A cocktail with Gabriella Ruggieri: contuining a series of informal chats with fine friends from across the globe who happen to be among the finest entrepreneur, musicians and artists.
People that made their dream come through in various disciplines.
Episodes, curiosities and life stories which might be different yet share their a comon goal: to fullfil “that” dream. Here is a chat with SERGIO BELLOTTI. Enjoy!
With the hope that even if one of you might benefit from it, by gaining some inpsiration, it would make the effort of doing it, much worth our time! It would be our pleasure to hear all about it. Who knows…could it be you at some point to be our guest for a cocktail or coffee?
Gabriella: when did your passion for music start? Was there a specific event that you remember triggereing it? You play drums, but did you start with that or with a different musical instrument?
Sergio: my interest for drumming was a “love at first sight” type. I was about 15, and while visiting a cousin for the first time, I remember our mothers sipping coffee upstairs, while we sneaked into the basement where he had a fully loaded music room.
He was a drummer and of course showed me his instrument. The minute I tried to bang the drums and cymbals a couple of times, I realized that was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I really did not care for other instruments although I used to mimic bass players, guitarists and vocalist. I grew up in a family where everyone loved music although noone actually played an instrument. I do recall imitating other instruments but it was only when I encountered the drums that I decided to actually play music. Again, it was love at first sight with the drums!
Gabriella: did your parents support you or did they envision a different path for you?
Sergio: when I told my parents I wanted to play the drums, they had tried to direct me towards the bass or guitar or keys) because we lived in a condo at that time and my parents were concerned about our neighbors level of tolerance (I find that amusing now, but not so much back then) when I cleary stated: “drums or nothing” they gave up and agreed to give me a budget to get a used set.
My father told me: “find out who the best teacher is; it’s not about what do you choose to do but how will you do it”. He was a sales man and wanted me to take over or help with his business or perhaps that I would become a lawyer but he never opposed to my musical endeavors.
My mother, similarly, was very supportive and even when I left the house to move far away from here was nothing short of supportive and understanding.
Gabriella: have you attended any music schools and if so which ones?
Sergio: I studied privately in Modugno, near Bari at the “Accademia Musicale Battista Bia” under the guidance of Michele Di Monte.
Right after I moved to Torino Italy where I was lucky to meet (and study for a few months) with Enrico Lucchini, one of the Guru of Italian drumming.
After that I left to to work on cruise ships for a few years, which allowed me to learn more styles, save money and travel worldwide.
A scholarship to attend Berklee College allowed me to move to Boston and to refine my skills with amazing teachers from 95 to 98.
I never stopped learning and I truly believe that the end of a cycle of studies is actually a departure rather than an arrival.
Gabriella: When did you perform live for the first time? Did you sweat it? Were your legs shaking? (that’s a funny question to ask a drummer…) How did you make it through?
Sergio: I think I was either 16 or 17. It was a huge disco club just outside of Bari (Camelot). It was a festival with 10 groups or so but I don’t remember as much because it happened quiet some time ago.
I was very excited but in a positive way. I remember feeling great about it, and that I dressed for the occasion and totally got into the role of being at the center of attention.
I don’t recall any fear or shaking in particular but rather a great deal of excitment on a first encounter with the audience. I am not sure why but I don’t fear being on stage as much as one would think.
Excitiment yes but not stress. It must be because I truly love what I do?
Gabriella: Have you ever encountered someone that with his/her negativity actually set you off to do better?
Sergio: Yes! Indeed! A band mate in Torino in one of the first bands I joined. While on break I had told him and a few others that I was saving up money and trying to gain experience to move to the US and attend a college.
He laughed at me and said: “What? America?”. You will be stuck here for a very long time and like the rest of us, suck it up! “Forget these stupid dreams” he added.
It did hurt to hear it but at the same time it gave me such an extra boost and drive to suceed. Many times, while reaching goals and enjoying recognition, I dedicated some of those to him (without ever telling him of course). It was one of those instances in which you simply operate with a “Let me show you otherwise” attitude!
Gabriella: are there any musicians or people in general that inspire you now or have done so in the past? Those you would have a poster hang on the wall or that would be a screen saver nowadays? If so, how did they inspire you?
Sergio: I have had many influences and inspirations throughout. Not necessarely those I could not reach. There was no need for a poster in the room. First my father, a great example of a hard working man with strict old fashioned values. Another example for the great late Fernando Valenti, a painter which was a great friend of the family and with whom we shared a summer home. We were there few months of the years (while he lived in in all year round). I would walk through his studio and would see him for hours, days and weeks working on that one paint. I will never forget his meticolous approach which translated for me into approaching life“ one brush stroke at the time?
Other heros: Dom Famularo, a great deal of inspiration for sure!
Skip Hadden at Berklee, a dear friend and a mentor. All of the teacher I had throughout, contributed in their own unique way to shape my style. I have been extremely lucky in meeting each and everyone of them. Kenwood Dennard, John Ramsay, Jon Hazilla, Bob Moses and the great Lenny Nelson
I am also very attracted by the “Early Days” section of the bios of the great actors, musicians, artists in general (this is also why I joined on this project); I love to read and get inspired by the challenges and different path, the giants of today had to take early on in their lives.
Gabriella: have you changed preferences when it comes to styles of music? and if so Why?
Sergio: it did change over the years, Started with rock (my older brother was into it) and specifically 80’s new wave with a little bit of punk which was trendy at the time.
The first band I felt in love with was the Police. When the trio split up and Stink started his solo career, I noticed a whole different palette of sounds and I started researching about those musicians in his newly formed band. Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland… guys that were part of the Weather Report, Wynton Marsalis and Miles Davis band. Basically… the very finest!
From that moment I started to appreciate fusion and eventually more of the mainstream jazz. Of course living in the US did the rest as far as embracing other rhythmic cultures. I soak in other styles by way of actually performing with musicians different background.
In fact brazilian, caribbean and cuban alike all found a home and some common ground in american music.
Gabriella: is there any style of music that you don’t normally play but you are attracted to?
Sergio: Dance Music for sure and when performed live especially. I do compose and I did play some already but not as much as I would want.
I also love rock music but never got much action with it. I guess a rock band with a bit of influences from other styles I normally play, could represent a great foot in the door and i would easily consider it, rather than a mainstream rock band. Then again, it’s all about having fun!
Gabriella: when did you understand you could make a living playing music? and that you could live for the music…
Sergio: as I explained before my encounter with the music and the drums were a love at first sight type of affair and with that in mind I worked many non related jobs with the intentions to quit them soon and be able to focus on music only. But one sunday afternoon in between gigs the band leader took me aside and paid me. I asked him if I had done something wrong. He said… no… it is sunday afternoon and I am paying everyone. That minute I knew I was in… and became a professional drummer. I felt 10 kilos lighter. Needless to say that evening I went out and celebrated by spendingmost of it.
Gabriella: what motivated to keep going through hard times? if you had any
Sergio: I had an easy career i shall say. The love for the music has been stronger than any challenges. Also, I never accepted any failures, but rather tried to transform those into valuable lessons.
Instead of giving up, I tried to learn from it.
Gabriella: what are the projects you are currently working on?
Sergio: I am composing a lot, and especially dance music, something I really feel at it. I am part of WeJazzUp a band I perform with since 2006 but that exists since the mid 70’s. I am also the co-leader of Spajazzy (2 albums with Mike Stern).
My newest business venture is Social Media Marketing for prestigious clients and with the intent of promoting the Made in Italy and Made in USA through a blog who also serves as a vehicle to promote green and ECOSOSTEN etc..
Gabriella: if you did not become a musician, what could have your path been instead?
Sergio: not an easy one to respond to. Perhaps a lawyer to make my parents happy or simply because I have always been intrigued by it.
Each time i think about other professions I tend to to somehow rotate towards some line of work which involve music: a Dj, or owning a radio station come to mind. Or even the booking agent. I guess something where I would be allowed to express myself in more of an artistic/creative way.
Gabriella: any tips for those who want to fulfill their dreams?
Sergio: to always stay in the lane, because with life, comes a full load of distractions!
At times it is the people around us or simply the matters of life to keep us from staying in “that” lane.
One must have clear objectives and must try to pursue those at all cost. Also try to surround yourself with excellence. Wanna be a tennis player? Attend the best school or find out who the best teacher is. Wanna be a writer? What are the right schools for that? And then… read, read, read and be inquisitive and curios. Did I say read?
Don’t try to find shortcuts because often times there aren’t ant.
Studying never hurt anyone. Keep an open mind and learn from anyone because it is quiet possible.
Including learning what not to do.
Thanks Sergio… it was not easy to interview you because you are a friend and a business partner but I am hoping to have accomplished the goal of inspiring someone to follow his/her dreams and reach the objectives.