Running a music school has its rewards, but it can be very challenging.
Between hiring and managing instructors, recruiting and enrolling students, maintaining the facility, and keeping a busy teaching schedule, Nick Vecchio does it all.
Read on to learn how he makes it look easy, and how he creates a fun, supportive learning environment for students, families, and teachers.
The following article is an installment of our Faculty Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School instructors.
Managing Partner, Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, and Mandolin Instructor Nick Vecchio, Real School of Music, Dedham, MA
When you meet Nick Vecchio for the first time, you're immediately struck by his warmth, energy, and enthusiasm. Within a few moments, you may find yourself doing one of three things (or all three): signing up to take music lessons with him or one of his instructors, going out for a meal (on him), or checking out his cooking show. Two of the three involve food, but music is his first love.
And after over 25 years as an accomplished teacher and performer, there's no sign of slowing down. He's living life full out, and whether you've just met or you've known him for years, you get the sense that you're invited to come along for the ride.
The many talented and dedicated teachers who work with Nick agree. Real School voice instructor Michela Gardner said, "Nick greets every person who comes through the door as if they're family. Whether you're an instructor, student, or parent; whether it's your very first trial lesson or you've been taking lessons with us for years. He is warm, caring, and has an excellent sense of humor."
"Nick also has the amazing ability to balance running a tight ship," Michela continued. "He makes sure instructors are delivering quality, engaging lessons and meeting our other responsibilities, while being a truly great friend to all of us. His students adore him, to the point that families stay with us for years as younger siblings become ready for private instruction!"
Long-time friend and Real School guitar instructor Joe Hart said, "I knew Nick way before I started working for him, and knew he was a great guy, but working for him really showed me just how great of a guy he is."
Joe continued: "We all know everyone here (and I'm not talking about just teachers -- I mean we all know each others' students, students' parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, students' friends that sometimes stop in...). It's truly amazing and I couldn't imagine working for anyone else after working for Nick. He's a great boss, guy, and friend."
A native of Norwood, MA, and a graduate of Berklee College of Music, Nick taught music at Xaverian Brothers (Westwood, MA) from 1993- 2000. In 2001, Nick began teaching guitar at the former Daddy's Junky Music chain of stores, and was promoted to Director of Education in 1996. In this role, Nick was responsible for Daddy's education program throughout their entire network of stores in New England and New York.
Nick started his own school, Band Gig School of Music and Performance, in Norwood in 2007, primarily as an additonal side business where he could build an ensemble and band program. After the sudden closing of the entire chain of Daddy's stores in 2011, Nick essentially 'rescued' the Dedham area students and instructors by opening a second Band Gig location very close to the Daddy's location.
To extend it's programs and have an even bigger impact, Band Gig merged with Real School in November 2014.
Nick is a patent holder for a unique chord finding method called Crib Note, and is the author of the best-selling Beginning Guitar for Adults, a step-by-step introduction to the guitar written with the adult learner in mind. As if all of this weren't enough, he and his wife Julie own Custom Art Framing & Gallery 9 in Norwood, which offers custom picture framing, art classes, and original artwork from gifted local artists.
Let's dive in to learn more about Nick...
At what age did you begin music lessons? Which instruments did you play and where did you take lessons?
Nick: My older sister wanted to take keyboard lessons. When she gave it up, my folks, having made the investment in the instrument, a Wurlitzer Organ, decided to place me in lessons. I took lessons for a couple years and did really well. My dad played guitar and I started to develop an interest in that and that is when I made the switch. I have never looked back.
Who were your favorite music teachers and why?
Nick: My favorite teacher was my first guitar teacher, Lou DiGiandomenico, better known as 'Lou Dom.' He was a great guy, and let me learn songs I enjoyed while making me aware of the important fundamentals, like reading, chord structure, notation, harmony, and rhythm.
Did you participate in your school orchestra, band, choir, or other school-sponsored music group?
Nick: Unfortunately, no. My high school, Xaverian Brothers (Westwood, MA), did not have a music program at that time. However, I'm proud to say that, a few years after graduating from Berklee College of Music, I became the founding director of the music program at Xaverain.
Were you motivated to start a music program at your alma mater because they didn't have one when you were there?
Nick: Yes, I had a guitar student who went to Xaverian and told me that one of his teachers played guitar and had a group of kids playing liturgical songs at the school Mass. He said with that I should go to see if I could get involved, so I decided to contact the school, send my resume, and explore the possibility.
The interview went well, and they created a position for me to work with the liturgical group and to form a jazz band. As the position grew, we added a couple of rock ensembles to the mix. I taught there for 7 years from 1993 to 2000.
I'm still friends with some of the students that I taught there, as well as some of the staff. We have some of those students children as students now. I must have done something right if the guys I taught at the high school are now bringing me their children!
What is your favorite early musical memory?
Nick: My dad playing and singing after dinner. I was only 11-years-old when my dad passed away, but my earliest memories of him were his guitar playing and singing after dinner in our dining room, right off the kitchen. He would play songs like “Because of You” by Tony Bennett; songs by Sinatra, Charlie Rich, and Engelbert Humperdinck. He was also a big country fan.
Your dad was an active performer. Did you ever get a chance to see him perform outside of the home?
Nick: I only remember seeing him at a gig once at a little bar and restaurant. I'm going to guess that it was in Cambridge, as he played in that part of town often. It was a trio with guitar, accordion, and drums. Sometimes, he also played with a sax player. He played weddings and other general business engagements. My older brother remembers that our dad played most weekends.
In addition to your dad, who were some of your early musical heroes and inspirations?
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of Real School?
Nick: I love to cook. My mom was an excellent cook and since I was a kid I liked to hang around the kitchen and help. I now create my own recipes and have shot a few cooking videos. You can see recipes and videos on my website nickssupperclub.com.
Are you actively performing in an ensemble, bands, or projects?
Nick: Periodically, I play with my band and we do some choice covers and some of my original tunes. Two of the members include Real School instructors Joe Hart and Betsy Pabon. We do not play often, but when we do, we have fun and it is usually for a charity.
Why did you decide to merge your school with Real School? What do you like best about being a part of it?
Nick: I owned my own school and was aware of Real School and their offerings. They were similar to my own, and as a small business owner, I wanted to grow and the Real School is an excellent example of professionalism. I also wanted to be able to offer my teachers other opportunities that may have not been possible in my school.
How has playing and teaching music made a positive impact on your life?
Nick: I love to see others grow and learn. It's gratifying to see a child go from being kind of shy to confident and more open to public speaking and performing.
What are some of your most memorable teaching experiences so far?
Nick: I have had many students over the years go on to attend music colleges, and these are really proud moments in my life.
When those students came to me and told me of their plans, I was always so proud of them and of how I had a hand in making them love music so much that they wanted to make it a major part of their lives.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to develop their skills?
Nick: Play everyday, and take every opportunity to play in different musical situations, including different bands and ensembles that perform different styles.
Nick: Even though they are musicians, continue to instill in them that they always need to be professional, responsible, and consistent like in any business. It is still a business. All successful musicians treat it like a business, and it's good to learn this regardless of if you are pursuing music as a pro or as a hobby.
What are your future plans? What are your career and/or musical goals?
Nick: I am really happy at what I am doing now.I intend on continuing with The Real School and watching us take over the music education world one school at a time.
We think we know the answer to this question already, but if you weren't playing and teaching music, what would you be?
Nick: A chef!
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