Paolo Schianchi loves to teach.
"You are always grateful for what you receive as a student, and you try to give it back in a way," said the 32-year-old Italian guitar virtuoso. "I was reading the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, and I found something wonderful. Sometimes you work so hard for music, and you have difficulties. You work because you want to be remembered after your death. Da Vinci said you can lose money or power, but you can't lose what you know, and it makes us immortal to pass your knowledge along. That's why I love to teach."
Schianchi, a native of Parma, Italy, has been passing on his knowledge since January as an artist-in-residence at St. Francis University, Loretto. He will remain there until the end of the spring semester, as well as playing concerts both on the campus and in other areas, such as Pittsburgh.
Paolo Schianchi, a native of Parma, Italy, has been teaching since January as an artist-in-residence at St. Francis University, Loretto. He will remain there until the end of the spring semester.
"I feel blessed to be here," he said. "In April, I have a lot of performances going on, almost two performances a week."
Schianchi will perform a blues concert at 8 p.m. today at the St. Francis Fine Arts Center. He will also hold a classical music concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at SFU's Immaculate Conception Chapel. He will travel to Pittsburgh on April 19 with St. Francis professor Chuck Olson for a lecture and presentation at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Olson's lecture will begin at 5:30 p.m., with Schianchi's performance to follow. The cost for the event will be $10.
Schianchi will also perform May 24 in downtown Pittsburgh at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. That concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.
If you go
What: Paolo Schianchi,
guitar virtuoso, in concert
When: 8 p.m. today,
and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Today's concert is at the St. Francis University Fine Arts Center, Sunday's is at SFU's Immaculate Conception Chapel.
Both performances are free and open to the public.
"He's been very busy," said Olson, the chairman of the fine arts program at St. Francis. "He's definitely not been idle. He's done five performances for us. He's also put together the nucleus of a new instrumental ensemble on campus. He also has original music featured in a new film starring John Turturro called 'Somewhere Tonight.' All this while he's staying in rural Ashville."
Schianchi's love of music began when he was a child.
"When my mother was waiting for me to be born, she would listen to loud music, like Elvis [Presley]," he said. "She told me when I was little, she would put me on the couch and would turn music on. She said I would just freeze; I would just be fascinated with the music."
Schianchi started taking violin lessons at age 4, but they soon ended, as he admitted he was too young and wasn't having much fun.
Soon, however, another type of music would find his ear.
"My brother was listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin," he said. "That was something very new. Around that time, my grandmother also gifted me a toy guitar. I was having fun with that.
"My mother also gifted me an album by Paul McCartney, and one day, she found me playing what you would call 'air guitar.' I was terribly embarrassed, but she asked me if I wanted to play guitar. I started taking lessons around age 8 or 9."
As well as being a guitar virtuoso, Schianchi has flexed his inventive muscles, building a machine called the Octopus, allowing him to play two guitars at once.
"It can be defined as an acoustic-electric system," Schianchi said. "It combines the most important elements of classical and electric guitars."
The system's "weight is like a grand piano," and it combines 214 controls, which Schianchi can manipulate "like a railroad switch."
"I can send a signal in one direction to one speaker, and I can send another to another speaker at the same time," he said. "Ev-ery sound you hear is live; it was not pre-recorded. My intention was to exploit all of the possibilities."
"He's a complete musician," Olson said. "He is an amazing, incredible guitarist. Jim Donovan [St. Francis professor and former drummer for Rusted Root] said he's one of the best guitarists he's ever seen. His range goes all the way through Spanish baroque guitar to 19th century music to early, Robert Johnson blues to Brazilian jazz to rock and roll."
Schianchi is also writing music during his stay in Loretto for an album to be recorded when he returns to Italy this summer.
"Before I left, I received a call from one of the most important producers in Italy," Schianchi said. "His name is Red Canzian, and he was the bass player for Pooh, the most famous band in Italy. They are like the Italian Beatles. He was interested in what I do. He was really enthusiastic and wanted me to write while I was here."
Schianchi also received a 37-string acoustic guitar as a gift from an Argentinian luthier before he left for the U.S., so he decided he would like to record the album on his new instrument.
"This instrument is very challenging," he said.
Along with the writing, Schianchi has devoted his rare down-time to practicing on his new guitar, so he will be ready to enter the studio when he returns home.
"I hope [Canzian] won't change his mind," Schianchi joked.
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.