Alumni Profile: Andy Italiano
When Andy Italiano started taking classes at Onondaga in the fall of 1983, he was an ordinary student, unaware he had an extraordinary talent. Like many 18-year-olds, Italiano wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father Joseph taught Astronomy at Onondaga, but Italiano didn’t see his future in the stars when he graduated from Nottingham High School. During his first semester at Onondaga everything abruptly came into focus. “As I was walking down the hall I passed the TV department and realized you could ‘do TV’ and make money at it,” Italiano said. In the last three decades he’s done much more than make a living at it. Italiano’s ability to operate a television camera at some of the biggest sporting events have literally taken him around the world.
Italiano got his first break shooting live sports while he was a student at Onondaga. Tony Vadala, ‘83, who was an instructor’s assistant in what was then called the Radio TV department, remembers when he met Italiano. “He said to me, ‘I want to be the person up there on the scaffolding running camera at big sporting events.’” Italiano said it to the right person. When Vadala wasn’t teaching he was working on local cable sports telecasts. He got Italiano a job running camera during high school football games. “Tony gave me an opportunity. He trusted me. He put me in a situation where I succeeded, and it gave me the confidence in myself to know I could do it. He was so generous and gracious with me,” said Italiano.
Italiano continued shooting local live sporting events through his graduation in 1985. He transferred to SUNY Fredonia, where he majored in Communications Media and would graduate two years later. He returned to Syracuse and got another break, working for CBS when it would come to the Carrier Dome to televise big Syracuse University basketball games. He was doing whatever was needed: running and getting things for people, hanging banners, helping in any way possible. It wasn’t running a camera, but it was a foot in the door and a chance to make contacts.
Regular work, however, was hard to find, so Italiano packed up his car and headed west to Los Angeles. “I had enough money for three weeks. If I didn’t find a job, I planned to return.” After two weeks without any solid prospects, Andy took a job installing carpets so he could make money and stay in California longer. In his spare time Italiano kept making contacts in the television industry, either by phone or by knocking on doors. Eventually he was hired to work in a television studio, “Heart of the Nation,” which focused on religious shows. He did everything there from sweeping floors to running cameras to technical directing.
Andy got his big sports break a short time later when someone who was supposed to be on a television crew covering boxing called in sick. “I wound up holding a microphone all night. At the end of the night the woman who hired me told me, ‘Andy don’t beat anybody up, work hard, and you’ll get a job again.’”
From there his sports career took off. Eventually he wound up where he was most comfortable: behind a camera. Today he is one of the most-sought after sports cameramen in the world. His annual calendar is a sports fans dream
- Every two years he operates a camera at the Olympics for NBC, most recently at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia
- Live photographer at the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament for CBS
- All San Diego Padres (MLB) home games for Fox Sports West
- Weekly NFL games on CBS, which require him to be in a different city every weekend from September through January
Italiano has run camera at multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Baseball All-Star games, NBA Finals, and Olympic games, which are his favorite. “The whole world is represented there and the whole world is watching. There’s a real sense of brotherhood at the Olympics.”
To accommodate his busy schedule, Italiano has homes on both coasts in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California. Despite his globe trotting and world-renowned success, which has resulted in him winning five prestigious Emmy Awards, Italiano has never forgotten his roots. In between working the Winter Olympics and the NCAA Tournament, Italiano recently visited Onondaga and spoke with students in an Electronic Media Communications class. He gave them valuable advice
- Be persistent
- Always work at your craft
- Respect the job you have by acting professionall
- Embrace fear and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll do your best work when you are really on the edge.
Students listened intently to Italiano’s message and were impressed with what they heard
- "I learned it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard, you can accomplish anything." -Jake Zah
- "It was very impressive to hear that he started at OCC and now is doing all of these amazing things." -David Breu
- "I was inspired when I found out he graduated from the same high school as me." -Traevon Robinson
Robinson’s dream is to be a professional music video photographer. Ironically, it’s shooting music which Italiano says helped him improve his skills exponentially when he stepped away from sports for a year-and-a-half and went out on the road shooting exclusively with heavy metal band Metallica. “With music there are no rules as long as it looks good. I really got to know the camera and its capabilities better than ever before. When I returned to sports I was able to be more creative in the way I was shooting. It definitely made me a better photographer.”
The man who gave Italiano his start in 1984, Tony Vadala, is now Chair of Onondaga’s Electronic Media Communications department. “Andy is very down to earth. None of this has gone to his head,” said Vadala. “Seeing him come back, share his stories and wisdom with students, and knowing it all started here is remarkable. It really validates everything we do.”