Above: Sam Wronski, left, playing with Drake Milligan in Nashville last weekend. Credit: Matt Wronski
For Sam Wronski, there’s a straight line between his recent appearance on America’s Got Talent, playing bass in Drake Milligan’s band, and his early start with music in East Greenwich schools.
Wronski, EGHS Class of 2017, first began playing standup bass in Leslie Lee’s fourth grade orchestra class. By his senior year, he was the only one left in orchestra from that fourth grade class, and by then he’d taken up other instruments as well.
At one point, he was studying piano, guitar and bass guitar all at once. That was too much and he focused on bass guitar.
“You can obviously attribute [my love of music] to the music program,” he said in a recent interview.
In particular, Wronski credits high school music teacher Brendan Carniaux for spurring him to consider making music a career.
“I would not have kept up with music if not for him,” Wronski said. “I clicked with him my freshman year. The day I had to audition for the jazz band, I was so nervous. I did the audition and he seemed shocked I’d learned the material. He took a chance with me, I felt.”
Initially, there he was just the most junior of a few bass players in the jazz band but by senior year, he was the only bass player.
“I could see the way [Carniaux] understood music and that really gave me something to look up to. I don’t think I would have gone to music school without that,” Wronski said.
For Wronski, that meant Belmont University in Nashville. He attended Belmont for two years but got busy with out-of-town gigs. “I decided to take a year off and see how it went. Then Covid hit and it seemed to make more sense for me to not go back to school.”
It was a little terrifying, he said, but the community of musicians has been great. And, it turns out his move to Nashville made him just the first Wronski there. Matt and Dana Wronski (a singer herself), former owners of Tio Mateo’s/Greenwich Bay Gourmet, moved there in 2018; their daughter Ellie and family followed.
Wronski didn’t know he would be playing on America’s Got Talent until about a week beforehand. He’d begun playing in Drake Milligan’s band several months ago. Milligan’s manager reached out to ask him if he’d be free for a few days in April but didn’t give any details. “I’m wondering what is this thing I’m doing,” Wronski said. “A week before we’re supposed to fly out [to Los Angeles for the taping], I find out.”
Milligan is from Texas and has been compared to Elvis, with his deep sonorous voice. Wronski said he didn’t arrive in Nashville with a deep love of country but that’s changed, especially when playing with musicians like Milligan.
“I’ve never witnessed anybody who performs and sings like he does,” he said. “His idols are Elvis and George Strait. I think that’s why he came across well on AGT – he is his own thing. It’s cool that I get to be a part of it.”
Here’s Drake Milligan’s initial performance on America’s Got Talent: