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  • Where are you from?
    I was born in Rome, Italy. I came to the U.S. with my parents when I was four. I grew up in northern New Jersey.
  • Where have you lived?
    In addition to New Jersey, I lived in the Dallas, Texas area both as a graduate student and then after I graduated. I worked for a year on two different cruise ships, one based out of Miami, Florida, and the other out of Barcelona, Spain. I lived at West Point, New York for ten years when I was in the West Point Band’s Jazz Knights. West Point is fifty miles north of New York City. After I got out of the military, I lived for a year in Kansas City, Missouri. I have lived in Illinois since 2016. I lived in Minas Gerais, Brazil from April to September 2022 as a Fulbright scholar.
  • When did you start playing guitar?
    I began taking guitar lessons at age 8.
  • Do you play other instruments?
    I have done gigs on other stringed instruments over the years, like mandolin, banjo, and ukulele, mostly as doubles in pit orchestras and when certain musical situations have called for it. I studied violin concurrently with the guitar from ages 8-12. I have done a few gigs over the years on bass. I can play the piano and drums a little, but I would not call myself a pianist or a drummer.
  • Why did you pursue a career in music?
    In middle school I wanted to be a medical doctor, but I volunteered as a “candy striper” in my hometown hospital and discovered that I couldn’t stand the sight of blood or people getting needles. I also found the hospital to be a sad place with so many sick people. That experience taught me at least two things: 1) to have great respect for medical professionals and the work they do and 2) that I was not cut out for that line of work. I later took some mechanical drawing classes in high school and found that I liked the symmetry of it, and I thought I wanted to be an architect, but it didn’t work out. By my junior year, I looked at what I was good at and realized I had been playing the guitar for eight years, and it occurred to me that I could pursue a music career.
  • Where have you toured?
    In the U.S. I have done tours of Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas, the northeast and the New England regions. Abroad, I have toured Ukraine, Holland, and Brazil.
  • Have you had jobs besides music?
    In high school I worked as a paperboy and then as a stockman and in the appliance department at Kmart. In college, I worked as a cashier at CVS. Later on, I took some time off from graduate school and worked for about a year in the Customer Assistance Center at the corporate headquarters of Jaguar Cars North America. I learned a lot about business and communication in that job, things I still use today as a musician.
  • Were you in the military?
    Yes, though my military career was probably different from most. I enlisted in the Army specifically to perform in the West Point Band’s Jazz Knights. Their guitarist retired, and they advertised an opening. As I civilian, I sent in an audition packet and was selected for an in-person audition. After I was offered the position, I contacted the local Army recruiting station and began the process to enlist. I entered basic training at Ft. Leonard Missouri in May 2005 and graduated nine weeks later. I did not attend a band-only basic training, which does not exist. I was with trainees from across the Army. I learned to fire a rifle, throw hand grenades, rappel, zipline, orienteer, and other soldier skills. After I graduated from basic training, because of my civilian acquired music skills I bypassed Advanced Individual Training (job-specific training) and went straight to my job at West Point. The West Point Band is one of the millitary's Premiere Bands, in which a position is stabilized, and you can serve your entire military career in that one job. I served for ten years in one job at one military installation, West Point. While I was in the Army, I had to meet all the requirements for any soldier, including maintaining proper weight for height, taking a biannual physical fitness test, and participating in Army-wide training. I entered the Army as a specialist (E4) and left as a sergeant first class (E7). Many people have asked why I did not become a commissioned officer, as I had a masters degree when I entered military service and could have earned more money. Army Band Officers perform an important function primarily as administrators, but they often have little time to perform. I wanted to perform, so enlisting rather than commissioning made sense.
  • Did you always want to be a college professor?
    From the beginning I wanted to be a performer, and, in fact, even as a professor, I still consider myself a performer first. I developed an interest in teaching college when I was a teaching fellow during graduate school at the University of North Texas. I directed an electric guitar ensemble and taught lessons to undergraduate jazz guitar students. In the courses I was taking as a graduate student, I had to create some projects which required me to teach and present. These experiences gave me a taste for college teaching, and I thought I could see myself doing it one day full-time after spending many years as a performer, which is what I did.
  • Why did you get a doctorate?
    Earning my doctorate was a goal from high school. Most college teaching jobs require one, so it was necessary for the line of work I wanted to get into. Even so, my time at Teachers College-Columbia University, where I earned my doctorate, was transformative. It helped me become a better teacher and develop a more professional identity.
  • What do you like most and least about being a musician?
    I enjoy performing with others. I like the creative aspects of music, like composing and arranging music and improvising. I enjoy those moments when magic happens on a stage with a group of musicians. Looking forward to those moments is what keeps me going as a performer. The administrative tasks associated with being a musician and sometimes even the practicing can make it feel like a *job*. This has become truer the older I get, with the additional responsibilities that have come with being a father, husband, and community member.
  • What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
    In no particular order: 1. In my experience, you don't choose music; music chooses you. If you can see yourself doing anything else, then do that, but if you can't see yourself doing anything but music, then do music. 2. Develop the highest level of musical skills. Continue growing as a musician throughout your life. 3. Interpersonal and organizational skills are as important as musical skills. The music business is a people business. It's who you know and who knows you. Show up on time. Know your part well. Be easy to work with. Treat people with respect. 4. You create your own career as a professional musician. You are the business. Being a professional musician requires unfailing drive and energy. Work hard. Accept and learn from rejection. Be resilient. 5. Set goals. Don't get up in the morning and "let the day happen." Conceive of longer time periods in the same way. Short-term goals-- today, I am going to accomplish X. Medium-term goals-- this year, I'm going to accomplish X. Long-term goals-- in five years, I'm going to accomplish X. Work backwards. Determine what your end goal is and take small steps to accomplish it. Follow through and stay committed to your goals even on the days when you don't want to. Keeping commitments-- including to yourself-- is the sign of a professional. 6. Be adaptable. Recognize that the career you have in music now will look different in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. Embrace innovation.
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