We learned last week that the guys enjoyed sports and other activities and each one made that a part of their day until, they woke up one day and realized there was something more important in their lives ~ Music!
How did it happen?
In Piero’s case, it was a classical music education! Of the three, Piero has the most expansive musical education. At eight years old, he started taking piano lessons. He has an intense background in voice and since he wishes to someday be an opera singer, he studies daily! Most recently he’s studied Cavalleria Rusticana! I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, every afternoon at 4 PM he would come on Instagram and rehearse.
In Ignazio’s case, he really loved soccer but once he joined the choir, he became more involved in his music and eventually he realized that music meant so much more to him than soccer. He certainly loves soccer, but now he leaves it to the professionals! Go Juventus!
In Gianluca’s case again, he is different. He didn’t give anything up until he was a part of Il Volo and then it became impossible to continue with his soccer. But let’s not forget, Gianluca only sang because singing gave him such pleasure!
The one thing they all have in common is each one sang in a choir! So, let’s us go back to those days in Naro, Marsala and Montepagano and see where each man is at the beginning of their teenage years, the years in which music became their whole life!
We begin our story, as we usually do, with Piero. Piero’s father knew the piano lessons were important, but he made up his mind that Piero had to study seriously.
So, let’s join Piero as he begins his classical education….
Piero recalls…. At first not knowing how to begin my education, we approached it in various ways. One Saturday night my father took me to Agrigento to buy one of those keyboards where they put the disks with the back tracks into the keyboard.
My father had made up his mind I had to study seriously. The advice everyone gave him was to take me to the choir that met in the church of Santo Spirito in Agrigento.
Piero’s father said, “why should I take Piero to the choir of the church, that they break my son’s voice?”
What Piero’s father didn’t know was this was not just any choir.
Piero remembers as if it were yesterday, the first time he met the choir….
The first thing I find myself in front of these guys who are in a semicircle. I enter, I hear them singing and immediately I see in the center of this semicircle a lady and a gentleman sitting at the piano. I had just made the acquaintance of the Little Singers of the Philharmonic Association – Santa Cecilia of Agrigento. The association was founded in 1983 and has two choirs, one for white voices and one for adults. Until 2008 they also collaborated with the “Sistina” Music Chapel of Rome, which led the choir to perform before the Pope during the Jubilee and which was opened to the best singers with the possibility of doing an internship in Rome.
The master accompanist was Alfonso Lo Presti and the director of the chorus of white voices was the maestro, Marisa Bonfiglio. I will owe everything in my life to this lady. Marisa was right in the middle and waiting for me. My father had warned Marisa that we would go to see the evidence to understand how it worked and if she could like me. I arrive, I was ten years old, and I was pretty chubby and, I find myself in the midst of all females and just two boys, Davide and Arturo.
After the greetings, Marisa asks me to introduce myself. ‘Hi, guys,’ I said. ‘I’m Piero, Piero Barone, I was born in 1993 and I like to sing.’ In a chorus what else should I say? If I was there, I had to like music, right? I thought it was the first thing to clarify. At that point the master Bonfiglio makes me sit on the left, next to Davide and Arturo, while all the rest of the chorus – all females – were on the right. Three males in a world of females: this number three will have been a destiny, right? We begin to sing, Easter songs, Christmas carols, church choir songs.
With Davide and Arturo, I established a very strong relationship, which continues today: we are still friends. We phone each other when I am far from Naro and, when I come back, we go out together as often as we can.
At the time of the choir, we were always attached to each other, we looked at the girls but, ‘we were three losers of nine to ten years, losers!’ Marisa never scolded anyone, but if we were disruptive, she looked a little like that and said ‘Guys,’ and we were immediately serious again.
The Choir performed at Easter parties, Christmas, there was a real tour of the choir, four or five concerts during which the choristers had to always wear a burgundy gilet (vest) that Piero will never forget.
Piero remembers when the tour of the choir stopped in Naro….
I knew that there would be the whole family and all the people I knew and loved. It was an incredible emotion.
At thirteen, there was also additional fun because Piero’s dad gave him a motorbike for his birthday. It was a big one, and he used it in the village even if he didn’t have a license yet. He did little laps, but one of those little laps was to get to the church when there was a concert by the Santa Cecilia choir. But Piero swears that now he drives only if he has a driving license!
Now, I will step out of the story and have Piero explain to you what happened when he reached the “change of voice.”
By now I was close to that period called ‘change of voice.’ What is change of voice? It is the passage from the white voice, the acute one of the children, to the adult voice, to explain it in few words. For those who sing it is a difficult moment, we must stop if we do not want to risk ruining the voice. When that moment arrived for me, we needed a technical opinion on what to do, and understand what my potentialities were at that point.
Even my passion for red is in some way linked to the chorus of the little singers. I dressed in red, all red from head to toe. They make my presentation I start to sing. I could still sing but I was at the limit, and I start the Ave Maria. Until then other tenors have arrived at the end of the piece all red in the face for the effort. Because singing, in reality, requires a much greater physical effort than one imagines. In short, I finish the song, the teacher looks at me, looks at Marisa Bonfiglio, looks at my father, looks at all the others: ‘Do you see this guy? He has everything red, except his face: he sang with incredible ease.’ And to my father’s question, ‘What could I do with my son?’ The master replied: ‘Mr. Barone, now your son is having a change of voice, your son in his throat has a diamond. What would I do in his place? I would take this diamond, put it in a safe and hide the keys. Between two years we reopen this safe.’ And, so, we did!
But it must be said, my ‘fixation’ for red glasses was not born here but was born in 2010 in Los Angeles. I was at my first photo shoot, and I went to the studio, it was the first real photo shoot. In short, I had glasses, as always, but one of the photographers who follows us looks at me a little and tells me: ‘You have to keep your glasses, but they must be red.’ And how could I do a pair of red eyeglasses in Los Angeles in one day? I think and think again, in the end the idea came: I called my optician of confidence in Naro, Giuseppe Minio, and I asked him to do it for me. Would you ever believe it? In twenty-four hours, I received the envelope in Los Angeles with my red glasses, and inside I also found rose petals and little hearts, pure affection directly from Naro, which is always good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself I still had to face the change of voice. That moment of change is something excruciating because you cannot sing, so no longer being a white voice, I had to leave the chorus. But Marisa Bonfiglio did not let me go like this, ‘Piero, see you soon,’ she cared about me and then helped me again: she took me to Palermo to a conservatory professor, a tenor. That master’s verdict was again: ‘Let’s wait.’ But in the wait, I could not remain completely silent. In reality, the wait for the change of voice lasted less than I thought, because towards the fourteen and a half years my voice had already matured.
In the meantime, every now and then Piero would sing the Ave Maria at weddings (very little, in order not to risk ruining his voice), and so he earned his first money with music….
They paid me a hundred euros and I settled with that money. In times of ‘crisis’ if my mom wanted to buy something for the house? ‘Mom, I have the money,’ I told her, because I could always put it aside, always. I went to my grandfather to make a musical base with the keyboard, and he gave me ten euros, tips and gifts that I saved to make a little nest egg.
And then there were the cups. In Sicily when you win a festival, they give you huge cups, two meters by four, heavy, bigger than you.
But how did Piero start to perform at regional festivals? With the school! And here a great chapter opens up. So, Piero went to school, of course, but he never liked school. He just went there to have fun with friends. Piero always sat at the first desk, but he was always the one who made the most mess….
In elementary school there were no music classes. So, I looked forward to middle school where there would be music lessons. On the first day of middle school the professor Nisi called everyone in alphabetical order and made everyone sing. My teacher wasn’t from Naro, so she didn’t know me. She had no idea I was a singer. I really wasn’t looking forward to the first hour of music and getting up and singing. I was the second on the list. The professor calls ‘Baldacchino’ and Baldacchino sings. Then she calls ‘Barone’ and I sing ‘Un Amore Cosi’ Grande,’ my battle horse from that afternoon under the carob tree in the garden of Riolo. In practice, from there I started and, I never stopped: with the schools there were musical reviews, and the music teacher brought me to make them all. I did the first Valledolmo festival singing ‘Un Amore Cosi’ Grande’ again, and I finished third. I remember like it was yesterday: I with a tuxedo, all classic, pulled. After Valledolmo I went to Vallelunga, I won that festival and from then on, I won them all. Three years of middle school, three years of regional music festivals. Until it has arrived, the change of voice, between the thirteen and fourteen and a half years.
So, what happened? When Piero resumed singing, he was in high school, an accounting school, and there’s no music, no music teacher and no festival….
But is it possible that I could quit like that, to participate in festivals? My father took the situation and I started again. I won them all. One summer I took part in six festivals, and I won all six. I arrived and all the guys who saw me already knew that I would ruin their evening. I had a lot of fun, I accumulated cups – always two meters by four – and I was more and more convinced that if there was one thing I wanted to do in life, it was singing, living for and with music.
Had it been for me, I would have studied only singing and music. I’ve already said, I’ve never liked school, but I do not know why, all the teachers loved me the same, even when I avoided interrogations.
I had good grades, because my secret weapon was Denise. For Denise I should make a monument.
Piero with Denise on her Wedding Day
Denise was Piero’s classmate for twelve years. The good grades were thanks to her. In the afternoon Piero would pick her up in his electric car, an E50, and they would study together. She repeated the lesson and he learned by what she was saying….
I did not like reading books, what could I do? The songs have always remained in my head right away, I listen to a song and after two, three times at most, I know all the words, but the lessons no, these do not come into my head even with the hammering. You imagine that once, out of despair, to memorize a history lesson, I gave it a reason, that is, I put it to music. But when I could not do this – that is, most of the time – I sat next to Denise and I listened to her repeat the lesson. Or, in classwork, she wrote and did it, zac! She put the paper in the middle of the desk and, I copied. The professors probably knew but they never caught me and so they always gave me that half vote less than she, even if the tasks were the same. But, who cared, I was very happy.
So, let’s leave Piero studying with Denise and turn to Ignazio….
A while back, I wrote a story about Ignazio called “A Slice of Pizza with Ignazio on the Side.” The title can be explained in the follow account of Ignazio’s life in Marsala. So many people loved this story. What I really love about Ignazio’s story is how the family worked together to fulfill each other’s dreams!
Let’s listen to Ignazio’s account of life in Marsala and the beginning of his musical education….
During the first year we were back in Marsala, mom had gone back and forth every day to the center of Marsala to be able to secure her great dream: to open a pizzeria of her own.
In order to open the pizzeria, mom had to do certain things. First thing: she went back and forth to the office for the permits and all the bureaucratic things that she needed to do. Second thing: she used the ovens of friends and made pizzas. I remember it very well. She went from one oven to another and tried so many types of flour, she tried the dough, she tried so many types of mozzarellas, so when she finally opened the pizzeria, she already knew how to prepare the right dough. It is different to make pizza in Bologna than making it in Marsala, take the word of a son and brother of a pizza maker: it is different because it depends on the humidity, the temperature and the type of flour. It’s not a simple matter to make a really good pizza.
So, mom did these two things alone, but to build the pizzeria physically the job was for a team and involved the whole family. My father with the savings accumulated over the years began the work. He was now working in a company that built wooden structures and being an experienced bricklayer, the dream could be realized, and it could be built in front of the house.
For a whole year, in every free moment, my father dedicated himself to building the pizzeria for my mother and I loved to help him, so much so that when there were a few days of school vacation I went to work with him.
You will think that I tell you about the pizzeria under construction, but I am not a pizza maker! But if there had not been the pizzeria, perhaps I would never have started singing seriously.
While the pizzeria grew, a passion grew within me. It was a passion for electronics and music.
I had started to be part of the elementary school choir and my dad, who was more passionate about electronics than me, had bought me a mixer, a microphone and two speakers, with which we started doing the easiest thing that could be done with those instruments: karaoke. I really enjoyed singing the songs of Andrea Bocelli and Giorgia.
Finally, in 2005 the pizzeria was completed and, mom opened the Pizzeria dei Desideri in the center of Marsala.
Within a few months mom already had regular customers and since the pizzeria was right in front of the house, when I was singing at home, even the customers heard me. One day a gentleman said to my mother, ‘You know, my daughter is studying singing, why don’t you come with your son once? Even just to try.”
Like everything else, we talked it over within my family and everyone was enthusiastic about it. It was decided, I would go and see what this singing lesson was like.
I remember it as if it were yesterday, and instead ten years have passed! And now, I was eleven. I wore a yellow shirt with green stripes, fashion was never my strong point. Arianna, the daughter of the pizzeria customer, who had heard me sing, and her mother and I waited, in front of the school for more than twenty minutes for Liliana Andreanò, the singing teacher.
Lilliana Adreanò, arrived in a grey Opel Astra. She got out of the car and immediately entered the school.
I was worried, almost embarrassed. Hard to believe, right? Even as a child I’ve never been the type to be speechless.
Lilliana begins to talk about music, what kind of songs I like to sing. It was already a strange thing because usually I just sang, no one asked me why and how.
You know, Liliana I like to sing Giorgia’s songs.
Lilliana said: “Strange for a kid to sing this kind of song.” She asked, “And which song of Giorgia would you like to make me listen to?”
Gocce Di Memoria (Drops of Memory), I said. I didn’t even have a doubt. I start singing and Liliana was amazed by my extension but asks me to try a male song too.
I thought a little bit and then I said to her: sometimes I even sing Con Te Partiro’ by Andrea Bocelli. I started singing and, when I finished Liliana told me: ‘Ignazio, this is your musical direction.’
From that first lesson I began to study songs ‘like Il Mare Calmo Della Sera,’ ‘Un Amore Cosi’ Grande’ and all those that came to mind, and I liked it. It approached that genre that was not lyrical, it was modern music but with something classic. With Liliana, I found myself, very, comfortable. We understood each other immediately because she is a sociable person, simple, as are all of us in my family.
After several lessons, Lilliana proposed that I take part in a bullfight (competition) organized in Paolini. I wasn’t completely convinced that I wanted to get on a stage. Until that moment I had only thought about singing, but I had never seriously thought that all that singing one day could bring me into the spotlight. In short, I was afraid. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of not being able to face the stage, but just to gain mastery on stage, Liliana urged me to participate, and so in the end I decided to do it.
I was about to get on the bullfight stage. My legs were trembling, the butterflies in my stomach were no longer butterflies but crazy swallows.
I decided to participate with the song by Bocelli ‘Con te partirò’ (Time to Say Goodbye), a song that I had studied and re-studied with Liliana, but as soon as the music started, I had a terrible fear of forgetting the words. So, what did I do? I looked down all the time. So, the audience, the place, what happened around me while I was singing, it’s not that I do not remember anything, I just do not know because I only saw the tips of my feet.
Fortunately, however, I remembered all the words and it is not so obvious because sometimes it happens that I forget the words even today now that I have become professional, the emotion continues to take us despite everything and.… I came in third.
Once the ice was broken and the stage panic was over, that ended up being just the first of many competitions for Ignazio. In general Ignazio would go with Arianna to Lilliana and a beautiful friendship developed. On those occasions they always had a lot of fun and Arianna always came a step ahead of Ignazio. Ignazio third, Ariana second; Ignazio second, Ariana first.
They just had fun, without envy. That is until….
Ignazio recounts…. Ariana changed teachers and our streets become a bit divided. We still found ourselves in competitions together, but a rivalry was starting that was not healthy.
This is the same period in which I started taking piano lessons, with various teachers: I changed three in three years. In the end, let’s say, I can play something, but a little, just enough for me to compose. I am not prepared like Piero, who has a very classical education.
After two and a half years, three that I was studying with Liliana, one day she tells me that for the genre that I was going to sing another teacher was better suited to give lyrical singing lessons. So, I was convinced and started to follow another singing teacher, Roberta Caly.
So now it becomes complicated. I went to Lilliana for singing lessons and interpretation. I went to Roberta for lyric singing. And I took a diction course from Lilliana and Roberta. I also went to a diction course with Lilliana and a diction course with Roberta but taught by other teachers in the school. And I also attended a jazz workshop.
The study of singing was used to learn the technique and interpretation to understand what I said when I sang, so that I could express my emotions with the words of the songs. However, I must say that despite the studying, I have remained a more pop voice than, for example, Piero who is a pure tenor and even today he studies and dreams one day of singing in an opera.
Ignazio went to class every day except Sunday when he went to see Nina’s football matches. Nina was now playing in Serie B.
Between the school, the singing lessons, the piano lessons and diction Ignazio was always busy, so much so that he was forced to leave the school of football….
I could not do everything, also because of the not fantastic economic conditions in which my family was. But I did not really want to miss anything and so I immediately found another thing to do: an extracurricular musical laboratory.
Although Ignazio was so busy, he did not want to give up that workshop, it was about setting up musicals, one of the most beautiful experiences of his life. That is, it started with a musical, but then it became three….
He recalls…. The first musical I did when I was small and fat, was Streetlight, which tells a story of rivalry between two bands in the Chicago of the seventies. We staged it at the Teatro Impero of Marsala on May 31, 2007, it was beautiful. I was the protagonist the voice was certainly not like the one I have now. With this baseball cap, one thing to see (and, in fact, somewhere on youtube you can find it too). Then I made Grease, the American musical from which the film of the same name is taken with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and then Rugantino, the musical comedy of Garinei and Giovannini of 1962 still represented today with great success all over the world.
In Rugantino I played the lead role. I still remember the songs …. and that time mom made me a fantastic hat with a fishing net: grip, dyed blue and adapted to the size of my head. Spectacular!
In 2007, I stopped studying with Roberta. I met Giovanna Collica, a very good soprano, who gave lessons in Siracusa. A gentleman who organized fashion shows in summer around Sicily, had called me to open the fashion shows. The show was in Palazzolo Acreide in Siracusa and that is where I met Giovanna.
Geographically speaking, Siracusa is on the east coast of Sicily and Marsala on the west coast. No matter the distance, studying with Giovanna was too important to pass up. She was a, very, good soprano she had even dueled with Luciano Pavarotti.
Her lessons were a great opportunity, so once a week what did I do? I took the bus with Nina, or I would leave with my parents in the car, and we would go to Siracusa. Every time I entered Giovanna’s house, I asked her ‘How is the cat?’ because she had a very plump white cat that threw himself from the balcony at least once a week.
It took a lot of money to cover the travel expenses, the lessons and in the meantime also the registration for competitions that in many cases were not free. So, it was at a certain point, mom and dad found themselves not having enough money to send me forward. They were more hurt than me. Having always worked and being accustomed to face sacrifices for the family, they did not want to surrender to this obstacle but at the same time they did not know what to do.
In the end, it was necessary to make a decision. The decision was to ask a person dear to us, a loan that, as soon as mom and dad had settled a little, would be returned.
This person has helped us with great generosity, so as, to allow me to continue to pursue this dream.
So, we leave Ignazio at his singing lessons with Giovanna Collica in Siracusa and turn to Gianluca….
Because Gianluca’s mother worked, he went to after-school session with the nuns. He had a teacher named Gabriella. One afternoon, while Gianluca was doing homework, he suddenly got up and started singing “Time to Say Goodbye.” The teacher was speechless. “What a voice you have, what a wonderful voice,” she told Gianluca. “But do you know Andrea Bocelli?” She could not believe how it was possible for such a small child to have such a voice and to know a singer of that kind. “Of course, I know him,” Gianluca said, “he’s my idol, my favorite singer.” Gianluca said this with a certain pride. “Only I do not have his CD yet.” “I’ll bring it to you tomorrow, I’ll gift it to you” was the teacher’s answer.”
Gianluca tells us…. I was seven, maybe eight years old and thanks to Gabriella I was able to start listening to Andrea Bocelli as often as I wanted.
Are you wondering why I suddenly sang ‘Time to Say Goodbye?’ The answer is simple: because it made me feel good. Usually, I would sing at home or in situations where I felt protected as if I were at home. I did not care to make myself heard by others. It also happened that at school the teacher knew my particular voice and she would make me sing in the classroom. ‘Gianluca, let us hear your voice, guys, let’s listen to Gianluca sing.’ Do you know how I reacted? I sang, of course, because it was the teacher who asked, but first I went to hide behind the blackboard and put myself face to the wall. I was ashamed to die. I still remember that feeling of being hidden, while I sang, without seeing anyone. Also, because I was already singing with this voice that tended to the baritone, it was really special. I understood that it was a beautiful thing, which everyone liked, but I was still ashamed. Dad says I also did it at home to turn my face to the wall while I was singing. What could I do? I was very shy and a little insecure.
But now, the shyness is over. Gianluca considered this a defect when he was a child but now, he has overcome the shyness. What hasn’t changed is the constant need for confirmation. On social networks, you see his selfies and people think he is vain, but in reality, he needs constant fan approval. He needs to know that they support him. Gianluca has been this way since he was a child. He always needed reassurances. If he only knew how much his fans love him, he would need no reassurances!
Let’s listen to what Gianluca had to say about adolescence….
How was I in adolescence? Very shy and a little insecure but also a little immature and too instinctive. I am very critical of myself in my adolescence, because I realize that now I have really changed, even with the boys. In quarrels, for example, maybe it happened that I also answered in an annoying way because I was the one, I felt at that time. Once I threw a slice of pizza at Ignazio in front of the Universal Canadian official in a restaurant in Montreal. The shrimp flew off the pizza and hit the official of Universal, I mean really. But I was small and very, very impulsive.
As to his singing…. Gianluca says…. When I sing, I don’t forget instinct. What does that mean? I have never studied singing. I learned to ‘use’ my voice only thanks to my musical ear. I listen to the music, and it transmits everything I know. And, for this, I especially thank the Little Choir of Roses.
When Gianluca was about eight or nine, all those who knew him gave him the same advice: go sing in a choir. In Roseto there was the Piccolo Choir of Roses directed by the master Susy Paola Rizzo. They sang the songs of the ” Zecchino D’oro” or other famous songs with arrangements in that style, with music for children. The Mago Zurlì, that was the presenter of the situation, was, Ercole, Gianluca’s dad.
Gianluca recalls his days in the choir….
The choir was nice because we studied the songs throughout the winter season, not the technique of singing, the songs. It was different, because we did not study the notes and how to do them, rather we studied instinctively, following what the teacher said and what our ear heard. Then, in the summer, we performed in the Municipality of Roseto. We sang in the squares during the local festivals, in the lidos, in the bathing establishments, around the whole of Abruzzo, all these tiny villages.
If I think of 2009, the year in which I met Piero and Ignazio at Ti Lascio Una Canzone, it seems to me like yesterday.
Ignazio’s story shows that things come and, you do not have to force them to arrive. It is not different from mine. Maybe, a little bit different because, apart from the Little Choir of Roses and those modest performances with my father’s theater company, I’ve never done anything else, no competitions, no festivals. I did not want to do them, I never thought about it.
Gianluca participated in the Festival of the Adriatic, in 2006, and he won it. In 2007 he participated in Ascoli Piceno, for young talents. He sang at weddings, that’s it.
He recalls…. I sang Schubert’s Ave Maria and they paid me. My first money earned with music. And for fun, in 2007 I recorded a CD in a studio in Roseto degli Abruzzi, it was called Start from Here. It was a study by Vincenzo Irelli, a very good musician.
Verilli heard Gianluca sing, probably in one of the Little Rose Choir’s performances, and he said to Mr. Ginoble, “He’s good take him to me “. Gianluca chose songs by Andrea Bocelli and Alex Baroni, the singer who died in 2002 and famous for songs like Change and Write Something for Me.
Gianluca said…. we spent a couple of weeks recording the CD and then we gave it to all the relatives. If I think about it today, it makes me smile. But never, never would I have thought that it would not be the only one, that I could make music my life. I told you: I only sang because it made me feel good, I was happy!
So, you can see that Gianluca’s story is different from Ignazio’s or Piero’s story. The end result was the same but, the beginnings were different.
Gianluca will tell you…. Yes, we were lucky all three to have the families we had. Ignazio and Piero were able to study music thanks to the sacrifices, big sacrifices, of their families. I’ve never studied it, if I have to tell the truth, but the music at home has always been there!