Story: Wyatt Olson
Nick Ciampi's Passion For Music
For Nick Ciampi, music is life. He hears music where there is none, and he shares his love of music with everyone he encounters through teaching, performing and storytelling.
It all began with the King. “When I was in second grade, I saw Elvis Presley on TV and all these girls were going nuts. It was from that point on that I wanted a guitar,” says Ciampi. His parents had a violin. So they made a deal: if he learned to play violin, they would buy him a guitar. “For three years, I faked it on the violin, pretended to read music and just kinda played along,” he says. Finally, after years of waiting, Ciampi got his guitar and he’s been playing ever since. He epitomizes the self-taught musician, teaching himself to play piano, guitar, bass, violin, harmonica and any other instrument that finds its way into his hands.
Ciampi grew up in the Bay Area and began writing songs as a junior in high school, after which “nothing else mattered,” he says. He has played with more than 100 musicians in dozens of bands, starting with “The Tix” (which covered Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes). Perhaps one of his most humorous bands was “The Carrots,” for which he donned a full-length carrot suit and did backflips on stage. He also recorded numerous solo albums and has written about 5,000 songs.
To support his music career, Ciampi has worked as a sign painter, postal worker, artist, professional gymnast, music store owner and more. Some of his sign work can even be seen around Redding.
In 1990, Ciampi was struck a huge blow: He was diagnosed with leukemia. The day he was diagnosed, the doctor told him they would have to remove his spleen and that he had a slim chance of survival. One day later, a new experimental treatment for leukemia was announced. Ciampi was transferred to Scripps Hospital in San Diego, where he stayed for two months. Five months after diagnosis, he was cancer-free. “I remember one day, when I was in the hospital and thought I was going to die, I decided that if I lived I would completely dedicate my life to music,” Ciampi says. That’s exactly what he did. “The experience made me realize that music was the most important thing in life.”
In 2000, he moved to Redding to be closer to his family. A few years later he met Erin Friedman, a local singer/songwriter, and together they formed the North State Song Writing Group. The group has more than 50 members and helps organize gigs, give advice to new songwriters and share ideas about music.
Every day, Ciampi brings his musical expertise and positive attitude into the community as a music teacher. He teaches guitar, piano, bass and violin to some 50 students. He also ventures where few other music teachers dare tread: songwriting. His students especially enjoy his open-mindedness, his relaxed demeanor and his ability to make music fun. He says, “I just try to push them towards whatever makes them happy and feels good.”
Nick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org