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Rising Stars: Meet Niccolò Paluani

Today we’d like to introduce you to Niccolò Paluani.

Niccolò, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m from Padova, a city near Venice, Italy. I started playing the piano when I was four years old thanks to my sister Valentina, who familiarized me with music. I soon took an interest in guitar at age 15, where I began learning blues, rock and metal music. I was self-taught until I was 19 and later started taking private lessons with jazz guitarist Davide Cassandro. Before the end of my high school years, I was on a ship called Costa Concordia, which sank on January the 12th of 2012. Because of this unfortunate episode, I learned a valuable lesson–that I couldn’t waste my life doing anything that I didn’t love to do, so I decided to take music seriously and make it my career. I decided to take risks and live my life like each day was my last. Dealing with the traumatic effects from the incident, I was soon able to pick myself up and decided that my life had to change, that it was time for me to take action on my goals and dreams.

A year later, I applied to and got accepted into a conservatory in Italy to learn jazz, where I studied with Daniele Santimone, an ex Berklee student. During the years at the conservatory, I also studied with Marcello Tonolo, Alfonso Deidda, Francesco Angiuli, Fabio Zeppetella, Roberto Gatto, Chris Cheek, Peter Bernstein, Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, and Mats Gustafsson. While I was studying, I also began exploring the music scene in my city with different bands I was playing with, playing different venues and events weekly. After my conservatory degree, I felt as though I still had more to learn, and I decided to leave my comfort zone– my country and my family. I applied to the prestigious Berklee College of Music and took the opportunity to come to the U.S. where many successful musicians had worked. There I studied with many teachers such Freddie Bryant, Rick Peckham, David Gilmore, Tim Miller, Mark White, David Fiuczynski, Tia Fuller, Peter Eldridge and more. At school, I also had the pleasure to meet a lot of different artists and explore different genres of music. I was chosen to be part of the bands of Tristan Simone (hip hop artist) and Eduardo Omondi (afro beat).

In addition, I formed and directed an ensemble at Berklee that played original arrangements from the band Snarky Puppy. During my last year, I invited Michael League, leader of Snarky Puppy to play with us, and it was truly an unforgettable day. Through the year’s art Berklee, I played in different venues in Boston with the bands I was a part of and even traveled to Mexico with Eduardo Omondi to play at a huge festival and record some music. In March of 2020, during my last semester, the Covid-19 outbreak began, and I graduated online in May of 2020. At that point, I was foreseeing that the pandemic could have lasted for a long period of time and as a performer, I wouldn’t have many occasions to play live music and shows. Therefore, I decided to study production on my own and write my album, which is still in production and will be released in the next couple of months. As an international student, I’m allowed to stay in the States for one more year after graduation with an OPT permit and I chose to spend that in LA. I’ll soon be in the process of starting my Artist Visa application in order to stay in the States for a longer period and play for artists here.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As aforementioned, the accident was life-changing, and for many years I was traumatized. In school, I often felt discouraged and behind other very talented musicians at school. I realized comparison was my worst enemy and decided to use this feeling of discouragement to improve myself and to continue working harder. At the beginning of my Berklee career, I wasn’t invited to play in any bands and for that, I felt that I wasn’t enough. However, I soon came to the realization that nothing is impossible or unachievable with hard work and practice. After a year of constant practice, I decided to start my own band and was soon invited to be a part of 2 other incredible bands. Currently, my challenge is to work during the pandemic, but because there are no live performances, I’ve learned to adapt by learning new skills that can get me work during these difficult times. While there have been many obstacles, I have and will continue to pursue my goals even in the darkest periods.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a performer and I love to play live music. When I’m on stage, I feel an incredible connection with the audience and I always have a lot of fun playing the music I love. I also discovered during my Berklee career that I’m a good bandleader, I can put people together, coordinate them and make them work. I think I’m a humble musician, people like to hang around me, and I am well suited in almost every genre of music. I am professional and I always get my job done. I’m very proud of where I am today and how I faced all the challenges that I had in my life. I learned to stand up every time I touched the ground. Tenacity is what distinguish me the most.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
I love the weather for sure, the beaches, the mountains, all the nature surrounding LA. I definitely will start surfing soon. I also love the opportunities this city can give you and the amount of artists and stars living here. I can’t stand seeing the poverty in the street, I always feel really sad seeing all those homeless people. I’m not used to seeing people in such a bad state and nobody helping them. I also don’t like the amount of criminality in certain areas and how the problem is dealt. I don’t feel safe walking around in some places.

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