'Duets' Warwick musician Jeff Ciampa adds to his honors
Jeff Ciampa of Warwick has played with some of the very best in the jazz genre. He recently played on "Duets" with Terry Silverlite, along with many other big names in music.
BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK WARWICK — If things went as originally planned, Jeff Ciampa would be seeing patients instead of music students; writing prescriptions, not compositions. But halfway through his second year as a premed student at Juniata College in central Pennsylvania near his hometown, the trumpet- and guitar-playing Ciampa realized "this wasn't for me." He put in another year at Juniata and then headed to Berklee School of Music in Boston to pursue his dream of being a professional musician.A lot has changed since his college days. Ciampa has been nominated for a Grammy, has written songs for films and has shared his talents with hundreds of students over the 30 years he's taught private lessons here in Warwick.Last year, brought another honor to the Warwick resident. Ciampa was chosen by Terry Silverlight to perform on his CD entitled "Duets." Silverlight, an award-winning drummer and composer, performed a series of duets, which he composed, arranged and produced, with some of his favorite musicians. They included Will Lee, Paul Shaffer, Edgar Winter, Chuck Loeb and Ciampa.Ciampa and Silverlight have been friends and colleagues for more than 30 years. Ciampa said he was thrilled when Silverlight asked him to be part of the project.But Silverlight isn't the only artist Ciampa has collaborated with. He's played and toured with Harry Belafonte, Ornette Coleman and Robert Whitman, to name just a few.A rockin' startCiampa grew up on rock 'n roll. His early influences included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix. He played the trumpet from age 7 through high school and picked up a guitar at age 12. He wanted to play alto saxophone but ended up with trumpet in elementary school."I wish someone had played some Miles Davis for me," he said.Eventually, someone did. A private music teacher from whom he took lessons did just that."He bridged the bluesiness of rock and the complexity of jazz," said Ciampa. "I wanted to dig my teeth into it."He did, but not right away. He went to college for medicine first, but his love for music wouldn't be dissuaded.On to BerkleeCiampa had heard of the Berklee School of Music in Boston from a friends who took some classes there in the late 1960s. The friend came back to Pennsylvania and told Ciampa about Berklee and said he had to go there. Many musicians feel the same about Berklee, one of the premiere music programs in the country."It's probably still the place to go to study contemporary music," he said.Ciampa took an accelerated program and finished in two years. He's never looked back. Even his parents were supportive from the get-go.Quite the careerCiampa has played with some of the most admired musicians, locally and nationally. He's performed for many years as part of the Hudson Valley Jazzfest. He has played with such prominent jazz musicians as bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb, Billy Drewes, Joel Frahm and John Riley, as well as Silverlight, right here in Warwick.He has put out two records on Wavetone Records, which is distributed by Egan.He has been involved in writing for movie projects, including an independent film, "Sense the Wind," and "Daytrippers."He was the musical director for a performance of "Vexations" at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf in 2013. "Vexations" was the brainchild of renowned artist Robert Whitman who decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of John Cage's performance of the Eric Satie piece in 1963. The music was already 75 years old at that time. Satie wrote this one minute, 12 second composition and had it played 760 times continuously. The performance at Seligmann involved 30 musicians and took 18 hours to complete."It was quirky and interesting," Ciampa said. "And quite rewarding."Imparting knowledgeAmidst it all, Ciampa has also taught his students for the past 30 years. His students range in age from 7 to 60. The coolest thing he's done as a teacher so far is teach a brother and sister throughout their high school years. The brother, he said, got a degree in classical guitar and is back studying with him."He has lots of tools now," Ciampa said.Looking back, looking forwardThrough it all, Ciampa is pleased by his decision all those years ago to forego medicine for music. It is what he loves and what is in his heart. And he encourages others to do the same."We need people to do that," said Ciampa. "If arts are your passion, you've got to go for it."