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"Two CD Review"

This energetic Chicago band has a style similar to John Mayer and a hint of Marcy Playground. Two initially has a punk rock feel to it, but gains some more power with a bit of funk/jazz feel containing good beats. They cover a wide variety of styles, yet still manage to make it work well.

A legend in the music world, Shelly Yakus, mixed the album. Yakus has also recorded/mixed for such musicians as John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Tom Petty, and the list goes on.

These guys really know what they are doing, especially since this is their first release. I would, however, expect them to know a bit about music considering Ted Atkatz (vocals/lead songwriter) and Rob Kassinger (vocals/guitar/upright bass) are both members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This is a lovely album that provides 11 tracks of foot tapping excitement.
-- Simi Mutant (2006) -

"From Lead Percussionist to Different Drummer"

CHICAGO — As the principal percussionist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ted Atkatz had reached a pinnacle in his profession.

He had tenure in one of the world’s great musical institutions, with a fat salary and benefits. Stagehands set up his battery of instruments. Touring meant luxury hotels and per diems. And he had, just as precious, the respect of the percussion world, a singularly obsessive group of musicians who play the triangle, the bass drum and everything between.

But in May, Mr. Atkatz pulled a modern-day Don Quixote. He quit his job to devote himself full time to his alternative rock band. He now plays in joints across the Midwest, sometimes performing for the bartender or, on a good night, several hundred people. Orchestra Hall? Carnegie Hall? The Musikverein in Vienna? Forget it. Try the Mousetrap in Eau Claire, Wis., or Beaner’s Central in Duluth, Minn.

Mr. Atkatz says he doesn’t regret his decision. “I wanted to make sure that every time I played, I wanted to be passionate about it,” he said. “Based on that criterion, it was a no-brainer.”

The highway between classical music and pop is well traveled. Pop musicians like Frank Zappa, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello have made forays into the classical arena, often to a less-than-friendly reaction from critics. And many classical musicians play pop or jazz on the side. But it is rare for an orchestra musician to abandon the classical realm for a career in rock.

It is even rarer for someone of Mr. Atkatz’s stature to do so. Principal jobs like his seldom come up, and more often than not members of an orchestra like the Chicago Symphony stay on for decades. “The people who don’t know him personally probably think he’s insane,” said Brant Taylor, a Chicago Symphony cellist.

Indeed, these days Mr. Atkatz has become his own stagehand, lugging keyboards and guitars into clubs, where the intermission drink of choice comes from a tap, not a Champagne bottle, and where the fragrance is stale Coors, not Chanel. Sometimes his nightly take barely covers gas and meals. Instead of fancy hotels, the band’s red minivan is where he often sleeps. He survives on money from teaching percussion. His income is about $45,000 a year, less than a third of what he used to earn.

The band is called NYCO, an acronym based on “New York,” where Mr. Atkatz is from, and “Colorado,” the home of a co-founder. It is one of thousands of little-known groups vying for recognition from risk-averse labels, corporate-owned radio stations, tightwad club owners and listeners in a world of fewer and fewer record stores.

Mr. Atkatz is a slight man with a patchy beard, modestly shaggy hair and an open, mellow air. He does not like to discuss his age in a youth-obsessed industry, but he looks to be in his 20s — a decade younger than the reality. He is well aware of the difficulties ahead, admitting: “There’s always some doubt that creeps in: ‘Is this long shot really possible? Can I make the N.F.L.?’ Those are the kind of odds that you are up against.”

His first album, mysteriously named “Two” (it’s about relationships, often troubled ones), has received modest play on local radio stations and some reviews. “This is some seriously well-crafted rock music,” Chicago Social Magazine wrote. It has sold about 1,800 CDs (many in clubs after shows), and Mr. Atkatz counts 3,400 individual downloads.

The songs are all original, with Mr. Atkatz, who sings and plays keyboard, as writer or co-writer. He is at work on a second album, which he hopes to release in April.

Mr. Atkatz has key friends helping out. Jon Seymour, an Internet entrepreneur with a Web advertising and local search site,, helps with marketing. Carlos Segura, a former neighbor and prominent graphic designer, has lent a hand with logos and album production. The veteran producer Jim Tullio, who worked with the Band, Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin and whose albums have twice won Grammys, said he took on Mr. Atkatz after listening to a demo tape sent out of the blue. “I loved the music,” he said.

During a typical day in late January, Mr. Atkatz met with Mr. Segura and later a producer to discuss ideas for a music video to post on the site. Next up was a rehearsal at a North Side studio, followed by a drive to Winnetka, Ill., for a mixing session with Mr. Tullio.

At the rehearsal, Mr. Atkatz sat at the keyboard. He sang, often in falsetto, with his lips nearly touching the microphone. His head rocked back and forth atop his hunched shoulders. He yelled out instructions — “D sharp!” — and asked his bandmates to “rock out more” at one point. He gave frequent encouragement — “Awesome!” — and had a firm grasp of what he wanted but was open to ideas. “I’m cool with that,” Mr. Atkatz said about a proposed guitar solo.

Mr. Atkatz’s decision to walk away from the Chicago Symphony shocked some colleagues, particularly the old-timers “who hold on to the orches - The New York Times

"Local CD Reviews"

Given his status as principal percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it’s somewhat surprising NYCO’s Ted Atkatz leaves most of the drumming on the band’s debut, Two, to a assorted cast of others. What’s not surprising is the craftsmanship and care of the songs/arrangements and playing. But as is symptomatic of first professional recordings, there’s a certain sameness of vocal sound/levels throughout – e.g., one wouldn’t expect a song titled “Pissed Off” to sound similar to opener “English Song.” But when the mold is broken – as on the opening of fully fleshed-out pop rocker “Side Of The Road” – the potential for NYCO becomes self-evident. (
– David C. Eldredge - Illinois Entertianer

"The Radar Music"

There are two ways to describe how good NYCO's debut album, Two, released last month on Thickface Records, is. One, we can just come out and say it: If blues-tinged rock 'n' roll sung by a guy channeling a funked-up Chris Cornell sounds appealing at all, it's a must-own. Another way of relaying the quality of this album, though, is to share some not-so-secret information: NYCO's frontman, Ted Atkatz, is the principal percussionist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Not surprisingly, this is some seriously well-crafted rock music. "Classical training encourages being attentive to every detail," says Atkatz. "There's an emphasis on being perfect. Once you start listening with that critical ear to your own writing, it forces you to improve your craft." The instrumentation on Two is top-notch, but Atkatz and company didn't stop there when it came to perfecting the album. They also enlisted the help of Grammy-award-winning producer Jim Tullio, who gave Two an ultra-fine polish in the studio. It's the musical possibilities of the studio, in fact, that might ultimately prove most enticing to Atkatz. "Some of my favorite bands, like the Beatles and Steely Dan, at a certain point decided they couldn't achieve what they wanted to live and stopped touring," he says. "A lot of music from the '60's was made with just guitar, bass and vocals. Now you might have 16 guitar tracks layered to meld into one sound. Recreating that live is a real challenge." If anyone's up to it, though... --Matt Lee
- CS Magazine


CDs - "Two"
Singles - The provocative "English Song" has been played on over 50 radio stations nationwide, including Chicago's Q101 and WXRT.
NYCO's second CD shows the evolution of the band's experimental blue eyed soul.
Singles- Hold the Line, Girls of Summerland



Ted Atkatz's decision to leave his gig as the principal percussionist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was a bold one. Exchanging his drumsticks for a keyboard and an acoustic guitar, he began singing an altogether different tune. He wrote twelve songs, collaborated with three of Chicagos finest musicians, and NYCO was born.

Two, NYCOs debut album, resonates with the sincerity and energy of great rock'n roll, capped by Atkatz's striking melodies. Produced by Grammy-award winner Jim Tullio, reviewers have called the album a must-own. Chicago's own Q101 FM and WXRT 93.1 FM, stations that helped bring bands like Wilco and Smashing Pumpkins into the mainstream, have lately taken to spinning NYCOs tunes. The soulful English Song" has already garnered significant attention, and has even been dubbed a pop classic by WXRT DJ Richard Milne. NYCO was featured as one of the band's on Volkswagen Motor's 2007 Auto Show Podcast. NYCO's music was also used in 2007 by Ford Motors and JC Penney.

Ted Atkatz and NYCO have been covered in the press by The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Social Magazine.
NYCO has been touring the United States extensively over the last three years, opening for Moby, Jason Mraz and The Steve Miller Band.
NYCO’S second full length release, “Realize”, was released in 2008. Their CD release show was held at the Park West in Chicago and for this special event the band was accompanied by the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra.