Julian Gargiulo, the Pianist With The Hair, Brings Energy and Inspiration to Severn School as the 2023 Dillon Moran Musician in Residence

Pianist and composer Julian Gargiulo – the Pianist with the Hair - was Severn School’s 2023 Dillon Moran Musician in Residence.
As the musician in residence, Gargiulo spent two full days (Jan 23-24) with Severn students, where he performed for both the Upper School and Middle School, taking questions from the audience afterwards. He also held a small-group composer discussion with AP Music Theory students, a composing discussion with Music Tech students, and a piano recording session with the Recording Studio class. In addition, he hosted coaching sessions with two of Severn’s performance groups - Instrument Ensemble and Treble Choir.

Additionally, he held an Open Masterclass where students performed and received feedback from Gargiulo. During his time, he also had lunch each day with students interested in music.  His residency concluded with an evening concert that was open to the public.

Three AP Music Theory students joined Gargiulo in Price on Monday for an open discussion, and they took full advantage of their access to the accomplished artist, asking him where he gets his ideas, what his process is, and what inspired a specific sonata that they had reviewed.

Some of what he shared with the young musicians was practical in nature. For example, making sure to note any ideas they had so they don’t forget. “Some advice – if you ever have a cool or fun idea, write it down!” he said. “If you get something in your head and think oh, that would be a great lyric, put it in your notes or record it as a voice memo.”

But he also talked about the creative process, relaying that every composer has a different approach. “I find that once I start writing, it’s harder for me to be creative,” he said. “But some composers are not like that at all. They’ve done all the work that I’m doing at the piano in their heads already.” His approach is to let the process happen, starting with a theme or a few themes that can easily become an entire movement.

"I thought getting to work with a musician like Julian Gargulio was incredible,” said Paisley Pentecost ‘25, one of the students in that particular session. “He strategized with us on song writing techniques, and how to better our notation skills. He helped us to further understand harmonic analysis and musical intention within a piece, which is extremely helpful for musicians who are interested in writing their own pieces, and for students who just love learning about music.” In addition to taking AP Music Theory, Pentecost is in Breakwater, Severn’s acapella group and Vocal Ensemble. She also performs in the school musical.

During the Open Masterclass, several students volunteered to play for Gargiulo, who offered constructive feedback on their technique, timing and overall style. Timmy played a piece by Chopin, and his feedback focused largely on his use of the pedal, encouraging him to “make sure you’re really changing the pedal here, before that run – otherwise it’s going to get very confusing.” He again pointed out the pedal work at another point in his playing, saying, “That’s too much pedal. You really need to make sure you clear the pedal, otherwise it’s going to be pastrami.” He encouraged him to “just hammer out these notes, over and over, even though it won’t be fun.” Jokingly, he added, “If you have neighbors you don’t like, it could be fun. I always recommend practicing from midnight to 2 a.m.!”

With a second student, Emily, who played a piece titled Happiness, he worked with her on tying the notes together. “As much as you can in music, create a line,” he said encouragingly. “I know it’s difficult. Keep in mind that it’s a conversation between two hands; let us hear that conversation.”

After two full days of coaching and working with students, Gargiulo himself appeared in concert, playing to a full house in Price Auditorium.

“The Musician in Residence program truly is an experience like no other,” said Pentecost. “Julian is a very talented pianist and I am so thankful that I was able to learn from him in such a relaxed setting. Over the two days that he worked with us, I gained an understanding for the meaning behind his pieces, and the strategies and plans that Julian uses when writing.

“I felt extremely motivated and excited about my future in music because of the new skills and musical knowledge that I gained from this experience,” she added. 

About the Dillon Moran Musician in Residence Program
The Dillon Moran Musician in Residence program was created in the Fall of 2012 to commemorate the passion, exuberance and solid musicianship exemplified by Dillon Moran, Severn School Class of 2013. Dillon’s life was tragically cut short in the fall of 2011 as a result of an accident at his home.

The purpose of the program is to invite outside musicians to spend a defined period of time at Severn working with students, faculty, and the entire community to inspire, create, and perform great music. The visiting musician(s) with share their talent with Severn students and hopefully provide a fresh approach and new ways of bringing music to life in the Severn community.  Learn more about the Dillon Moran Musicians in Residence Program here.

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