I had the good fortune of being raised around music. My dad played the trumpet and had a band. He’d often have a rehearsal at the house and it was fun to hear the music coming from all the different instruments, and fun to see all the guys having a genuinely good time.
My older brother started taking accordion lessons (a popular thing to do in South Omaha during the 50s), and he had quite a knack for it. Soon, my dad and brother started rehearsing the music and taught me to sing a few tunes. When I was six, I was pulled from the audience (by surprise) to sing the song “Just Because” with an 50-piece accordion band. I didn’t seem to know about getting nervous, and really ate up the smiles and applause. I believe I was getting hooked on entertaining.
As soon as I was old enough to hold an accordion, it was my turn to learn. I didn’t seem to have the knack for it like my brother, but that instrument contains a lot of music theory, and I learned things that I still use today. One day a drum set showed up at the house and I learned a few beats. Now that felt natural. Dad needed a drummer for his band one night and I guess I was the only one available. We loaded up the station wagon and went to my first drumming job (we call them gigs now). It was fun for me, and was also fun to see the people get up and dance to the beat. At the end of the engagement Dad handed over my earnings…now I was really hooked! By age 10, I was playing three nights a week at a bar in South Omaha with my dad and brother.
I went on to play the clarinet in school band. I heard some Dixieland clarinet and I wanted to do that too. Then came the saxophone, marimba, guitar, etc. You know, I’m still learning about music, and love sharing it with others.
Joey Gulizia is a professional musician who has been performing since childhood. Along with performing and entertaining, Joey’s been involved in music education for more than 30 years. He has conducted hundreds of residencies, workshops and clinics for students of all ages. He has been inducted to the “Nebraska Music Hall of Fame” and has received the “Excellence in Education” award by the Governor of Nebraska.
Joey’s traveled extensively, and music has taken him to many places including all 50 of the United States. Just this past year, Joey was drumming in Austria and Switzerland, performed on the annual Gulizia Brothers Jazz Cruise to Alaska and the Caribbean, and he once again toured with the Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas Tour. In the field of education he was involved with numerous artist in school residencies, jazz camps, workshops, and clinics. He is currently artist in residence at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.