Take Five with Tom Lagana

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Tom Lagana:

Tom Lagana graduated from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music in 1992 and began his career as a musician in the Walt Disney Jazz Band.

Upon returning to Maryland, jazz legend Charlie Byrd took an interest in Lagana after hearing him play in a local coffeehouse saying, "Tom Lagana is one of the most promising jazz guitarists in the area" and invited Lagana to sit in with Byrd on several occasions. Later that same year The Tom Lagana Group became the house band at Byrd's venue of choice, The King of France Tavern in Annapolis. The band played to a packed house three nights a week for over a year.

In early 2002 Lagana released his first recording, Patuxent. To debut the CD, the Tom Lagana Group was booked into the Rams Head Mainstage and played to a standing room only audience of over 200 people. After their performance at the Rams Head, the CD began its climb up the National Jazz Airplay Chart where it peaked at #17 over a 10-week period. It was garnering over 370 spins a week across the nation on more than 50 radio stations. Patuxent placed in the "Top 10 Most Requested CDs" for WICN in Worcester, Ma.

Throughout his career Lagana has played in numerous jazz festivals including the Chestertown Jazz Festival, Oregon Ridge Park, Annapolis Jazz Festival, The Mid Atlantic Wine Festival, Federal Hill Festival, and the Kaufmann Music Series. He has previously shared the bill with internationally known jazz icon Herbie Hancock.

Lagana has also worked with such noteworthy musicians as Charlie Byrd, Craig Handy, Red Rodney, Bob Mintzer, and Marvin Stamm. Tom's guitar work can also be heard on the Fox Network show America's Most Wanted.

As a classical guitarist, Lagana was a guest artist at the First World Guitar Congress in June 2004 at Towson University. He played bandurria with the Rondalla de Hunt Valley and participated in master classes with Ralph Towner, Dusan Bogdanovic, The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and the Brazilian Guitar Quartet.

In 2005 he was invited to the Long Island Guitar Festival to perform for classical guitarist/composer Carlo Domeniconi. At that event, Lagana performed Koyunbaba, Domeniconi's most famous work and one of the most challenging pieces in the classical guitar repertoire.

In 2005 Towson University granted Tom Lagana a Masters of Music in Performance. While at Towson, Lagana had been asked to perform at the installation of the new university president, Dr. Robert Caret. Later Lagana was awarded 2nd prize in the prestigious Sidney Lieberman Competition. Normally won by pianists, Lagana was the first guitarist to be recognized in the history of the competition.

Later in 2005 Lagana became an instructor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In 2007 he joined the faculty at Towson University.

As an author, Lagana's in-depth analysis of the music on Pat Metheny was published in two parts in the August '05 and November '05 issues of Just Jazz Guitar magazine and was endorsed by Metheny himself.

In 2008 Lagana was featured with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Wolf Trap National Park For The Performing Arts in Vienna, Va. Composer David Del Tredici lauded Lagana's performance on the tenor banjo, an instrument he had not previously played, in Del Tredici's work Final Alice, a 72-minute piece based on the composer's affinity for Alice In Wonderland by the NSO conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Recently he has performed with the York Symphony, Richmond Symphony, and again with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Instrument(s): guitar—nylon and electric

Teachers and/or influences? From the most practical standpoint I think the musicians in my band influence me the most since we play together so much. I studied at Berklee College of Music and Towson University under a few different teachers, most notably Jon Damian, Al Defino, and Dave Ballou and Michael Decker. I have had lessons from Tim Miller, Steve Khan. I have participated in master classes with Ralph Towner, Carlo Domeniconi, Roland Dyens, Dusan Bogdanovic, L.A. Guitar Quartet, and Brazilian Guitar Quartet.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... when I heard Eddie Van Halen's solo on Beat It

Your sound and approach to music: As with most jazz musicians, I am trying to find my path as a composer and improviser. I am always striving to connect with the musicians in the group and the audience. I always try to approach from the standpoint that the groove is the most important thing and must be established first. If it doesn't feel good, then no hip lick or concept is going to work.

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