In the late 1980s, Raymond Castronovo traveled from club to club in Manhattan with his friends Tom and Mike, performing a mix of rock and roll with a punk twist.
They called themselves RayTomIx.
To this day, Mr. Castronovo says he enjoys bands like Green Day, which have harnessed some of the punk music he played then in his early 20s.
Their band seemed destined for big things, and Mr. Castronovo envisioned a music career for himself. Several record companies have expressed interest in having the band record for them, he said.
But life quickly took a different direction.
Mr. Castronovo’s wife was pregnant. They had married young and their lives were coming fast.
“Those Italians in Brooklyn did,” he said with a laugh.
He thought about what a career in music would be like—an industry with no guarantees—and how touring would conflict with raising a family.
He decided to stop the music. In the back of his mind, he knew that at some point in his life he would have the opportunity to return to his passion. When? He couldn’t say for sure.
His wife gave birth to a boy, the first of their two children, and Mr. Castronovo, who quickly realized that college was not for him, shifted his focus to gaining real-world experience in the construction industry. His father was a native of Sicily and had worked with a talented group of masons who were more artists, Mr. Castronovo recalled.
He got a job at a large construction company, and after working for a few years, the owner approached him and offered to teach him how to run the business. His career took off from there and he started his own construction business. For about 20 years he had a satellite office in Riverhead where he was active in a number of different projects and was a member of the Riverhead Business Improvement District. He currently has a downtown development project pending for a four-story building on McDermott Avenue that will replace the small home that was once his first East End office.
Now 55 and living in Laurel, Mr. Castronovo sees his time in the construction industry winding down and his time in music coming to an end. He always continued to play guitar and always focused on staying in good physical condition, knowing that one day music could be a second career.
“I kept my mind stimulated just because if the opportunity came I wanted to give it everything I had,” he said.
That opportunity finally came in the last few years.
Mr. Castronovo had purchased a building at the corner of Second Street and Roanoke Avenue about seven years ago. He used the second floor for his office, and the third floor had a ballroom with a dance floor and disco lights. He decided to turn the space into a rehearsal studio.
He spent about a year and a half working on music and reaching out to people in the industry to slowly make his way back. He found a vocal instructor in Manhattan, Derrick Rosenblatt, who trained Broadway stars and other artists, to help him with his studies.
“I contacted a few major record companies and they welcomed me, and then I contacted the owner of [recording studio] A hit factory [in Brooklyn],” he said.
After researching record labels, he realized he might be better off starting his own record label, which he named DayQuest Records.
“I said I’d be the first person to sign up,” he said.
From there he formed the group StreetWise. As lead vocalist and guitarist, Mr. Castronovo leads the seven-piece band, which performs a variety of music. He assembled a talented group of professional musicians including Joe Martinez on bass, Heather Simon on backup vocals, Dave Kidd on keyboards, Seal Velour on guitar, Calverton resident Carl Aubrig on saxophone and Linda McLee on drums.
Mr. Castronovo has always had a natural ability to work with music, not only playing it, but also writing it.
“I never studied it, it just came naturally,” he said.
He began writing and arranging songs, some of which had been in the works for several years, and others he started from scratch. In 2021, he released his first album called “Crossing Bridges”. The album cover features a black and white photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge with the World Trade Center in the background.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and I always looked up to the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said.
The second EP released this year is called “The Other Side” with an album cover showing Manhattan on the other side of the bridge.
| See more on Instagram, Facebook |
StreetWise performed many of these songs Friday night in Riverhead as a representative of Grangebel Park’s latest Reflextions: Art in the Park event. His music can be found under StreetWise on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. In an interview Friday, Mr. Castronovo recounted his journey while waiting for his bandmates to arrive for a rehearsal before the show.
“I want to make the world happy,” he said. “I want to share our music and our stories with the world and make this my next career and help these musicians who support me.”
Asked about the genre of their music, Mr. Castronovo says it can be difficult to classify. He told a radio station that he was going to invent his own genre.
“I said I would call our music a musical stew,” he said, saying how the songs draw inspiration from a variety of musical genres, from B.B. King, to Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.
In May, StreetWise performed at The Suffolk Theater as part of a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He said he was diagnosed with leukemia about 18 years ago. The event raised about $42,000, he said.
In the future, StreetWise plans to start performing more live concerts. Mr. Castronovo still thinks about how things might have been different if he had been involved in music from the beginning.
“It probably would have been difficult,” he said. “It was to my advantage that I went down this path. … It was much more lucrative than being a musician. … It’s a little bit like becoming a star. It is. It’s a lot of work, and if it doesn’t work, it gets harder later in life.