When you enter the doors of Montclair State University’s University Hall building on a Thursday afternoon and walk into room 1010 you will encounter an enthusiastic, curly-haired man proudly conducting a lecture to dozens of curious students who can’t seem to shake away their attention from what they’re learning.
That man’s name is Val Azzoli, an adjunct professor at MSU who’s been teaching the course Rap & Rock as Cultural Phenomena (MUGN-250) for the last 6 years to students of every age and major.
Born in Italy, Azzoli moved to Canada with his parents when he was only 3 years old. Azzoli spent most of his days working selling suits while getting his associate degree for Business Administration from Seneca College in Toronto, all while developing an undying love for music. After graduating in 77, Azzoli took the dicey decision of quitting his job to manage his then roommate’s band, Charity Brown.
“I was petrified, I don’t know why I did it, but there was a thing in me that said give it a shot and I went and did it,” Azzoli recalls. “This is what I wanna do, I’m not looking back, I’m not going to quit, I’m just going to do it better. When I said that, a 16 ton weight was lifted off my back.”
Charity Brown never reached much popularity or commercial success, however managing the band led Azzoli a job at ATV Music, the company responsible for handling and publishing The Beatles’ music in Canada.
After working several years for ATV, Azzoli was asked by Canadian management company SRO’s president Rick Daniels to manage the rock band Rush. Azzoli knew he didn’t want to be a music publisher so he grasped the opportunity as quick as he could.
Azzoli and Rush achieved global success together selling millions of albums and playing sold out stadiums all over the world. Their partnership lasted until 1987 when Azzoli amicably left Rush to join another managing company called Q-Prime in the USA.
Azzoli’s brilliant marketing skills and experience in the field helped reignite the Rolling Stone’s popularity on the road as he managed their “Steel Wheels” tour.
At the end of the 80’s Azzoli was tired of managing and as he put it, “I was burnt and I didn’t want to do it anymore” so he decided to retire. However, Atlantic Records founder and co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun knew his company needed someone with a bright vision who would reignite the label back to it’s success and he knew just the name.
In 1990 Azzoli became CEO and Co-Chairman of Atlantic Records, where he stayed working for 14 years. Some of Azzoli’s biggest accomplishments at Atlantic involved discovering and signing artists such as Aaliyah, Lil Kim, and Fleetwood Mac.
Achieving success and getting big paychecks however never made Azzoli go over his head, as he stayed humble through all those years.
“All your decisions aren’t being based on money, they’re based on passion. I never at Atlantic Records signed a band because I thought I could make money from them, I signed them because they were good and because we didn’t have a band like that on the label.” states Azzoli.
Azzoli left Atlantic in 2004, where he finally took a break from the music industry and focused his time at home with his wife and two daughters.
Azzoli currently lives in Montclair and when he’s not teaching students about the magical world of music he spends his time playing and coaching tennis along with keeping up with the latest music in the air.
“I like music now more than I’ve ever have in my life. I’m listening to music everyday and I’m really digging it. I used to listen to music differently, always critiquing it, now I listen to the music for the sake of itself” finalizes Azzoli.
Montclair State | New Jersey