People: Tom Payetta

Alumnus Tom Payetta is reinventing his life — and career — after Opie Gone Bad.

By Doug McPherson

Publish Date: April 22, 2013

 Tom Payetta played guitar for the band, Opie Gone Bad, for 18 years. Photo: Evan Semón
Tom Payetta obtained a physics degree from MSU Denver but opted for a career with
the band Opie Gone Bad that lasted 18 years. Photo: Evan Semón

What to do after nearly two decades touring with a successful rock band? That’s 48-year-old Tom Payetta’s jam.

“Life without the band seems a little artificial, because I did it for 18 years nonstop,” says the former sound engineer with popular Denver band Opie Gone Bad. (The band pulled the plug quietly on Jan. 1, 2013.)

He certainly has options. But it’s unlikely you’d guess what he’s thinking for an encore. It might be acting. His last role was the clownish manservant Grumio in Flaming of the Shrew. He’s played a doctor, a priest, a haberdasher and a drunken housemaid. He caught the theater bug in high school.

Or, he could play guitar in a new band. Payetta (BS physics ’10), who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, says his first musical influence was his dad. “He was a jazz drummer who made it seem fun and cool. He tried to teach me drums and clarinet, but I ended up taking to the guitar because rock ‘n’ roll was it.”

Yes, lots of options: maybe return to sound engineering and make rock stars sound, well, like rock stars; be a guitar rock star; become a star on stage or even fall back on the physics degree he earned from MSU Denver and study actual stars.

“I’m exploring options like that great gig in the sky as a physicist or scientist … putting my degree and educational investment to work.”

Regardless of what his future holds, Payetta says his past — the one at MSU Denver — “changed the game for the better all around. I had amazing learning experiences … I really discovered a lot of myself in the process. And the challenge and the strife of being a physics major made the whole band thing seem like a beautiful, easy gift.”

His fondest memories of MSU Denver? “Getting to know my professors and having access to their experience and guidance. And doing late night observations of active galactic nuclei, because I was so accustomed to rock ‘n’ roll hours as a lifestyle, that was legitimate fun.”


Plan for a career transition by creating a “career insurance policy.” Read more about how to prepare.