Note: all photos provided by Andre Feriante.
I chatted with classical/flamenco guitarist Andre Feriante at Ott & Hunter Wines in Langley this week, and found his outlook on life and the musical world refreshing.
His smooth shaven head and face—save for a slight mustache and soul patch, his calm eyes and manner of speaking, brings to mind a Buddha nature reflected in a man dedicated to the healing power of music.
Besides playing and composing music, Andre writes poetry, collects hats, guitars, international stringed instruments—and creates photographs of his collection of die-cast vintage cars so they look life-sized in natural settings. He has worked as a full-time musician for the past 43 years, ever since he first performed at the age of 17 in Rome.
He founded the Whidbey Island Guitar Festival, and showcased it at different wineries before it landed at WICA–Whidbey Island Center for the Arts–where it will enjoy its seventh season this year. The festival hosts an ensemble of talented musicians performing over a summer weekend. On the first Wednesdays of the month he often plays at Skein & Tipple, a yarn/craft cocktail gathering spot in Clinton.
Currently he plays once a week at The Lodge at St. Edward Park in Seattle. “The hotel is a steady gig,” he said. “I feel fortunate.”
He will be joined by his son, whose stage name is Sonny Luca, on vocals, guitar and piano. Adding to the evening’s concert are four of Andre’s friends. “The Bohemian Entourage are musicians I’ve played with in the classical world,” Andre said. “They’re the cast who play my music. I let it be a variety show where everyone gets featured.”
While playing guitar, Andre sings on occasion, as he plans to do at the Triple Door concert. In this clip, Dance the Night Away, is a “…song of longing,” he said. “Normally lyrics can take a while to write. This one came to me in the midst of romantic turmoil a few years ago, and the words came to me quickly, all in one sitting.”
After moving to Seattle in the late 1980s, where he lived for the next 28 years, he hosted shows on Classical KING FM—’La Guitarra,’ spotlighting famous guitarists. His music was played on NPR’s Hearts of Space, and at Benaroya Hall. Andre enjoyed a steady gig for 12 years at one of Seattle’s fine dining restaurants, Il Terrazzo Carmine. Its owner, Carmine Smeraldo, once lived in Naples, the same city where the guitarist was born. His music, such as his song Fidalgo, appears on YouTube videos.
A former girlfriend brought Andre to Whidbey Island seven years ago. When he and the lady parted, Andre decided to remain on Whidbey. “I like the artistic community here,” he said.
Sharing his art, Andre participated in a pair of TEDx talks, sponsored by Sno-Isle Libraries.
The first, The Power of Music to Heal, Transform and Inspire, took place in 2017 and was filmed before a live audience.
Dedicating the talk to his late father, Carlo Feriante, who passed away at the age of 97, Andre Feriante noted in the video, “Dad loved music and started playing accordion at the age of 60. My dad was my biggest supporter. We started playing music at same time when I was 13.”
While it was accordion for Carlo Feriante, it was guitar that completely caught a young Andre Feriante’s attention.
During our chat this week Andre recalled a time when he was living outside of Rome with his family when he experienced an epiphany. His webpage notes “At age eleven he had a premonition about being a guitarist.”
His premonition proved accurate.
“I was attending the overseas school of Rome when I was 13 and I heard Flamenco guitar in a school concert,” Andre said. “In the same season I also heard Andres Segovia in a recording.That flamenco guitar concert changed my life, it was the first time I heard that music.”
Henry Rivas from Bogota, Columbia, performed on Italian national TV. Andre had watched the maestro, was impressed with his talent, auditioned, and became Rivas’ student. For the next three years, Andre devoted his time to learning guitar, culminating in a recital when he was a high school senior.
On his website Andre notes just how dedicated a classical guitar student he became: “By the time he was 17, Feriante was already performing the works of Bach, Vivaldi, Albeniz and Scarlatti. By age 18, he had launched his musical career, playing concerts in Rome, Berlin and North and South America.”
Then Feriante’s family moved to Yakima, where his mother’s family was from. By the time he was 21, Andre enrolled in studies with renowned classical guitarists Andrés Segovia and Jose Tomas, Segovia’s assistant, in Madrid, Spain. In the years following his studies, Andre’s musical repertoire expanded and evolved to where he is today, someone who has created his own style, a fusion combining elements of jazz, classical, flamenco and world music.
Concluding his 2017 TEDx talk about the healing power of music, Andre recalled a time a time when his dad was dying and music was his medicine.
“Mom took him in a wheelchair to hear an accordion concert,” Andre noted. “Dad hadn’t gotten up to walk for a long while, yet he stood up and thanked the musician.”
Before the pandemic, Andre explored using music literally as a healing force.
“I did sound baths and sound healing sessions at Half Moon Yoga before it closed,” he explained. “Now, as I get older—I’ve gotten into what is the undercurrent—I ask why I’m doing what I’m doing. The bigger picture is…how music can take us to a better place. Segovia said he wants music to be edifying: ‘I’m not here to amaze them, I’m here to move them.’”
The second TEDx talk, The Round Table of Song, took place in Aug. 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was on.
“We live in a world of great beauty and deep suffering,” Andre noted in the video, filmed in a studio without an audience. In the video we are introduced to his playing stringed instruments from around the world. “I invite you to envision the world coming together.”
World string instruments and teaching others about them is another of Andre’s great passions.
“One of my main interests is stringed instrument stories,” Andre explained during our recent visit. “In the last 10 years I started learning to play stringed instruments from different countries. I’ll play the oud, or sitar or charango. I perform at the art centers.”
For instance, Andre’s ‘string stories’ programs are taught in schools in eastern Washington.
“I get hired by the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts,” he said. “They book me in 13 schools, in Cashmere, Wenatchee and Leavenworth. Over the years I have played for kids, and in my kids’ classrooms. One of the best places I played was in the Caribbean at an International School, which had the most diverse students, a lot Europeans, and South Americans, I was calling out all kinds of countries, and the students raised their hands.”
With 15 CDs produced so far, Andre is working on a new album, Nightingale, that will be released on vinyl.
Besides music, Andre has self-published a book of his poems, Slender Gods, in 2020. He participates in a National Poetry Month event held in April at WICA.
Paying tribute to Andre Feriante in the forward of his book, is one of his best friends, Joni Takanikos, a Langley-based poet/singer/songwriter: “The first time I encountered Andre’s poetry I became moonstruck and was reminded of the power language of Rumi and Whitman,” Joni notes.” Step through the moon gate that Andre has sculpted in these poems and feel the awakening that lies in these fields that contain the multitudes.”
Andre Feriante currently performs mainly around the Northwest, and occasionally, nationally and internationally. Last year for instance, Andre performed in Chicago, Nashville and Puerto Rico.
The world would be a better place if we listened to music and read poems such as Andre Feriante composes.
To learn more about his upcoming shows, or to book a performance, visit this website.