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Penn State Connection Fuels Musical Collaborations Between Two Alumni

Penn State alumni Brett Altman and Tyler Bank recently collaborated to create a new song called “Beauty,” which they wrote together in Nashville. The two never met during their time at Penn State but connected online through the university’s alumni network and ended up working in music together.

Altman, who graduated with a finance degree, started dabbling in music when he was a student at Penn State. He participated in Penn State Idol and said it was the first time he ever sang publicly. That led him to THON’s Got Talent, which he ended up winning.

“People were commenting, ’Brett you can sing! I can’t believe it took you until 21 years old to share this talent with us,'” Altman said.

During his time at Penn State, Altman was also part of THON’s Rules & Regulations committee. When he graduated, his friend and former committee member Jimmy Christie talked to him about a friend named Tyler Bank who graduated in supply chain and information systems.

“He said ‘Brett, there’s this great guy and talented musician Tyler [Bank]. You guys remind me of each other, and I think you should reach out to him,’” Altman recalled.

In 2018, Altman reached out to Bank via Instagram, and eventually, the duo struck up a friendship. They talked virtually since Altman lived in New Jersey and Bank lived in Nashville. Both found out that they had a lot of similarities and, of course, learned they already had a Penn State connection.

Since Bank was two years behind Altman, they just missed each other in the Rules & Regulations committee.

“There were events that I got there late and he was gone already. I kept hearing his name from Jimmy, who was in the committee both years, and he kept telling me that I just missed him,” Bank said. “We heard each other’s names before, but Brett was the one who took the initiative and messaged me.”

Bank invited Altman to come to Nashville in 2019 to write with him and meet some of his friends. In Nashville, Altman showed Bank his idea for the song “Beauty.” 

“All I had was the chorus concept. We never have met before and right away we jumped into the project,” Altman said. “It’s been a really natural friendship and partnership.”

Altman had the idea of writing about someone who you think is so amazing, but not just because of their looks. The idea was to write about someone that they thought was almost magical. 

“I couldn’t figure out the story and when I brought it to Tyler he was really able to understand what is the message and why are we writing this song,” Altman said. 

They both like to write with inspirations from real life, and Bank helped Altman craft the piece that he already had in mind.

Bank said that the process was very collaborative. Starting from Altman’s chorus idea, the duo wrote a bulk of the song while they were together in Nashville. Over the rest of the year, they were working on what would come into the song. 

“I remember that what unlocked the song was when Tyler had suggested that we part from a really long first verse and move it back to the second verse,” Altman said. “We couldn’t figure out a second verse, and that helped us get it to the end.”

They finished this song virtually during the pandemic. The song was just released Friday, October 1.

Altman has come down to Nashville two more times since the first time they wrote the song. Every time he comes, they block off the whole weekend and write more music. Bank and Altman also write when Bank goes back to New Jersey, where he is from, and where Altman currently lives. 

They like to joke that they lived parallel lives because they were both born in the same town in New Jersey, they both have sisters that help them with music, and they had similar interests in college, but are only two years apart.

“We also have the same allergies,” Altman joked. 

Bank says that he feels like the only reason they connected was through their mutual friend at Penn State and through their connection with THON. He knew that Brett did THON’s Got Talent and he did the Mr. and Mrs. THON Pageant, which he won. This experience pushed him to follow a music career, which eventually led him to cross paths with Altman.

“I feel like everybody at Penn State, through THON, and more specifically, in the Rules & Regulations Captain Committee are all very similarly compassionate people and have good hearts,” Bank said. “And I knew that Jimmy was a good guy, so Brett was as well.”

The duo bonded over Penn State, recently went together to the Penn State football White Out game against Auburn, and always talk about Penn State sports and Penn State in general. Both of them also feel that Penn State gave them the opportunity to pursue their music side and the THON performances gave them the confidence they needed. Penn State provided them both with the opportunity to take chances, which helped them pursue music. 

“I feel like being at Penn State gave me and him a chance to explore some interests of ours that maybe we didn’t pursue earlier on in our lives,” Altman said. “College is your chance to explore all those different things that you should take full advantage of it.”

In New York City, on November 5, Altman and Bank will host a show together. It will be Altman’s band announcement and Bank’s tour to support his recent release “That’s How We Grew Up,” a song about his time at Penn State.

Brett Altman & The Locals, Altman’s band, also did a live performance video of Beauty to be publicly released on Friday, October 15, but that he wanted to premiere with Onward State.

You can check out Brett Altman’s website here, and Tyler Bank’s website here to learn more about their music careers.

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About the Author

Renata Daou

Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State's contributors. She's from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn't live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.

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