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“Knowing that millions of people worldwide will be hearing my performance on her album is an incredible feeling.”
Ricky Lucchese is a Los Angeles–based trombonist and vocalist. He started his career in the professional music scene at the age of 8 as a boy soprano singing in movie and television soundtracks as well as recording with various artists such as Michael Jackson and Kenny Loggins. He began playing trombone by ear at the age of 11 when he discovered a love of improvisation and the blues. He completed his undergraduate studies at California Lutheran University, graduating cum laude with a major in music with a technology emphasis and a communications minor, and was part of the first graduate class at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. Lucchese has since worked with Grammy-winning artists and producers, performing in front of thousands of people on world-class stages.
Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) through Berklee’s graduate program at the Valencia campus?
During the final year of my undergraduate studies, I saw that Berklee was offering a graduate performance program in Valencia. I had been looking at other master’s degree offerings, but Berklee’s seemed to fit my musical interests. Coincidentally, there is a city called Valencia in California about 30 miles from home, just outside of Los Angeles. This sparked my interest immediately. I quickly found out that Berklee’s international campus was located in Valencia, Spain, and was the total opposite of close to home. It still sounded like an amazing opportunity and a one-year accelerated master’s degree program was very hard to pass up. I applied with hopes of finally gaining the Berklee experience I had always wanted. The audition process was live through Skype at 6:30 a.m. California time, and about a month later, I received the exciting invitation to be a part of Berklee’s inaugural master’s degree class.
How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional, and what from the experience do you carry with you now?
I will always carry my memories and musical influences from Berklee Valencia with me. The excitement and surreal feeling when I received my acceptance letter was indescribable. Imagine never having lived anywhere else and then deciding to uproot and move to a totally different country where you have no friends (yet) and don’t speak much of the language. It was a bit scary taking that leap of faith and moving off to Valencia based on Berklee’s promo videos, Google maps satellite views of the city, and some web tourism searches. I arrived a few hours after the day’s festivities had begun. I instantly felt welcome, being surrounded by fellow musicians from all over the world.
The process of starting fresh in Spain to pursue a career in music has really made me confident to tackle anything in my life. I feel better prepared for challenges after the experience at Berklee Valencia, cowriting and recording almost every day with people of totally different musical backgrounds. I have no concerns touring domestically or internationally with new bands because I have already gone to the extreme of living in a different country and making loads of friends and professional contacts globally along the way and in quick time.
Can you tell us a little about your career and the projects you are currently working on?
Upon returning to Los Angeles from Valencia, the first few months were a bit nerve-wracking. I went from recording in a network of world-class artists in a multi-million dollar studio nearly every day to a place where I had few connections from years prior. A few months passed fairly slowly until the gears began to turn. A musician who I had played with during my undergrad recommended me to the leader of a touring band called Vaud and the Villains (V&V). This is a 17-piece, New Orleans–style cabaret show with dancers and all. The first gig with them was a private event in France at the Cannes Film Festival where Andrea Bocelli opened the evening for us. Since joining this musical family, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of playing on the Hollywood Bowl stage. We performed in front of 14,000 people a night during the three-day “Simpsons Take the Bowl” 25th Anniversary weekend. We were featured on Showtime television’s House of Lies finale. I also booked a national Toyota commercial as a New Orleans trombonist through V&V and have toured around the country with them.
The trumpet player of V&V recommended me for an upcoming tour with the band Orgone. I have since toured the western United States with them as well as recording on a number of their studio tracks. A member of Orgone later recommended me for NBC’s America’s Got Talent, where I performed in the backing band for Sal Valentinetti in the semifinals and finals.
The biggest name drop and game changer since Berklee has been Beyoncé. I had the privilege of being asked to record trombone and vocals on multiple tracks of her recent 2017 Grammy Award–winning album, Lemonade.
The engineer from Lemonade recently recommended me for a session recording with the trumpeter and producer C-Money for Exile Di Brave. The track is currently a radio hit in the Jamaican reggae scene.
What about working on Beyoncé’s Lemonade was the most fascinating and enriching, as a professional, for you?
Just knowing that millions of people worldwide will be hearing my performance on her album is an incredible feeling. Another thought that sinks in is that these recordings are forever. Long after I’m gone, my grandchildren can say “Grandpa played on this song!” I can’t describe the excitement I felt when I found out this particular session was for Beyoncé. The level of secrecy regarding the track was also very different. I couldn’t help but reveal the news to my family. Even my 93-year-old grandmother knows who Beyoncé is!
Working on her album with the best in the industry, as well as seeing my name mentioned in Billboard magazine and the Hollywood Reporter, was very validating as a musician. It was also very fun and exciting watching the Grammys this year and being a part of an album that was nominated for nine awards, including Album of the Year.
What tips would you give to current students who will be entering the industry this year?
Treat every opportunity to perform as a chance to further your career. The music industry is all about making and keeping connections. Perform with quality musicians whenever and wherever you can, being a person they can count on. You never know who will recommend you for that next great opportunity. Always be someone that you would want to hang with for eight hours in a recording studio or for a month on a tour bus.