Alumni Interview with Giancarlo de Trizio

Name:  Giancarlo de Trizio

Major at Berklee: Performance

Graduation Date: 2010

Professional Title:  Drummer/percussionist

Employer:  The Book of Mormon (first national tour)

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of in your career thus far?

The greatest accomplishment in my career so far has been being the drummer on the first national tour of The Book of Mormon. I remember how toward the end of my college career I wanted to become a Broadway drummer and three years later here I am, touring with one of the most popular shows on Broadway. Before Mormon, I was touring with another Broadway show called In The Heights, a different yet incredible and very unique show. 

I’m an active clinician, having taught at Musicians Institute (LA) and at Berklee itself. I plan to do many more of these clinics around the globe. I’ve had amazing teachers and mentors in my life and I feel strongly that it is my duty and pleasure to give back to other students. I’ve been fortunate to be constantly employed since graduation, and I usually share in my clinics what I think made it possible at a personal and musical level. I’m also planning on writing a book...but we can’t call that an accomplishment yet!  

Lastly, I’m extremely honored and proud to be an endorser of Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads and Pearl drums. When I was a student, I looked up to these companies and their artists with deep respect, always looking for inspiration. Today I’m one of those artists on their roster and it feels amazing to be among such great musicians.

What are the most challenging aspects of your current job? 

The rapid change of seasons, weather conditions, places and people around you due to traveling can be hard to handle until you get used to it.

I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal but you need to know your potential and your limits. You have to manage a very responsible balance in what you do daily because I assure you, if you’re not feeling well and you have to play two shows that day, it is not the most amusing thing you can hope for. So, simple things like staying hydrated, healthy, and getting enough sleep are essential!

More specifically about the music: we play the same show every day and twice a day on the weekend. I know a lot of musicians who would refuse to do that just because they think it’s repetitive and not artistically fulfilling. Well, I take it as a challenge instead! My goal is to play a solid and consistent show every single time, like it was my first time playing it! Most of the people in our audience are seeing the show for the first time and they deserve to see the same show I performed the first night when we opened the tour. You can imagine how exciting a tour opening could be, knowing that you are playing for a hit Broadway show and you’ll travel the country with it, but my job is to keep that excitement in every show I perform even a year after the tour opened. This means you play pretty much the same at every show so the actors on stage can rely on what you do but still add little elements in there that will keep the show interesting, alive and enjoyable for the other musicians and the cast as well.

You know, once you play 400 shows in a row, it’s natural to memorize it and to play it on autopilot, which can cause you trouble. Even if the show is the same, it’s still a live performance! Timing can change due to a different actor on stage, a different interpretation, a different audience response or simply a technical issue. So you always have to be vigilant and make the smartest and most supportive decision when small changes occur. At this point, you’ll find yourself fighting the tendency of being on autopilot in order to be continuously alert for two and a half hours, which is the duration of our show.

What would you say are the top requirements (skills, mindset, etc.) for someone entering this line of work? 

I’d say flexibility is the most important skill to have both on a personal and musical level.

You’ll be traveling with a company of about 60 different individuals (including cast, musicians, management, and crew) and spending a lot of time with them on the road. Every single one of us has different habits, preferences and needs. In order to keep the work environment healthy, a lot of flexibility, tolerance, respect and comprehension is required from all of us. From a musical prospective, flexibility translates into versatility. Most of the current Broadway shows contain multiple musical styles and genres. The Book of Mormon has pop, rock, funk, African rhythms, two-beat, orchestral sections, etc. The tour I did before this (In The Heights) was totally different, including hip-hop, funk, salsa, merengue, Bachata and Brazilian rhythms. You have to be very comfortable with all these styles and able to use electronics too. A lot of new shows use tracks, loops, and clicks and you need to know how to work with all of those. You also need to be able to follow a conductor and take notes, keeping in mind that they will always ask you to do what is better for the show in its entirety.

What is a normal day like in your line of work (assuming there is such a thing as a normal day)?

Luckily enough, I have a pretty steady schedule, which is very valuable on the long run for a musician. We perform eight shows a week: one on weekdays (night) and two on the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). Monday is our day off. During the day, I usually make phone calls, send emails, spend some time on the web doing some research and “taking care of business.” At night, it's show time! It sounds like a pretty easy schedule but it actually takes some effort to adjust your routine around it. The most intense workdays are the weekends, when most people are off, and during the week you perform at night, when most people don’t work. So, you pretty much have a schedule that is the opposite from the rest of the world! When we move from one city to another (on an average of two weeks), we have to load-out after our last show on Sunday and load-in on the following Tuesday (Monday for the crew that has to set up the stage). My schedule on a load-in Tuesday is as follows:

8:00 a.m.: set-up the drum kit in the pit and set up another one in the rehearsal room;

10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.: rehearse with the local band members (our band has a total of nine people; five of us travel with the show and four are always local musicians hired by the theater) and then tear down the rehearsal kit;

5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: band seating and sound check;

7:30 p.m.: Showtime! 

What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? What is the long term potential? 

The salary for a touring musician on a Broadway show could vary between $600 and $2,000 a week. It depends on the position, the show, the company that produces it, and other variables. The length of the tour could be between eight months and 10 years; it depends on how well the show sells. Every yearm there are probably about 20 Broadway shows touring the country. Having played one of these on the road will definitively help if you’re looking at playing on Broadway as a possible career goal.

This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?

The industry has changed very much and requires a different set of skills than it did in the past. When I talk to students at my clinics, I can never stress enough the importance of being versatile and of having an overall knowledge of music software and sound equipment.

I believe the music industry was very specific in the past: all you needed to do was to be a great performer in a specific genre. I strongly believe this is not possible anymore!

If you want to make a living as a musician, you should be able to play different instruments and different genres. You should be able to record yourself and have a knowledge of sound equipment because you will always deal with electronics. I guarantee it!

With budget cuts, companies will hire fewer musicians and expect them to be able to play multiple instruments and work with electronics, loops, and click tracks. Being able to do all this will make you much more desirable in the marketplace. On The Book of Mormon tour, I play a regular drum kit that also contains percussion toys, a djembe, and a drum sampler that I use to control loops, effects, and clicks.

This being said, I’m extremely lucky to be working for such a great show that is selling out in every single city we go to!

How has your Berklee experience prepared you for what you are doing today?

Berklee was crucial in my preparation for this! It definitely made me the versatile and marketable musician I need to be. I took ensembles of any genre: pop, rock, jazz, Caribbean, African, big band, second line band, gospel, etc. I was also able to develop what I believe to be the most important skills for a musician: listening, reading, and interacting. I also took business, technology, web designing, writing, and arranging classes. I would always go to clinics and workshops by visiting artists that were extremely helpful to me in the transition between school and work. And I learned so much from other students coming from all over the world! If I didn’t go to Berklee, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing!

If you could offer just one piece of career advice to students, what would it be?

Again, be versatile, take as many classes as you can, and play with as many people as you can, including different genres and instrumentation. Also, reputation is extremely important so when you give someone your word, make sure you keep it! You might not see the effect of this right away, but I can promise you it will pay off on the long run. People are always looking for coworkers who are reliable and can be trusted.

If you’re transitioning from school to work in the music business, try to get in touch with people who are already doing what you want to do but do not ask them for a job unless you are at a job interview! How would you feel if a complete stranger came to you and asked for a job? Just try to show them what you do if they ask and gradually build a trustworthy relationship. Those relationships will last forever and will be very important for you as a musician and a person as well. And last, stay open and humble!