Interviews

Interviews


Interview with Dan Del Fiorentino


The NAMM Oral History programme seeks to capture one-on-one interviews with those involved with the music industry. Among those interviewed as part of this collection include BB King, Herbie Hancock, Sheila E., Quincy Jones, Henry Z Steinway of Steinway & Sons Piano Company, Synthesiser innovator Dr Robert Moog, Recording Engineer Lenise Bent, pioneer of the solid body electric guitar Les Paul, Founder of Marshall Amplification Jim Marshall, and many more. Dan Del Fiorentino, Music Historian for NAMM, took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Behind the Glass about the Oral History program. 

 

The NAMM Oral History program is quite unique, unlike any other collection in the world. At the heart of the collection are narratives that cover innovative creations, the evolution of musical instruments, the ever-changing world of music retail, as well as a collective quest to improve music education around the globe.

 

During the late 1990s, the NAMM Board of Directors convened to create programmes to celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary, to be held in May 2000. Del Fiorentino said “The Board authorised the funding for a museum in their headquarters building in Carlsbad California (the Museum of Making Music) and the NAMM Resource Centre, which is also located in the NAMM headquarters building in Carlsbad. The Board suggested that the Resource Centre staff begin conducting one-on-one interviews with veterans of the music products industry with the idea that the industry had an amazing story that needed to be preserved”. The Board made a list of 42 names of those the Oral History program should begin with.  Del Fiorentino was given that list of suggested names and he set off with video camera in hand.  That was 20 years ago and 4,325 interviews later he is still travelling the globe capturing the stories of music retailers, manufactures, live sound professionals, audio engineers, concert lighting designers, music educators, songwriters and publishers as well as influential musicians associated with the industry.  

Del Fiorentino carried out his first interview when he was 15 years old. “I don’t recall being nervous but perhaps I should have been.  I was carrying a small cassette recorder and walking to the back stage of a jazz concert.  The smoke in the back room was more than I was used to but it didn’t bother me because I was so excited.  It was my first chance to interview jazz and big band musicians who I had only read about before that moment. In the green room sat Billy Butterfield, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson and Jay McShann, among others.  “I was thrilled! These older musicians were taking the time between their sets to answer my (often not so educated) questions!”  

 

A year before, Del Fiorentino had landed a DJ gig for a small local radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area (Menlo Park) playing big band music.  “I read the liner notes on each album and took great pride in announcing the sidemen and songwriters while broadcasting the famous names of the bandleaders or singer during my weekly show.  By the time I was back stage at that first jazz concert I knew each of the musician’s names and their background.”  

 

The first interview that evening was the very first interview of Del Fiorentino’s career.  It was with Trummy Young, who played trombone for Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Jimmie Lunceford.  “He was so nice to me and I could not have been happier.  That was July 1984 and Trummy passed just a few weeks later.  His daughter later reported that she thought I captured his last interview.  My first was his last.  At that moment I felt a deep responsibility to keep his legacy alive and at the same time I felt energized that I could continue interviewing my musical heroes with the very same goal; documenting and preserving the stories of all those I was able to interview. I wanted people to remember the contributions of those I interviewed and sometimes became friends with.”  He continued to interview musicians until he was hired by NAMM. In 2017 all of Del Fiorentinos radio interviews were added to the NAMM collection, including Trummy's!  

 

The Oral History team at NAMM consists of Dan, Michael Mullens the multimedia Specialist who edits the videos, Ashley Allison, the Resource Centre Coordinator who also oversees the physical archive collection, and Suzanne Del Fiorentino, volunteer road videographer.

 

Today the team produces a bimonthly podcast called ‘The Music History Project’ which showcases the depth of the interview collection by highlighting segments of interviews related to a given topic or event, such as the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock last year; a Rockabilly episode that featured Deke Dickerson, an Innovators in Audio episode that featured interview segments from Dr. Sidney Harman and Dr. Leo Beranek, an episode documenting the Fairlight Synthesiser featuring both company founders and several episodes highlighting Recording Engineers who have been interviewed for the collection over the last 20 years.

 

“It’s like putting together a puzzle” said Del Fiorentino. “When there is a piece of the puzzle missing we know that there is part of the industry that we need to focus on. On the NAMM website under the Library tab we have short video clips of the interviews available for everyone to view. I am so very lucky to be doing this job. It has been a crazy and humbling ride!”

 

Del Fiorentino says that interviewees for the oral projects programme are chosen based on a wish list created by the suggestions of those in the industry. He welcomes your ideas of those innovators who have had an impact on the audio and music industries. This collection would not be as comprehensive as it is without the help of so many people who have suggested ideas for interviews, helped arrange interviews or provided contact info, or assistance in many other ways. Dan wants to send his gratitude to everyone involved.

 

The NAMM Oral History program contains hundreds of interviews of audio pioneers and they are looking for your help to expand the collection! Dan Del Fiorentino can be reached at dand@namm.org

 

www.namm.org

www.namm.org/library/oral-history

 

Other Interviews