13-year-old vi­o­lin­ist Gio­vanni Mazza mak­ing his mark at the United Cen­ter, other NBA are­nas

At 13, vi­o­lin­ist Gio­vanni Mazza finds niche play­ing United Cen­ter and other sports venues

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY SELENA FRAGASSI For the Sun-Times Selena Fragassi is a lo­cal free­lance writer.

On Dec. 8, the Chicago Bulls will host a new round of their on­go­ing Kids Tal­ent Search. The monthly se­ries show­cases the mu­si­cal abil­i­ties of lo­cal chil­dren ages 5-14 who take cen­ter court for a spe­cial half­time per­for­mance. The win­ners (by round of ap­plause) move on to the next divi­sion, and a fi­nal cham­pion is crowned ev­ery April to re­ceive a cash schol­ar­ship prize.

It was in this arena in 2015 that 9-year-old vi­o­lin­ist Gio­vanni Mazza was first “dis­cov­ered.” Though he didn’t end up win­ning his tal­ent search round, Mazza says, “I think I won in the long run.” Shortly af­ter his de­but per­for­mance, the Bulls called Mazza back for an­other chance to per­form, and it was a life-chang­ing op­por­tu­nity.

Since then, the now 13-year-old has been a fea­tured act at more than 35 NBA games at 16 dif­fer­ent are­nas (in­clud­ing this week­end, when he re­turns to the United Cen­ter to play the na­tional an­them) and has en­joyed show­cases at two NBA All-Star games, White Sox home games and a few North­west­ern match-ups. Hail­ing from the Chicago sub­urbs, Mazza has also been a fa­vorite for lo­cal TV shows and was the cover of Chicago Par­ent mag­a­zine’s Septem­ber 2018 is­sue.

Mazza’s style, a blend of clas­si­cal vi­olin with hiphop and EDM over­tones, is show­cased on his de­but five-song EP, in­de­pen­dently re­leased ear­lier this year, which fea­tures or­ches­tral pop, Latin dance, al­ter­na­tive rock and trap in­flu­ences. Sev­eral mu­sic videos, in­clud­ing an an­i­mated piece for his song “En­can­tado,” have been en­tered into the film fes­ti­val cir­cuit, in­clud­ing this sum­mer’s Windy City In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

“I re­ally want the vi­olin to be pop­u­lar again, with kids my age es­pe­cially, and so I’m try­ing to do more things with [the in­stru­ment] that no one re­ally does,” says Mazza, who has been in­spired by artists like string vir­tu­oso Lind­sey Stir­ling, who blend mod­ern and tra­di­tional com­po­si­tions. “With my EP, there are five dif­fer­ent gen­res I play that re­ally show what the vi­olin can bring out. Clas­si­cal is just one genre I can play.”

Mazza’s love for the vi­olin be­gan when he was just 3 years old, when he be­gan his stud­ies via the renowned Suzuki teach­ing method that pro­vides chil­dren with an ef­fec­tive and nat­u­ral mu­si­cal foun­da­tion, much like ac­quir­ing a na­tive lan­guage.

“It started at the lo­cal li­brary,. They had an in­stru­ment trial they called an ‘in­stru­ment pet­ting zoo,’ ” he re­calls. “I re­mem­ber tak­ing the vi­olin out and re­ally liked it, so I stuck with it.”

To help keep her young son mo­ti­vated, Mazza’s mother Lisa started tak­ing adult group vi­olin lessons so she could prac­tice with him. “But I was ter­ri­ble,” she says, laugh­ing. “I didn’t even get through Suzuki Book 1 and he was al­ready through Book 2.”

Re­mark­ably, one of Mazza’s first per­for­mances was play­ing Sym­phony Cen­ter as a 3-yearold with other chil­dren in his Suzuki train­ing group. By 7, he had moved into act­ing, earn­ing his Screen Ac­tors Guild card for reg­u­lar com­mer­cial work (in­clud­ing an on­go­ing gig with Wal­mart) and a small bit in Nick­elodeon’s

“Bella and the Bull­dogs” show.

Af­ter be­ing dis­cov­ered by the Bulls as well as sev­eral other bas­ket­ball team fran­chises who wit­nessed his tal­ent at the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto, Mazza fo­cused more on mu­sic and started work­ing with his men­tor, com­poser and tele­vi­sion/film scorer An­drew Joslyn, who helped re­fine Mazza’s con­tem­po­rary sound. Jose­lyn, the half-brother of “Satur­day Night Live” co­me­dian Chris Kat­tan, has a ro­bust re­sume, hav­ing worked with Ryan Lewis & Mack­le­more as well as Ke­sha and Mark Lane­gan.

“An­drew has been an amaz­ing per­son to know, he’s so sup­port­ive and he’s been help­ing me write all the mu­sic I play dur­ing the NBA games now,” says Mazza, whose fu­ture goals in­clude per­form­ing at a fes­ti­val like the EDM-palooza To­mor­row­land with some of his fa­vorite DJs like Marsh­mello, Di­plo and Steve Aoki.

For now, he’s still just a typ­i­cal kid. When he isn’t trav­el­ing one to four times a month for per­for­mances (mostly on the week­ends), he’s a part of his mid­dle school’s soc­cer team, plays video games with his friends and watches movies, which taps into his love for act­ing. “I love Queen now af­ter see­ing the new movie [‘Bohemian Rhapsody’],” he ad­mits. “I just hope I can al­ways be a per­former in some way. It’s what I love to do.”

“I RE­ALLY WANT THE VI­OLIN TO BE POP­U­LAR AGAIN, WITH KIDS MY AGE ES­PE­CIALLY, AND SO I’M TRY­ING TO DO MORE THINGS WITH [THE IN­STRU­MENT] THAT NO ONE RE­ALLY DOES” GIO­VANNI MAZZA

OS­CAR GAR­CIA

Gio­vanni Mazza

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