Catching Up With Dennis DelGaudio ’91
Musician and Hofstra alumnus Dennis DelGaudio will be returning to campus on Sunday, May 6, 2012, to perform with the group Shotgun Wedding at the annual Dutch Spring Music Festival on the South Campus. Dennis was the lead guitarist in the hit Broadway musical Movin’ Out throughout its three and a half year run, and in 2006 he was the musical director of the limited engagement, London production of Movin’ Out. He also played guitar in the Broadway productions of Jersey Boys and Grease, and in July 2008 he performed with Billy Joel for the historic final performances at Shea Stadium, which led to him becoming a member of Billy Joel’s band during the nationwide “Face To Face” tour with Elton John.
Shotgun Wedding’s performance at Hofstra will mark its Long Island debut. The band hearkens back to the classic days of country, re-imagining songs by Merle Haggard, Earl Scruggs, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Earnest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours, Bob Wills, Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams. In addition to Dennis, the lineup includes vocalist Hilary Gardner, recently featured in Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra-inspired musical, Come Fly Away; Wade Preston, the Piano Man in Movin’ Out; bassist Andy Cichon, who also toured with Billy Joel and has shared the stage with legends like Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey and Steven Tyler; and Chuck Burgi, original drummer on Movin’ Out and member of Billy Joel’s band.
Where did you grow up and what brought you to study music at Hofstra?
I graduated from Hofstra in 1991. I grew up on Long Island. I'm originally from West Islip and Merrick. I name both towns because I moved around quite a bit as a kid. I chose Hofstra because I had started my own band on Long Island and wanted to stay close to it. Plus, I knew the music program was a solid one.
Were there any professors who served as mentors to you?
Two professors come to mind. Dr. Smaldone was my ear training and theory teacher as well as a fantastic composer. He really gave me a boost of confidence by telling me that I had great ears and already knew the chord progressions and harmony he was teaching, even if I didn't know what to call them. Mr. Zito was my classical guitar teacher and an incredible player. I learned some technical things from him, but I suppose what I learned most was how to approach the guitar, mentally. "Think with your head, not your hands!" he would often say. That's something I carry with me to this day and tell my students. I also loved his analogies! He would often compare sports to music and it was always brilliant and often funny!
What was your first big break in the music industry? How did you come to be in Billy Joel’s band?
My first big professional break came when I was offered the job of lead guitarist in the Broadway show Movin' Out. That was in June of 2001.
Billy's music director and lead guitarist, Tommy Byrnes, asked me if I wanted to be part of this, as yet unnamed, Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel Broadway show. He assembled a 10-piece band, and we auditioned on June 12, 2001. The rest, as they say, is history. I was with Movin' Out from its workshop days through its entire three and a half year run. After it closed in December of 2005, I went to London and was the music director and lead guitarist for the show's West End production. I came to tour with Billy, again through Tommy Byrnes. Billy was gearing up to do the Shea Stadium shows in 2008, and his band was to be augmented with additional musicians. Tommy asked if I was interested and I was all too happy to say yes! That lead to me becoming a full-time band member in January of 2009.
How did Shotgun Wedding come about?
Shotgun Wedding came about as a combination of my needing a change of pace, musically, and a genuine love and appreciation for old school country music. I can't help but smile when I hear a guitar or banjo player pickin' away. It's like a harmonious blizzard of nails!! I also love vocal harmony. Once the name fell into place, courtesy of vocalist Hilary Gardner, the heavens opened and Shotgun Wedding and what I call city country music were born!