HAMPTON — Acoustic music lovers will have the opportunity to hear Italian guitarist, composer and singer-songwriter Luca Burgalassi in an evening performance Wednesday (June 20) as part of the Hampton History Museum’s music series.
Burgalassi, who only moved to the United States with his family two years ago, has made a name for himself in the local music scene and has connected with audiences in Hampton Roads, offering them a distinct sound and style.
That distinction came from growing up near Tuscany, Italy, with a mother who exposed him to not only Italian music but American music as well — particularly gospel and jazz. Burgalassi fell in love with the Americana folksy sound and began writing and performing his own music at age 12. He had an affinity for stringed-instruments and became an acoustic and electric guitar virtuoso. He can also play several folk instruments including the banjo, mandolin, lap steel guitar and harmonica.
Despite being a natural-born musician, Burgalassi always considered music a hobby — it came second to his studies. In parallel to getting a mechanical engineering degree, he also majored in acoustic guitar at a renowned music school in Florence, Italy, and took advanced studies in folk and country blues techniques.
“I always tried to work very hard at it,” he said. While studying engineering, he taught music on the side for extra money. It’s always been a part of his life.
He made a name for himself in Italy and abroad, playing at many festivals and local music venues. His day job was as an engineer at Continental Automotive.
Then in 2016, an opportunity at Continental offered him a job in at its plant in Newport News. He accepted the offer, moving himself and his family across the world. He knew that everything would change, including his music career. He was established in Italy —how would he break into the music scene in Virginia?
One word: Facebook.
“I found it hard at first to find the connections at places,” Burgalassi said.
But soon a search on Facebook connected him with Brenda Barkley, a local talent buyer and board member of the Tidewater Friends of Acoustic Music.
She listened to Burgalassi’s Italian music and knew he was someone special.
“His sound was very different,” she said.
Barkley got Burgalassi his first gig at Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach.
“I presented him at Zeiders and the place was packed,” Barkley said. “People came from Williamsburg, I mean, out of the woodwork. He connected with the listening public very early on.”
Burgalassi’s sets are always unique, and he plays cover songs and originals. There are elements of jazz, blues, folk and country – a little something for everyone.
“I don’t have a defined area — I like to pick songs that are emotional to me — that I can connect with,” he said.
His next gig took him to the Northern Neck, a little more than an hour’s drive from his home, but being able to explore more of the area he now calls home was worth it. A radio and TV interview soon followed, and suddenly, he wasn’t having such a hard time finding connections.
“I still can’t believe that in a few months of moving here, I am able to play in many different places,” Burgalassi said.
With two albums under his belt already, Burgalassi is working on his third. He is looking forward to that release and to playing more on the Peninsula and Hampton Roads. He has played recently at the Grey Goose and Wharf Hill Brewing in Hampton, Saude Creek Vineyard in New Kent County, Willaby’s Cafe in White Stone and as a part of Williamsburg’s Second Sundays and Gloucester’s Arts on Main.
For the June 20 show, Burgalassi will be joined by the following artists: Valentina Sorbera, vocals; Holly Kirsten, vocals and violin; Dave Hufstedler, bass; and Rick Jebavy, drums.
Held in the museum’s Great Hall, the “Front Porch” music series presents different genres of music that have shaped the American soundscape and influenced talent in Hampton Roads’ music scene.
Admission is free to museum members, $5 for non-members. Doors open at 5:30 pm. and music begins at 6 p.m.
Beer and wine will be available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the museum.
To learn more and hear Burgalassi’s music, visit here.
Q&A with local music artist Luca Burgalassi
If I got into your car, what radio station would be on?
A. Country, but I like the tradition, not when it becomes too pop.
What was the biggest change moving from Europe to the United States?
Everything! (Laughing) From getting a new driver’s license, to a new house, new cars, and even something you take for granted like having to open new bank accounts and finding new doctors. I’m very excited to live here in Virginia and in the United States where so many different styles of music I love originated.
How would you describe the local music scene?
Very open and very friendly.
How is the music scene different from Europe’s?
In Italy, we play every kind of music, it’s more international. Here, it is just the “mother tongue” (English).
Do you ever get nervous before performing?
Yes, especially when I’m playing cover songs, where I’m worried about getting the words wrong.
Who are your favorite musicians, who inspired you?
I really like musicians who mix styles, like Eric Clapton. I also really like Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and acoustic folk artists like James Taylor and Neil Young. As a composer I really like Paul Simon.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a wine sommelier.