Dario Chiazzolino is a multi-award winning Italian guitarist and composer based in New York City. One of Italy’s most in-demand jazz musicians , he performs regularly and records with many top European and American jazz musicians.
The recipient of numerous awards, Dario has been playing guitar professionally since age 14.
He was awarded as “Best Guitar Player” in diverse music competitions, including Umbria Jazz Festival ( IT ), Top Jazz (UK) and on several magazines such as Italian Jazz Magazine, Guitarlist and D-Magazine.
Dario has performed in jazz festivals across Europe and Usa, and regularly appears in clubs in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Russia and Croatia.
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It seems that you’ve led sort of a charmed musical life. You learned how to play the guitar early, received a lot of recognition for your talent, went to college for music, and were able you to stay on the music track – and in the spotlight. Many musicians, prodigies such as yourself included, are not always so lucky. They pick up the instrument, play it well, receive recognition, but then that recognition goes away for some reason and they begin to hit a lot of bumps on the musical road.
What do you think made it different for you? Why do you think you never hit a wall in terms of opportunities and recognition – or have you?
My fortune was starting to perform very early. At the very beginning I was used to play rock and prog music with Italian artists and bands. Jazz music later expanded my music horizons and gave me the chance to collaborate with international and world-renowned players. I have always strongly trusted being on the music track. It’s hard to describe with words. When I was a teenager I knew that I was going to be a musician and I was going to make music for a living. It’s always been like feeling to have a mission in my life. My career has been full of amazing experiences and beautiful collaborations with talented musicians – I feel grateful for that. But if I have to answer to your question in a very pragmatical way I would say that it’s been probably my determinism to make it different.
You have such mastery for the guitar. Do you play other instruments or have any interest in learning to master another?
Well the guitar is my first instrument but I can play the bass and the drums too. I would love to master the piano in the future but it’s always hard to take the time to indulge in all of my interests and passions. I am very curious to experiment several things in life, not necessary involving music. But I always love picking up my guitar and playing for its own sake. I have loved this musical instrument since the first time that I touched it.
How often do you travel? And, does touring and traveling ever get tiring or do you look forward to it?
It’s often that I am traveling from the States to Europe, Italy and vice versa. I love traveling a lot and I have to thank music which really gives me the chance to do that frequently. Visiting new places and discovering their customs and traditions is one of the most exciting things for me as well as performing. I think my music can really benefit because of it. Even though touring can be tiring and intense sometimes – of course I always love doing it, I would be touring 365 days per year! Making my music as far as possible has always been one of my goals. After all, artists need to play for an audience and they want to convey their feeling through their music.
Many musicians who are on the road frequently find that their personal lives suffer and they end up sacrificing for the music. Do you find this to be true for yourself?
Making music for a living is very hard and a musician’s life is anything but easy. You have to put all of your energy and sometimes it could not be enough. I think you have to strongly believe in what you do and you have to be very determined. However music can offer musicians many opportunities to be seized: you can perform, record, teach and compose music for you and even for other musicians. So it’s a really huge world but your success depends on how much you trust yourself and of course fortune favors the brave. But what is really tough about this job is its instability. Most people prefer to have a more stable job and to make music as hobby. I can perfectly understand why in most cases people make this decision. But I was very fortunate to start performing very early when I was no more than a child. This allowed me to enter the music industry and learn very soon how to face this incredible and complex world.
So, just in conclusion, being a musician is a long process which requires sacrifices to be made. What suffers the most in a musician’s career is your private life. I think it’s very hard living next door to a musician.
The guitar has given you much. What do you personally want from the guitar?
I just want my guitar to be an instrument. Music arises from the soul and guitar role is that of speaking for it.
Of course I must say that I have been in love with my guitar since the very beginning. It’s a sort of physical relationship. I always feel that I need to play my guitar, it’s like it was oxygen. I can totally lose my perception of time when I play or practice with my instrument.
What I really want from my guitar is to be the best tool for me to express my humanity. In order to get it, I need to have a strong confidence with “her”.
With all of the classes and teaching that you do, what kind of student is your favorite? What qualities would that student possess?
Well that’s a good question. I think that the most appreciated quality a student should have is passion. Passion is the key to success. If you really love what you do and you have the right amount of determinism you can really get extraordinary results. No matter if students do not have a great talent or a strong inclination in making music. Passion and love are the biggest gift you can possess.
What is the single most important thing that an aspiring guitarist needs to understand from your point of view?
They need to figure out that guitar – as any other musical instrument – is just a tool.
Your success depends on how well you use it. Music always comes from your soul and the guitar should be a projection of your body.
I think today we are sadly surrounded by false and superficial idols, not only in music. For example, it’s very easy to watch guitarists on youtube – or other instrumentalists – who play very fast and loud and maybe they have millions of views. This is an example of a wrong route. All of the things that impress the most in music are very often a fake. So in my opinion the best way to follow is that of music. Music doesn’t want to impress, it wants to make you move.
Playing some instruments requires nimbleness of the fingers. What would you suggest to an older guitar student, who is very motivated, but finds their fingers do not have fluidity of movement? How can they improve that?
Well, I am used to teach students several warming up exercises which perfectly work for anyone, for older guitarists too. My expectations are obviously different for elderly but I am strongly convinced that practicing with guitar very slow is a good way to improve, it always works for everyone. All guitarists can get important goals, no matter how old you get. As I mentioned, music is a soul language. You don’t necessary need to be nimble to play music.
The guitar takes the place of a human voice in many jazz pieces. Do you plan to create music that includes lyrics and vocals at some point? Or, do you feel that a voice would change or alter the expression of your music?
Yes, I do plan to create music that includes lyrics and vocals. I actually started making it many years ago when I was collaborating with first vocal artists. As you can guess I am not that kind of jazz players who absolutely don’t want to include vocalists in their musical projects. By the way, I cannot reveal too many details about it – but me and my producer have been working on a new album featuring an international vocalist. I am very excited for that!
When you are writing and composing new music, do you face any challenges or obstacles from time to time or is this a fluid process for you?
It really depends. Sometimes the process is fluid and fast that I can compose a tune in a few minutes. Other times it can be longer. There is no rule concerning compositional aspects. I personally start from improvisation, which is the music aspect representing me the best. I love picking my guitar up and starting to play with total freedom. Sometimes it happens that I magically guess the right melodic line or some interesting chord changes.
It’s always a fantastic trip into yourself. I could do without writing music. When you are too stressed for any reason it might be more difficult to let yourself go and compose good music. It requires to be focused and connected with music.
I adore writing music as well as performing on stage.
Tell us about Dario’s career when he is sixty years old. At that point, what would you like to see that he would look back on?
That’s really interesting, this is the first time I’ve ever been asked such a wonderful question. Well, I would say that the answer is pretty simple. I love my job and I want to keep doing it until I am on this earth.
When I will be sixty I want to look back and see my life filled of great music; the music which comes from the heart.