Q&A with Teen Violinist Giovanni Mazza
City Life sat down with Mazza to discuss his love for music and how he became an NBA violinist.
At the tender age of 13 years old, Chicago native Giovanni Mazza has already accomplished what many hope to in a lifetime. Both a professional actor and musician, the child protégé is quickly catching a buzz for his musical gifts, his authentic sound and his talent as a violinist.
Q. When did you start playing the violin?
A. I went to an instrument petting zoo at our library. I liked the violin, so I started Suzuki group violin lessons with other three-year-olds. We couldn’t read music, so we listened and repeated. It was fun because we would play on one foot, walking around and doing silly things. I didn’t start reading music until a few years later.
Q. How and when did you start performing professionally?
A. Violin was always just a hobby for me. When I was nine, my mom entered me into the Chicago Bulls Youth Talent Search. I didn’t ask my classical teacher for help. Instead, I tried to make up an acapella fiddle medley myself. Then I took what I had to a fiddle teacher who added in “The Orange Blossom Special.” I didn’t win the contest, but I got a lot of good feedback, which made me start thinking that violin could be a career. The Bulls had me back to play a timeout, and I went a little crazier on my violin. The crowd loved it. After that, the Bulls pitched me to the NBA All-Stars, who offered to fly my whole family to Toronto. I remember the process of getting ready was so exciting, but also a lot of hard work. I prepared Bach’s “Partita No. 1 in B Minor” [a really difficult piece involving chord patterns on the violin] before going into a mix of Drake’s “Jumpman” and Lil Jon’s, “Turn Down for What.” At sound check they told me I was bumped up from a timeout to the halftime of the 2016 NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge game in Toronto. That was my first professional violin job at age 10.
“My ultimate goal in life is to tour the world playing my violin and win a Grammy”
Q. Can you tell us about the first time you played at an NBA game and what that experience was like?
A. The first time I played was the Chicago Bulls Youth Talent Search contest. There were two other kids performing in my contest group, one of which won La Voz, the Spanish version of The Voice. The kids were all older and so talented, and my mom could tell I was nervous. Before I went out, my mom said, “Don’t think of it as a contest, but just as a chance to perform. Let the crowd disappear, and it’s just you and your violin as one.” I think I kept my eyes shut the whole time, focused on the sound, and when it was finished, I got a big rush of adrenaline. It felt great.
Q. Who inspires you?
A. My mentor, Andrew Joslyn, is a genius. He’s been helping me with the NBA mixes since the 2016 NBA All-Stars. He encouraged me to record songs, and he composed and produced them. He writes for big musicians, like Macklemore and Kesha. He also writes orchestra scores for films. He’s amazing, and I’m learning how to write my own violin parts and songs because of him.
Q. Do the kids at school treat you differently because of your success?
A. Nobody treats me differently at my school. I don’t know if they even know what I do besides leave early to practise my violin. It’s kind of like Hannah Montana — the best of both worlds.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your ultimate goal in life?
A. I want to live in the San Francisco Bay area, and I want to do big tours playing my violin around the world — all kinds of music that will bring people together. My ultimate goal in life is to tour the world playing my violin and win a Grammy.