UM band Sunny Side Up! on their music and journey

Photo credit: Sunny Side Up!

From gigs at both on-campus and off-campus events, Sunny Side Up! has established themselves as a popular campus band.

Sunny Side Up! is composed entirely of UM sophomores — music scoring and production major Aron Stornaiuolo as the songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, jazz instrumental and performance major Zach Levine on drums, jazz instrumental and performance major Nolan Slate on saxophone and music engineering major Jake Sonderman on bass.

Levine and Stornaiuolo have both been musicians since they were kids. Stornaiulo started at seven years old by playing the popular video game Guitar Hero. Stornaiulo’s parents, seeing how much joy the instrument brought their son, offered to buy him a real guitar and he got into jazz by way of a neighbor who offered to teach him.

Meanwhile, Levine’s family was filled with music from the start. With a father who also plays the drums, he naturally picked up the skill.

“We’ve always had drums in the house,” Levine said.

Instead of being just a childhood hobby, it became their career and now they’re all studying at UM.

UM is known to have an incredibly diverse music program where a student can study contemporary, classical, and jazz which is rarely seen in music programs. The jazz program is especially valuable as it is one of the best in the country, attracting all sorts of musicians.

The group of four met each other through the Frost School of Music, where students tend to have classes together and inevitably collaborate.

“It’s a small program,” Stornaiuolo said.

In your freshman year, the program is largely pre-arranged and you end up in groups with certain students to make music. This allows them to build connections with each other, but the band really got to know each other through United Wesley’s coffeehouse, a popular UM event for Frost students.

“I got a text asking ‘Hey Stornaiuolo, can you play coffeehouse?’” Stornaiuolo said.

Stornaiuolo grabbed a couple of musicians — two who he met in his program — along with his neighbor Sonderman. This unlikely group of 4 formed what is now known as Sunny Side Up!

Stornaiuolo recalled the night, reflecting on how he got lucky with his fellow musicians.

“They learned an hour of music in one night,” Stornaiuolo said.

This is a sign of their skills and collaboration with each other and is definitely what has led to their success. Because of how successful they were that night, they were prompted to continue and they’ve been working hard since to establish themselves as a group.

Since then, they’ve played at Patio Jams and even this year’s ‘Cane Kickoff at the Watsco Center. They’ve also begun to branch out and play off campus, most recently at Tea & Poets in South Miami, but they’ve done a lot to have those opportunities that have started to come their way.

Photo credit: Sunny Side Up!

“We’ve done the reaching out and being desperate for a bit that things kind of come regularly for us,” Stornaiuolo said.

They have managed to progress their career to the point that they’ve started looking off campus.

For off-campus gigs, however, the band still has to reach out for opportunities. It’s more work to book gigs this way, but the guys have managed to see their efforts acknowledged.

“I guess really getting into the music of local bands and actually caring about what they do helped a lot,” Stornaiuolo said.

Because of these opportunities, the band has built a following not just at UM, but in the Miami area. They’ve managed to grow that community over the past year, helping them book gigs and gain more opportunities.

“We now have people off campus who like our music and know all the words,” Stornaiuolo said.

This is the dream for any musician, the ability to have your music impact others and it allows them to continue producing the music they love to make.

“It’s the most rewarding part, seeing that you can actually affect people,” Levine said. “It’s confirmation for what we’re doing.”

In addition to performing on stage, they’ve had production success and over the past year, the band has released two singles: “I Just Want a Girl to Give My Jacket To” and “Mr Everything You Wanted.”.

“I think there’s a place for albums, but not yet. You need to have an established sound first,” Levine said.

Because they value having a unique sound, it’s important for them to be able to have a solid idea of who they are before they put out an album.

“Sunny Side Up! is upbeat and more focused on the audience’s enjoyment,” Stornaiuolo said.

But what makes their music so special?

They take elements from jazz, pop, rock and indie music and combine them to make their own genre, a playful sound seen in their most recent single “Mr. Everything You Wanted.”

Photo credit: Sunny Side Up!

Playfulness aside, the band also writes more mature pieces.

“We kind of balance it out cause it can get too boring,” Stornaiuolo said.

This is especially prominent in their song “I Like the Way,” which tells the story of a young person who hasn’t quite fallen in love yet.

“It has a really solid groove that’s colored by all these beautiful things,” Levine said.

The group’s dynamic is what allows them to create such special music. Each person has a different style. Slate is more jazz-based, Stornaiuolo is focused on an indie sound and both Sonderman and Levine are more rock-focused.

“We don’t get lost in any one thing. We’re very good at balancing out each other’s ideas,” Levine said.

They have a system that they’ve developed over this year, but that basically becomes a two step process.

“I write the songs and bring it to them. They make the arrangements cooler,” Stornaiuolo said.

This gives Sunny Side Up! Their sound. Their musical influences range from Bruno Major, Jacob Collier, Frank Sinatra and even artists like Lady Gaga, a variety that bleeds into their music.

Most modern artists are struggling with how to maintain this artistry and diversity under a social media driven world.

“All that stale PR stuff, I don’t really care and I don’t think anyone else really cares. All they want to see is goofy pictures of Nolan,” Stornaiuolo said.

They have a posting schedule where they post every Sunday called “Sunny Side Up! Sunday,” a tactic that has led many fans to discover the band. This is how they post the content they want to while maintaining a social media presence.

They’ve been able to bring in a larger audience thanks to Instagram and their propensity to maintain their identity has continued to attract others to their music.

Still, connection is important for the group and their connection to UM has helped propel their career. What started in a coffeehouse has now become a well-established, Spotify-certified band.

“There [are] many things to come,” Stornaiuolo said.