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Meet Giulia Dukes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Giulia Dukes.

Giulia Duchi – stage name Giulia Dukes – was born on 8 September 1996 in Milan and started studying music at the age of 4. She attended La Casa Delle Note in Milan, the first Yamaha school in Italy, directed by Alice Mazzei, with whom Giulia began studying the piano at four years old. In the same school, at 6, she began studying violin with Maestro Franco Formenti and composition with Roberta Ferrari.

At the age of 8, she began taking voice lessons with Oscar Ferrara. At the age of 9, Giulia got selected for the Junior Original Concert, a composition contest by Yamaha, which took place at the Paisiello Theater in Lecce, where she was awarded one of the best ten young composers of Italian Yamaha schools for a song written, sung and played on the piano by her, entitled “A day in a day”. In the same year – in 2006 – she auditioned to enter the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, both for violin and viola, where he was admitted with full grades to both courses. Entering the Violin class of Cinzia Barbagelata, she started approaching the world of baroque music. From 8 to 13 years, she played among the first violins of the Osj (the Verdi Youth Orchestra of Milan).

In 2010 – at the age of 13 – she attended the Clinics of the Berklee College of Music in Perugia as part of the famous Umbria Jazz Festival. Here she received her first scholarship to participate in the Five Week Summer Program of Berklee College for voice. On this occasion she studied with Donna McElroy, Dennis Montgomery III and other talented teachers of the prestigious American College. In 2011 – at 14 – she went back to the Clinics of Berklee College in Umbria Jazz, but this time she attended the Songwriting course with Sarah Brindell. On that occasion, she was recognized as one of the four best singer-songwriters of the course and selected to play on one of the main stages of Umbria Jazz, the Giardini Carducci, where she was the youngest – and only Italian – to perform. In 2012, at 15 she left for Boston to attend the Five Week Program of the Berklee College of Music. Here, at the end of the course, she received another scholarship for voice, which allowed her to return the following summer, in 2013. At the Five Week Program in 2013 she was one of 18 winners (out of more than 300 participants) – and the only Italian – of the Singer Songwriting Showcase and which allowed her to perform in the famous Cafe 939 in Boston, with a song called “Back to Boston”. Meanwhile – during the summer of 2011 – she had already won in Livorno, the Golden Disc for the best original song “Please Turn Around”, written, sung and played by her at the piano. As part of the same competition she received the Disma Musica award (Italian Association for Distribution and industry of musical instruments and crafts). She also won the first edition of the AFI (Italian Phonographic Association) award for young emerging artists in Sanremo, a prize awarded during the Sanremo Festival, in February 2012.

In 2014 she was selected for the eighth edition of XFactor. She passed the pre-casting and performed in front of the four judges. She received four yes and excellent compliments from Morgan, Mika, Fedez and Victoria Cabello for her performance of Adele’s song “Chasing Pavements”. She passed the first phase of the bootcamp and was eliminated during the six chairs challenge. During this X Factor experience was able to perform in two important Italian arenas, in front of more than 5000 people (at the Unipol Arena in Bologna and at the Forum in Assago, in the province of Milan). In the summer of 2014 she studied violin with musician Ulla Benz – former element of the Berliner Philarmoniker – at the Ingenium Academy, at Winchester College, in England. At the end of the course she performed at Saint James’s Church in Oxford Street, in London, as the first violin, conducted by maestro Tim Redmond. After several experiences of musical courses at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, in 2014, she played the role of Grizabella in Cats, in an advanced musical theater course at the Centro Teatro Attivo in Milan. From 2013 to 2016 she collaborated with the drummer, arranger and producer Johannes Bickler for whom she recorded some tracks. In February 2015 she went to London to audition for Berklee College of Music, where she was admitted obtaining a substantial scholarship for her violin performance and her compositions. In August 2015, she began her studying career at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she declared Film Scoring and Violin Performance as her majors.

During her university years, she took part in more than 70 concerts in all the major Boston theaters: Agganis Arena, Boston Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall, Berklee Performance Center, Kresge Auditorium of MIT, Cafe 939 and many others). Among the most memorable performances, in April 2016 she played as first violinist at the Boston Symphony Hall with Wang Lehoom, one of the most famous pop stars in China, and a few months later she performed, still playing the violin, in the orchestra accompanying the well-known English musician Jacob Collier at the MIT Kresge Auditorium, for a special event, an experience that was repeated in December 2018 to present the artist’s new album. Between 2015 and 2019 she took part in around 300 recording sessions as a violinist, singer and composer. In these years, she has started a musical project with a band formed by some of the most brilliant musicians of Berklee College, with whom she performed regularly with original pieces composed by herself. She is currently working on her EP, which will be released in 2020, containing her first single entitled “Sober”, a song born from a collaboration with Australian producer Jim Alxndr. In 2019 she was contacted to compose the music for the short film “Luce”, directed by Ciro Apicella, an emerging Neapolitan director, also based in Los Angeles.

Also in 2019, a song by Giulia Duchi was used in an episode of the American soap opera “The Young And The Restless”. Previously, in December 2018, she collaborated with the French producer Matheo Techer on the writing of some tracks for Mediaset, one for “L’Isola dei Famosi” and others for “Amici”. In May 2019, she graduated and performed – selected among thousands of students – at the Agganis Arena for the Commencement Concert of the Berklee College of Music as first violin in front of Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliot and Alex Lacamoire. She finished her studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in August, and in September 2019 moved to Los Angeles, where she currently lives. In March 2020, she started interning for Tv acclaimed composer Trevor Morris (Vikings, The Borgias, etc.) Giulia Duchi plays the violin, the viola, the piano, the guitar, the electric bass and the mandolin, she sings and is a songwriter and film composer.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Music has always been my life. I was lucky enough to have really supportive parents who followed my studies and helped me practice. My musical career hasn’t always been totally smooth though. When I was 10, I got into the Milan Conservatory for violin and started facing a lot of challenges. I had really tough teachers that were mean that insulted me that didn’t believe in me. But the hardest part was how badly my songwriting and singing were perceived. The classical world is harsh and not everyone is open-minded enough to accept and appreciate different styles of music. I faced a lot of hate from teachers and fellow students, I felt like I wasn’t enough as a violinist and that I wasn’t enough as a singer-songwriter.

When I had my first experience at Berklee, I started feeling like I mattered, like I was talented and like people finally appreciated me and my music. It wasn’t always easy in college because it was full of insanely talented musicians and it’s really easy to fall into a mindset of comparing yourself to others, but I was lucky enough to meet amazing musicians who became my friends and that by including me in their projects and performances made me feel like I was really worthy of being where I was. Now it’s probably the hardest moment of my musical path because I just moved to LA, by myself and looking for a job is a difficult and scary process, but I’m going through it and I’m glad for all my past experiences that lead me to where I am now.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a Film Composer, Singer-Songwriter and violinist from Italy, I moved to LA in October and I’ve been working mostly as a freelance composer and performer. I am currently interning for a few different composers: Trevor Morris (Vikings, The Borgias, The Tudors, etc.) and Tamir Hendelman (jazz pianist and composer who teaches at UCLA). I’m currently working on recording my first EP and working on orchestral arrangements for a short film that is coming up soon.

I’m really proud of all the different types of projects I get to work on. The fact that I play more than one instrument, sing and write in many styles allows me to really experience a lot of aspects of the music industry. I always feel like each context makes me grow and learn in ways that help me in everything. The best example I can give you is that I played in a large number of sessions as a violinist and singer through the years, and it’s given me the studio experience that, once I found myself conducting my own sessions, made me feel secure and allowed me to be really organized and communicative to the players.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I am a perfectionist in all of my projects, small or big that they are. To me the key to a good result is to really have a clear idea of what you want and need. When I write something, I’m always really aware of whether it’s going to work or not. If I feel undecided it means my work isn’t flowing the way it should and I either move on to something different or very occasionally keep whatever idea I had for something that I might work on later.

In general, I think I’ve been very lucky when it comes to music because it’s something that has always come naturally to me. I obviously spent hours and hours dedicating myself to it but at the same time I always felt that I was in my comfort zone while doing music. I’ve always loved performing as well, never been scared to be on a stage or to showcase my music to anyone. Even when I’m singing an original to an audience for the first time, and have no idea how they’ll react, I still feel pretty calm because I’m very decisive when it comes to my songs, and if I perform something live, it means that I’m at least 90% sure that it’s good enough. My perfectionism is the reason I haven’t put out some music out on platforms yet. I have hundreds of recordings but until recently the result still wasn’t as perfect as I had imagined it, and to me, even if the songs were good, the final product wasn’t good enough to put them out.

Another thing I find fundamental for success is to be completely true to ourselves. I never lie in my music, it’s me a 100% and it will always be like that. Writing songs to me is like having a diary that everybody can read and I always try my best to be as honest about my experiences as possible. People know when something is authentic, they feel it if you’re lying to them or if you’re writing about something that doesn’t have a meaning to you. And it doesn’t even take an artist to understand this. We know, as an audience when something speaks to our soul. And to me speaking to people is possibly the most important job we have as writers and performers.

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Image Credit:
Claudia Choi

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