As the Americas Finance Competency Leader for
Ernst & Young, Tom Cucuzza has managed countless tight deadlines, made all the more difficult by
the logistical challenges of team members scattered around the country. And he recently leaned
on all of that experience to build an award-win-ning band called “American PI,” comprised of E&Y
partners and senior managers from the firm’s performance improvement practice. The band recently
won Fortune magazine’s Battle of the Corporate
Bands and performed at the Rock and Roll hall of
Fame in Cleveland. Consulting caught up with
Cucuzza to discuss the band’s success... and
playing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Out of Office
Consulting: When you’re staffing an
engagement, there are set processes to
identify the best people available with
the right skill sets. How did you staff
Cucuzza: While we have 135,000
people throughout our firm—I did not seek out the elite
musicians from that sample. I started with an email looking for people with similar musical interests. Of our 12-
member band, half had played in bands in high school or
college, but only one or two had played in a band in their
adult life. Others were literally church singers or played
piano as a kid. This was the first time that we had performed at this level.
Consulting: What was the catalyst to forming the band?
Cucuzza: In January, I was asked to put a band together for
an internal Performance Improvement meeting we were having in Orlando for the practice’s 700 partners and senior
managers. The event had a music theme and the tagline was
‘advisory in concert’. We started with an orchestra conductor, who talked about the importance of a team working
together, and we ended the event. The goal was for us to be
a living reminder of that message.
Consulting: How did you go from that internal event to
winning the annual Battle of the Corporate Bands at the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Cucuzza: The E&Y performance went so well that we
started looking for other venues and someone mentioned
the Hall of Fame competition. We met over a weekend and
put together a demo recording. We then made the top 32,
competed again to make the top 18 regional finals, competed against five other bands in San Francisco and eventually
earned a spot to perform at the Hall of Fame show.
Consulting: How did you manage to rehearse given that
you’re based all over the country and are on the road often
with your day job?
Cucuzza: That was a challenge—we couldn’t rehearse
together much. We’d have weekly conference calls to dis-
cuss what songs everyone would practice. And to make it
even more difficult, we arranged all of our own music; we
were writing parts for people who didn’t play together. We
finally got together four days before
the Hall of Fame show.
Consulting: Did your experience
managing virtual teams help you in
Cucuzza: Absolutely. When we
came together for the first time, it
was very much like putting a pro-
ject team together. Each of us had individual sill sets and
we very quickly got down to business. It felt very similar
to what we do on projects. Over the course of the compe-
tition some of the other consulting skills came into play.
For example, we built very detailed schedules for how the
rehearsal week would go. Those planning skills were
crucial. And as members of the band, we were as tightly
connected as we would be on an engagement. It’s a com-
plete team effort.
Consulting: What’s next for American PI?
Cucuzza: As winners of the ‘Best Corporate Band in
America’, we’ve been asked to play at the next induction
ceremony in April—where the nominees are: Guns ‘N
Roses, Heart, Donna Summer, The Beastie Boys, The Cure
and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.