A Look at Our Archives with an Archivist: Catching Up with EVC 1994 Alum Byron Graziano
Updated: Apr 7
Recently we spoke with EVC alum and professional broadcast news archivist Byron Graziano, who reminisced with us over his time as a youth producer of the 1994 production “Rap It Up!”, as well as the career path in TV and media that followed. When stopping by to visit, Byron arrived cheerfully with some of his most valued photos, employee IDs, and memorabilia that he wanted to share with us.
A 17 year old senior from the Lower East Side, Byron found the way into his current career before even graduating. His mother, originally from Louisiana, was his sole caretaker growing up. His father, who was born in New York City and had Sicilian parents was not around during his upbringing. Having lived closer by the East Village, Byron recalls seeing what felt like “a different side” to the area when venturing into Alphabet City, where the unfamiliar terrain seemed dangerous in comparison.
We talked about his time in high school and how he “was going to school but… wasn’t going everyday.” His school began sending absentee warnings to his household and in an effort to prevent his truancy from being exposed, Byron made a copy of the mailbox key so that he could intercept this unwanted information from his mother, who thought he was going to school.
School faculty grew concerned for his future. His dean eventually sat him down to discuss his plans following graduation. He remembers having been advised that “if you don’t pursue an education nobody will hire you”. Byron knew he was passionate about rap music. He and his friends rapped together and listened to it together, and he wanted to nurture this creative interest. When he expressed this to his dean, they advised him to do something “more realistic”; evidently not seeing this as a viable career option.
It was due to the advisement of his dean that he found his way to EVC, where he was able to create and produce a documentary “working with a group of my peers who wanted to do the same thing I wanted to do.” Having also been fascinated with the news production process due to the fact that he enjoyed watching the TV reporting of major news networks like ABC or PBS, an executive internship at EVC intrigued him. He remembered thinking to himself, “it’s not a major TV network, but I’ll give it a shot.” Although he eventually found his calling to be live news archiving, which is what he currently does; while he was at EVC in production of Rap It Up!, he was able to practice several aspects of his current profession as an archivist. He remembers coming to his executive internship where “I would just practice editing,” a skill that he learned during his time at EVC and still uses today.
It was here where Byron was able to nurture his passion for rap music, through the mentoring and support of EVC instructors Pam Sporn and Sonya Lynn Royston. When his executive internship at EVC began “we were just pitching ideas” for the eventual exploration of a music genre that Byron— just like the several other young folks— was creatively devoted to. With the guidance of his instructor he was able to dissect rap music in New York, interview experts and unpack the genre’s culture in this time. While discussing his enjoyment of the production process with his cohort, Byron said; “I wanted the documentary to not be a news documentary– I wanted it to be a group of high school students just sitting on the stoop, talking about our days and not only that but talking about the music that we like.” The group centered dialogue between one another on something that mattered deeply to all of them. “From 3 to 6 pm when we did the Youth Doc Workshop was when we started to put the pieces together… We went to Union Square park and we were just talking about music..”
Byron in the opening credits of Rap It Up! (1994)
A commitment to this authentic and casual way of approaching the subject led Pam to recommend that instead of trying to shoot one of the featured conversations between youth producers inside of an actual subway car, they ask the Transit Museum for permission to film inside of one of their exhibited cars; to ensure more controlled filming conditions. He recalls writing this letter of request amongst others in the process of Rap It Up!’s production. Byron also recalled interviewing several folks for the documentary, reminiscing that “that was an amazing experience… I got this history about rap and hip hop culture”. When talking about his interview with renowned DJ and music video director Ralph McDaniels, Byron recalled that “he told me a story about DJ Cool Herc, when he started the mixing of the track from Apache”. He was able to connect with prominent figures in the genre, people who he respected and admired.
When talking about the final stages and premiere of Rap It Up! Byron expressed “the collaboration was the most important thing because without the team we would have never gotten this documentary off the ground– we have to be in sync on what we want to put out to the general public” Byron’s perspective offered a fascinating mission for the youth producers in saying that.
While he was hiding absentee warnings from his mother for his truancy at Seward Park High, he would come to his executive internship at EVC “even while I was concussed!” Byron recounted a time during the winter while he was at EVC when the icy streets of New York caused a bad slip and fall, and how passerby were offering to help him to local emergency services, while he was just trying to make it to EVC HQ. The bump on the back of his head that was left from this massive fall was obviously more concerning than his internship duties to the instructors at EVC once he arrived; Byron recalled scaring his instructors upon arrival with a laugh.
“I was 17…“I wasn’t a good writer at the time but after looking at the work I did [at EVC] I guess I must have done a pretty good job.” During the premiere of his group’s production, Byron met the man who would shape the next phase of his career, and many others who would contribute to it just the same. It was here where Byron met Bill Miles, famous Black filmmaker and documentarian. “At the time [of meeting Bill Miles] I was still going to EVC. After the premiere, Bill Miles wanted to talk to me in private. And he did. He said, ‘Look, once you get accepted to any college that you go to, give me a call. I’ll hook you up with a job.” And that was just the beginning. Through the network he fomented at that screening, within a month of having premiered “Rap It Up!” Byron was reporting for NY1, not even having graduated from his high school.
Despite the opportunities to produce news reports coming his way, Byron quickly figured out what he wanted to do as a career choice once he finished his executive internship at EVC. Working with Bill Miles helped him realize this. “When I talk about a historian at heart… Bill Miles was so devoted…This guy knew his stuff… He was like a walking encyclopedia about Harlem and he would not stop. He would send me to the board of health just to get birth certificates…That’s how I wanted to become an archivist, working with these individuals. And that’s why I stayed working as an archivist. Didn’t want to be a producer, didn’t want to be a reporter. I tried that stuff. But this was my calling… They were my mentors. Pam was also my mentor too. She was the one that started guiding me to the right path.”
Now a husband and father living in Williamsburg; working as a live news archivist for CBS, Byron happily told us about his step-son’s ambitions in theater, and how he wants him to pursue a profession in something that fulfills him. “This is his passion. And I told him ‘don’t give up on your passion.” While recounting his time working for four major broadcasting networks in his nearly 28-year career, Byron stated that “I couldn’t have done without that group– it was an amazing opportunity to not only learn to produce the documentary– helped me progress and also decide that this is the career I wanted to be in after EVC– I left with the tools and skills needed to progress going forward in that industry.”