Nowadays there is a lot of talk about professional ‘escapes’ abroad. People looking for their chance outside the Italian borders. Fervent and full-of-will minds that take a giant step towards something ‘unknown’, but that could reserve them new scenarios and, yes, let’s face it, infinite possibilities.
This happened to Gianluca Magalotti, former bass and double bass student in Rome and today an esteemed artist of the Nashville music scene. Yes Nashville, one of the world’s musical cradles. Also called “Music City”, Nashville is an unmissable destination for those who love music. It is the home of American folk music and all the biggest names have passed through here. We just need to mention two of them, to understand the artistic relevance of this beautiful town, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
Before arriving in Tennessee, Gianluca’s path was marked by numerous experiences, first as a student of the most prestigious music training centers in Italy – Scuola Popolare di Musica “Donna Olimpia,” studying with professional bass player Pino Pecorelli, the Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Performance as a bass student at the world-renowned Conservatory of Music “Santa Cecilia” of Rome, studying with Berklee Alumni and wellknown recording and touring bass player Marco Siniscalco, the Umbria Jazz Clinics, a famous two-week program hosted annually in Perugia, Italy, by Berklee College of Music, at the end of which just a few selected musicians may receive the honor of being awarded a prestigious scholarship in order to attend the college in Boston, MA.
From this moment on, a fantastic adventure in the USA has started for Gianluca, which includes the highest levels of musical education that can be received today, but also a lot of real work. His story is very interesting and can be a source of inspiration for many other talented musicians. That’s why we asked him to tell us about it.
Today, Gianluca is rapidly making his way into the Nashville’s finest music scene, by actively working as a recording and touring bass player for local and national artists like Ultimate Aldean (dubbed “World’s Greatest Jason Aldean Tribute” by LiveNation), Austin Anderson, Jessica McNear, Steven Cade, Chavis Chance, Eldon Huff, Will Jones, Gamy & The Alterations and others within the local music scene. WEB SITE
From Rome, Italy, to Nashville, Tennessee. How’s it there in Nashville in 2019? Is the “American Dream” still a thing today?
Well, by the time the first immigrants planted their new roots down here centuries ago, until today, America still is THE “land of opportunities,” even though nowadays it’s getting harder and harder to hunt for an immigrant visa. But that’s probably because, in order for it to maintain such a title, it just can’t be that easy to conquer, right? Anyways, Nashville’s been taking care of me pretty well so far. Lots of music, lots of musicians around. It’s like a life-size music box 24/7. Feels like a little distant world where everyday is a party all over the town, and everybody, from the bartenders to the plumbers, is somehow a musician, either just as a hobby or, most commonly, having a daily job while trying to succeed in music.
You made it to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston before getting to Nashville. How did everything start? What drove you to such a huge ambition?
In the first place, you need to know that I have emotionally and economically invested half of my life into music now. I was surely lucky enough to have a very few great teachers and mentors in Rome, who were so willing and believing in myself to always push me and keep me in the right direction. Everything started from a little school in the heart of Monte Verde area, called Scuola Popolare di Musica “Donna Olimpia” (big shout-out, yeah!) were I’ve literally played the first notes on bass, still my principal instrument. Eventually, I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Performance at Conservatory of Music “Santa Cecilia” of Rome. I remember a vague time in my life when I’ve decided I wanted to do music professionally, and that happened when I was about 17, but I would say that the academic experience in Rome and a mature crash with the Italian reality of music were most likely the reasons that literally gave me enough push to runaway from everything and everybody. After all, what would someone like me do in a place where you’re constantly asked “what a bass guitar is” or “what your REAL JOB is besides music??” So, I’m really glad I had the teachers I had, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to get prepared enough at the point of earning two scholarships for Berklee and turn my life around positively.
John Patitucci, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Steve Bailey, James Genus, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Paula Cole. How’s it like to be face to face with these huge names?
I know this is something that the average music student in Italy wouldn’t even believe is actually possible. Just think that before I started digging into the idea of considering Berklee, I didn’t even know about the existence of a concept called “scholarship.” Yes, because in Italy we don’t deserve to be rewarded for our merit, won’t you agree…? So, to answer your question, the first time I had such encounters like these at Berklee I was a bit petrified, at the point of being scared of even trying to have the shortest conversation with each one of them. At some point though, when you start attending these masterclasses every single week, you eventually “get used to it,” (perhaps you never really get used to talking with these cats, as incredible as they are). That, I figure, is the point of no return, where your mindset, your heart and your aspirations change forever for the better, and now you start confronting with these people here, who, believe it or not, are humans like you, who had enough talent and push and found themselves in the right environment (America?) for them to grow their artistry and making their names echo so much.
What are you doing now and what are your near future plans?
Currently, I’m involved with multiple artists, both on the touring and the recording sides of my job. As a bass player, singer and music producer, I’m taking this time of my life to fully put into practice the huge amount of things I’ve learned during my time at Berklee. I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to financially live well this year by just working as a full-time bass player for artists in the country and pop scene of Nashville and all across the USA, and I can certainly offer a mention to Ultimate Aldean, Will Jones Band, Chavis Chance, Steven Cade, Jessica McNear, Austin Anderson, Jeff Woods Music, Anna Lynn Ferris, Eldon Huff, Aubryn and Gamy & The Alterations. Now, as you may now, it’s really tough with the visa matter, so I’m basically focusing most of my energy onto my artist visa application, in order to be able to keep working here and serve artistically an environment that gives back to those who strive for a bigger picture and really put all their efforts into it.
What would your advise be for a young Italian musician like you who would feel inspired from your experience?
Learning English? No, just kiddin’. We all know that the average English education level in our Italian schools is at least 30 years behind the rest of the world. Just think that I’ve really started learning English when I began my studies at Berklee just 4 years ago. My advise would surely be something between always striving for the best you can, and keeping your communication and human skills higher than anything else, even higher than music. In fact, at the end of the day, no matter how good you are playing an instrument, nobody won’t hire you if you’re not easy to work with and you don’t give the people a reason to rely on you. To the youngsters, I would suggest that it’s good to be 24/7 immerse into music, we all were and still are there pretty much. But don’t forget about your genuine human side. Don’t forget about the people around you. And please, don’t think of doing music just cause “you love it” (wow, really…?). Art’s supposed to make this world a better place, and any selfish purpose related to music won’t help the world improve, and, in the end, won’t help you succeed.
When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hang-ups.
Di. C.Piraino e G.Magalotti