When Tony Shaw came to East Texas to study business, psychology and art at the University of Texas at Tyler, he also brought with him a special talent: beatboxing.
Beatboxing, also known as vocal percussion, is the art of producing or imitating drum-like musical sounds using the human mouth and voice. Shaw, 26, has been honing his skill since age 6.
“When I was younger, I would walk around making a bunch of noises and stuff. I didn’t talk much to anybody, but I had a big imagination,” Shaw said.
His favorite sounds to imitate as a child came from nature programs on the Discovery Channel.
A few years later, Shaw started listening to music and realized he could copy musical sounds with his voice.
He began researching other beatboxers on the Internet and discovered competitions. At age 12, he entered a competition is his hometown of McKinney and won. He went on to win several talent shows in high school and a citywide competition.
“It gets tricky because with beatboxing there’s a whole set of sounds that you can make with different parts of your body and throat. Your lip makes different sounds, your tongue makes a different sounds and your throat makes completely different sounds. A good beatboxer should be able to make at least four sounds at once,” Shaw said.
This year, Shaw performed at The University of Texas at Tyler Patriot Madness basketball event, as well as the Cougar Madness event at Grace Community School. Shaw even held an impromptu beatboxing performance at the T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza during an event he was attending as a cheerleader with the UT Tyler cheerleading squad.
“I get nervous. I like performing, but I get really nervous,” he said. “Once I’m out there, it goes away, but it’s fun. I love being able to interact with people, trying to read the crowd and see what kind of music they like. If I play a certain song, do they clap it, or bob their head or sway side to side. I love how personal music can be. It’s something that I think is pretty cool to be able to do music and create it and be able to do it vocally and captivate individuals.”
Outside of beatboxing gigs, Shaw said he also works as a DJ combining his beatboxing with music.
Shaw plans to focus on his business career over searching for fame through his music, but if he can do both, that would be his ultimate dream.
“I want to DJ and make music, but I’m not going to put all my focus and attention in that and go out there and be homeless,” he said. “I’m going to make sure I’m stable financially, and it’s not me just stepping out there in thin air hoping to God that there’s a building under me somewhere and I can land on it safely.
“I’m not going to do that. I want to be able to support a family. I don’t want to chase dream, I want to make sure it’s a reality before I go after it.”