One of the Great and Possibly Unfortunate Truths in this world is the fact that the most talented, hardest working and nicest among us seldom achieve the sort of widespread fame and fortune often bestowed on folks who offer little in any or all of those three categories. The reason I say this is possibly unfortunate instead of an honest to gosh darned shame is that the older I get the less I equate fame and fortune with success. The former two may show up, or not, for the most arbitrary of reasons and have little to do with anything that truly matters. Success, on the other hand, true success, means finding your place,doing your best and conducting yourself with grace and humility. For most of us that formula will never translate into private jets, multiple mansions and penthouses or recognition from the vast majority of people. Our circle may be small, medium or relatively large, but if we can find our place, do our best and be Good People, we are successful.
Now what does all this have to do with the fellows pictured above? Well, Frank Vignola (front, wearing specs) and Vinnie Raniolo are two absolutely incredible musicians. Frank has been one of the foremost guitarists in the world for many years, performing and recording both as a leader/soloist and along with Big Names like Ringo Starr, Mark O'Connor and Les Paul. I have been bothering the Musical Instrument Museum folks for months to book Frank in their acoustically perfect 299 seat concert hall. So I was excited to see he had a Phoenix date near the end of his West Coast tour. But it wasn't at the MIM, nor was it at any of the other high profile concert venues in town. Nope, Frank and Vinnie were going to be appearing at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery (that's a place where students learn how to make and repair guitars). It was listed as a private event with a note to "email for details". I was bummed about the private event status, but I took a chance and emailed to ask about it. I had no expectations of hearing back at all, much less receiving anything encouraging regarding being able to attend. I was surprised and not a little stunned when I received an answer from Frank inviting me to attend. I am not a party crashing sort of fellow, but this I could not pass up. So I arranged to leave work a little early on that day and drove over to 10th Avenue and Grand.
Before things started there was time to check out the guitars hanging in the front gallery, all of them made by members of the Fall 2011 class at Roberto-Venn. Beautiful instruments.
And then William Eaton, the director of the school, introduced the staff and graduates, and finally, Frank and Vinnie. Those of us in that workshop turned concert hall were then treated to some jaw droppingly beautiful music. They performed for nearly an hour, had some nice, warm exchanges with the audience and then stayed around to meet and greet. I introduced myself to Frank. He greeted me with "Alan! My new friend!" and embraced me. We talked for a moment or two, he remembered that I had said in an email that I would be attending the concert the next evening in Cottonwood, and when I left it was with an even higher regard for this incredibly talented and gracious artist. He may not be playing the largest concert halls or commanding the highest ticket prices (the show at the school cost nothing and the next evening's concert at the Cottonwood Old Town Center was an incredible bargain at just fifteen dollars) but the music he makes is priceless and from all appearances he is the definition of success as I see it. Don't get the wrong idea, from what I can tell Frank has performed all over the world and cannot be described as an undiscovered artist by any means. But let me ask you this: have you heard of him before this? Probably not, and I hope you are glad you know about him now. Does he deserve more prestigious venues, larger audiences and higher ticket prices? Absolutely, and I hope that comes to pass for him. But in the meantime he is doing what he was born to do, working hard at it, making what I hope is a good living at it and touching lives in a positive way. I hope he doesn't mind, but he has also become a role model for this fifty-six year old aspiring writer.
Here are a couple more shots from that evening.
And here is a link to a video that will give you some idea of just how amazing these two musicians are.