Teenage Italian band making a name for themselves

By Mindy Brown — It would be a surprise if any high school student could name an Italian band these days. It would be more surprising to find that an Italian band by the name of Gli Italiani (meaning ‘the Italians’ in English) consists of a group of teenage boys.

The band is made up of senior Andrew Pileggi, who has been playing the accordion and keyboard for six years and has been singing for two; senior Matt Strobelt who has been playing the guitar for seven years and has been singing for a year; junior David Wilson who has been playing the drums since he was three years old; and 2012 graduate Collin Mikeska, who has been playing the bass for five years.

It started three years ago when Pileggi decided to gather some guys together and start a band. Pileggi and Strobelt played in a rock group for the eighth grade talent show at Oakwood Middle School, so they were already acquainted with each other. The rest of the guys met through jazz band and marching band, which they are all involved with to this day.

“When Andrew asked me to be in a band with him, he sort of said, ‘hey, you play the drums, be in my band.’ It’s been fun, though. When we go to these Italian places, everyone is Italian and they love us,” Wilson said.

Pileggi blames his love for Italian music on his childhood.

“We chose Italian music because it’s what I grew up listening to; I went to dinner dances with my family and I played the accordion so I wanted to start a band,” Pileggi said.

Their first show was not a small one; they played at the Festa Italiana in downtown Cuyahoga Falls in July of 2009.  The band landed the gig after talking to a few guys with connections to the festival.

“I knew a guy, mentioned that I had a band, and he said he’d give us a shot,” Pileggi said.

The guys recall that getting noticed was not exactly easy, especially playing music that was not as well-known as other styles of music. They persevered, though, and started handing out their cards, and they were soon getting phone calls from people who wanted to hear them play. Since then, the band has played at venues such as The Carovillese Club in Akron, The Rionero Club in Cleveland and the Stark County Italian-American Festival, as well as others.

“We’ve been all around Ohio. It’s exciting to go new places and play,” Strobelt said.

Despite their love for playing Italian music, the band has had to accommodate several audiences in the past.

“One time, we went to a party and it was Hawaiian themed, so we had to change our music to Hawaiian music. At another party, we had to play blues music to entertain them,” Strobelt said.

Pileggi has vowed to never change the band’s style for anyone else, though, because Italian music is what he knows and loves and that is how he wants it to stay.

Their next show will be at an Italian dinner dance in Cleveland on Nov. 17,the day of the release of their CD titled Gli Italiani Sounds of Italy.

“We are really hoping to unveil it that day. I can’t wait for it to come out. I am so excited,” Strobelt said.

The band records their music at Sonic Blues studio in Beach City, about 35 minutes away from Canton. The engineers are Dave Marchione Sr. and Dave Marchione Jr.

“[Recording] is a long process of recording single tracks at a time to eventually build all of the instrumentation and vocalization,” Pileggi said.

The members of the band will be selling their C.D.’s to anyone who asks for one. Those who listen to Gli Italiani’s C.D. may want to invest in an Italian dictionary first, though. Most of their lyrics are in Italian, featuring covers of traditional Italian music. Pileggi sings, and says he is fairly fluent in Italian.

Since the guys have been in a band together for so long, many would assume that there would be frustration at times.

“We’re actually very close; we’ve all known each other for so long and we really never argue,” Strobelt said. The rest of the band agreed; no problems in their nest.