleader and compositional duties of the band's first album, Mile 524. Then, just when you didn't have enough to do, plan a tour that includes U.S. and Canadian dates during your winter break. Then you'll begin to understand how much Berklee's Jonah Francese '13 has done on top of being a two–sport college athlete for Emerson Baseball and Men's Soccer.
When asked how he is able to do all of these things, Jonah just smiled and said, "Time management. I pushed finishing my degree at Berklee to five years and had to sacrifice a lot of additional things to pursue the things I love."
If all of these things weren't enough, Jonah has also brought something else to Emerson. His younger brother, Jesse Francese, is also a member of the Men's Soccer team and currently starting for the Baseball team as a freshman.
"I love being able to play on the same team as my brother," stated Jesse, who is also studying at Berklee. "We've only had one other chance, when I was in third or fourth grade, to play together. I love my brother and this opportunity is amazing to get."
Jesse is well aware of Jonah's accomplishments, mentioning, "It's absolutely unbelievable that he's been able to pull it off. I'm so happy for him and for him to be so successful is incredible, but in no way surprising."
Both of the brothers stated that they got their love of sports and music from their father, a musician and an avid baseball fan. "We come from a musically inclined family," said Jonah. "Hearing it all the time and seeing Dad play was a huge part of growing up for us, as was his love of sports."
While Jonah has little free time for much else in his life, his time at Emerson has been one he looks back on fondly, saying, "I've loved being an Emerson student-athlete. It gives me such a sense of pride that I play sports and that I'm a part of a team."
As for music, it seems the sky is the limit for both Francese brothers. Jesse hopes to teach someday and is currently a dual major in performance and music education. Jonah, per usual, wants to do it all—entertaining thoughts of working on film scores, teaching, keeping a band, and possibly coaching as well.
"The things I'm most proud of right now are taking my band on tour and how much work went into that. It was an immense amount of work, but I have incredible people in my life and in my band supporting me. It was a great experience," said Jonah.
On his route to success, Jonah has remembered those who have helped him get where he is, saying, "My family is a huge reason why I've been able to do all of this. I've seen so many students that aren't supported by their families in what they really want to pursue; that was never the case with my family. Phil Wilson, a professor at Berklee, is also a major reason why I have been so successful. He encouraged me to start my band and I'm in his band at Berklee. He's been such a huge and amazing influence on me and I'm so fortunate to have his guidance."
Music fans can catch Jonah and Thinkin' Big at Ryles Jazz Club on March 28 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 8:30 pm or at their website, thinkinbigband.com. The brothers will also hit the field with the Emerson Baseball team this season, which will host its home opener March 13 against Southern Vermont at Victory Fields in Watertown, Massachusetts.