- Associated Press - Saturday, November 29, 2014

HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) - To an audience, Alexander Danieli plays piano and sings carefully crafted songs for enjoyment. But hidden is the pain he has suffered - pain he channels into energy to compose.

The 19-year-old lost his grandmother in 2011 while attending Pomperaug High School in Southbury, sending him into depression. Already practicing piano at the time, he expressed his grief by making music. Through sadness came fulfilling music, which the Quinnipiac University student hopes to pursue full-time when he graduates in the spring of 2015. Danieli took college credit classes in high school in order to graduate early from college.

“I had friends that urged me to keep writing,” said Danieli, who has played the piano for 13 years.

One of the first songs from Danieli was “Strange Dreams,” a mixture of a happy melody with a sad undertone, he said. It was not intended for others to hear, but once friends heard it, they encouraged him to write more music.

“It stands as a testament to what I was feeling at the time,” Danieli said about the song he released on the Internet in 2011. “I still really love that song.”



In 2012, tragedy struck again for Danieli, as his high school friend Tucker Gowen passed away from leukemia. But for Danieli, who performs under the name The Sixth Ocean, the music kept him focused.

The single of “Strange Dreams” led to a full course of songs that turned into an album, which brought opportunities to perform. Though he has no problem performing alone, he wanted to get someone to join him. Enter Elisabeth Emery.

“I want his music to be as appreciated as possible,” said Quinnipiac senior Emery, who performs with Danieli playing various instruments such as the cello and ukulele. “My job is to enhance his ability.”

Though Emery and Danieli don’t always perform together, they had success together at the Battle of the Bands contest in 2013, an annual event hosted by the student-run radio station WQAQ and judged by Quinnipiac peers and faculty. Emery was happy to win the event with Danieli.

“He was pretty different because he could play his instrument better than anyone else there. He was able to stick out,” said Stephanie Griffin, a student at Quinnipiac, who was a senior at the time. “They were definitely a unique combination with different instruments. His songs are great, but his live performance with the addition of extra instruments (enabled) him to stick out.”

This year, the two competed again but didn’t win.

“I had never really performed in that setting,” Emery said. “We got together for him to teach me one hour before we go to the stage. I knew he had talent, but I didn’t know that the two of us together would click.”

Danieli, a public relations and music major, still performs at the school as the concert master.

“Everything he’s doing, he’s doing 100 percent,” said Vesna Mehinovic, orchestra conductor at Quinnipiac University, who works with Danieli. “He’s always ready for class.”

In addition to taking classes, Danieli, who commutes from Waterbury, still finds time to perform at local venues around the state. One of his favorite places to perform for the past two years is Passiflora Café Tea Room and Herbal Shop in New Hartford .

“I have a lot of performers, but for him, he connects with the audience,” said Karen Tyson, who has been owner of Passiflora for 11 years. She hosts an event at the shop called “Gather with Friends” on Sundays, where Danieli and Emery often go. “He’s personable with the audience.”

And music has become more than an escape for Danieli - it has become a passion.

“I’m happy to keep writing,” he said. “I don’t see myself falling out anytime soon.”

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