The power of local music: student finds himself through his art

Musician Tyler Cole used music, when he first came to USF, as a way to make friends. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/TYLER COLE

From early beginnings in high school music programs to joining club organizations in college, Tyler Cole has always been surrounded by music. A junior majoring in psychology, he is a firm believer in the ability of music to connect people.

Starting small, Cole began his exploration of music in his own hometown, but when he visited Tampa he discovered new, local music. 

“I started in middle school,” Cole said. “There was a big metal scene in Lakeland and Winter Haven for some reason, so I fell into that. I grew up coming to see shows in Tampa and Ybor. I think since a lot of artists come here for tours, it’s generated a good amount of musical diversity locally.”

Inspired by the other artists around him, Cole felt inspiration to start his own musical projects at a young age. 

“I mostly played in bands with friends around Lakeland and I got into recording music the summer before I left for USF,” Cole said.

Although high school proved to be an ambitious time for Cole’s music and his exposure to the local scenes left him experienced, it was not until he stepped foot on USF’s campus that he truly took advantage of music’s ability to tie people together.

“I found a community that was started right here at USF dedicated to songwriters, called Tampa Songwriting Collective,” Cole said. “That’s a good group. They’ve since moved to downtown.” 

Music gave Cole an easy transition into college, letting him surround himself with those of common interests. According to Cole, the relatability of music proved to be a fast and easy way to meet new people. 

“Half of the reason I involved myself was for the love of the music,” Cole said. “But honestly, the other half was wanting to find a social group that had similar interests.”

Leaving his friends from home behind, Cole was first challenged with finding a new friend group. It was through his passion for music, however, that was able to meet new people.

“I didn’t have many friends coming out to Tampa,” Cole said. “So going to record stores, shows and taking advantage of the city was how I made most of my current friends.”

It was not until Cole came to college that he felt such an expansion to how he saw music. 

“I used to have a very narrow view of music,” Cole said. “In hindsight, that felt very limiting. Finding other people in Tampa that liked the same stuff as me really helped solidify my tastes. I wanted to expand my knowledge of music as much as I could. I feel like if you want to be a good creator, you need to be a thorough fan of the art first.”

Cole said that without the music community at USF and Tampa Bay at large, many of his musical influences would not exist. 

“It was obvious where I was pulling my influence,” Cole said. “Now, when I go to create, I feel like I could go any direction I want and I’m more open to pushing myself. This has made an interesting dynamic.”

With his new music knowledge, Cole joined the local group Coastals to help bring his own experiences to the band’s efforts. 

“I joined Coastals who were already established having played around the Tampa area and already having their first EP out,” Cole said. “Now that we’re working on new music that I’m involved in, I feel more confident, like I have a lot to bring to the table. This has made an interesting dynamic for my current band.”