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  • Writer's pictureMark Nanni

Live Performance Blog ~ 2. Introduction


I started taking one on one drum lessons in around 2nd grade. I learned to play, read, and write rhythm and all of the snare drum rudiments. From this point forward, there was nothing else I was going to do with my life that didn’t include music performance. I wasn’t a kid who wanted to be a doctor or a baseball player or a fire fighter, and this has never changed.

The drum lessons led very soon to performances/recitals at the elementary school in various percussion ensembles and school bands. Shortly thereafter, I began private drum lessons (snare drum and drum kit [set]), with a percussionist from the Syracuse Symphony, Len Carey. I was never again in an organized school band or orchestra.

Soon, Mr. Carey retired and moved to Florida, referring me to a colleague. It was never the same for me, and at that point, I quit the drums and began learning keyboard instruments, particularly piano and organ. I took very few lessons and mostly taught myself, or learned from friends with whom I had formed bands of our own. We were soon playing the kinds of gigs available to kids in High School: dances/dance marathons, the occasional house or yard parties.

Thus started my foray into performing music live in front of others. I have never stopped playing out, and it has, in fact, been my full time job for the last 25 years.

After High School, my folks, while having always been very supportive of my interest in music, very much wanted me to go to school for another discipline so that I would have something to “fall back on”, knowing full well that I intended to learn how to play music for a living. So, I got a four year degree from Clarkson University in Industrial Distribution, (since renamed Interdisciplinary Engineering and Management, which perhaps describes it better.)

Whatever it was called, I was good at it, but found it to be boring as I knew I would, and I continued to bring my instruments to school every year, studying on my own, and playing in my own bands.

At long last, when I graduated and my obligations to my parents were fulfilled, I finally struck out to learn how to actually become a working musician. At first part time, and eventually, little by little, full time. I played in so many different bands, learning to play their different styles, and songs, songs, songs. I said yes to every offer to join a band or play a gig. I even did a four month cruise ship stint in the Caribbean, and when I returned from that, I never got another part time job again.

This put me in a position to really learn how to perform in public. I’ve had extremely good fortune, yet have never found any huge commercial success. Nonetheless, I think most would agree that if you can figure out how to do what you love for a living, that is success in itself, and every single year, I get better at every aspect of it.

While, as mentioned, I’ve freelanced extensively, I was also in one band for 20 years and have led evolving versions of my own trio even longer. I’ve had to reinvent myself again and again. This is an important point to anyone in any profession who wants to stay relevant in their field, in my opinion. You have to go with the flow, you have to make some changes to stay current while remaining true to yourself, and above all, you can’t bore yourself, because then, without a doubt, you will bore all you encounter.

My most recent iteration, for the last five years plus, has been perhaps my most thorough reinvention yet: solo artist. After spending my entire career previously essentially as a side guy, particularly a keyboardist, I now run the entire show accompanying my vocal with piano, accordion and guitar. No one to fall back on, lean on, play off of. No breaks. I’m all in, all the time, and I look forward to telling you how all of that feels, and how I maintain an edge for myself to stay energetic, creative, and having fun, all under the public eye.

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