Q&A: Domingo DeGrazia Continues Father's Artistic Legacy

The DeGrazia Spanish Guitar Band includes (from left) Beth Daunis, Domingo DeGrazia, Mark Brugler and Rick Skowron. | Courtesy of DeGrazia Spanish Guitar Band

As an artist, Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia left a lasting impact on Arizona — including in the pages of Arizona Highways. Now, one of his children is doing the same in a different art form.

The DeGrazia Spanish Guitar Band — guitarist and songwriter Domingo DeGrazia, violinist Beth Daunis, bassist Mark Brugler, guitarist Rick Skowron and drummer Kai Felix — has been playing together for about 10 years. Ahead of the band’s performance at Tucson’s Sea of Glass Center for the Arts this Saturday, March 10, we spoke with DeGrazia about the performance, where he finds musical inspiration and how his father’s artwork has impacted him.

What kind of music does the band play?
We play somewhere between Spanish guitar and Americana type of music. It’s all original; we have a couple traditional tunes that we play, but otherwise we write everything and arrange it all. I have a few songs we have vocals on, but we’re mostly instrumental at this point.

Tell us about the upcoming Sea of Glass performance.
It’s going to be a lot of fun. We try and make these shows accessible and something that everyone can engage in. A lot of times with classical guitar or flamenco, it tends to be a bit on the stuffy side, but we try to keep it fun and that you walk away not only whistling the tunes, but smiling and having a good time. I think that really comes across in the amount of fun we have onstage, because we tend to be joking with each other throughout the show.

So, this is an event any ages can enjoy?
We’re welcoming to all age groups. That’s another thing we’ve been really lucky with: Our audience ranges from like 7 to 77. Kids are definitely welcome to come in; it’s a family-friendly show. We do try to engage kids when they start dancing, and we have the musical chops and prowess to impress the true music fans. It’s taken 30 years to get to that point, but these days, we have it.

For returning audiences, can they expect anything different from this year’s Sea of Glass performance?
We’ve been there the prior two years, and it’s always a really warm audience. The last two years, we made live concert videos during the shows. This year we’re going to bring it back to more of an intimate performance, a little bit closer to an acoustic show, just to have a little bit better connection with the audience.

Tell us about how the upcoming show benefits teen and young-adult rehabilitation programs and Avalon Organic Gardens internships.
I try to commit the band to two full benefit shows a year; this year, we have a handful of shows that are in conjunction with some providers in the community. Anytime that we can help out and not only bring visibility to a cause, but also give them some financial support, we’re always in for that.

Where do you find musical inspiration?
Music is an expression that started when I was 6 or 8 years old, as far as just having musical imagination flow out through piano or guitar. A lot of times, the inspiration comes from playing and somewhat serendipity — a lot of rehearsals and trying every option. I know it’s not the sexy way to describe music writing, but literally, there are really beautiful nuggets of creativity that come out when you’re immersed in the music environment.

Has your dad’s artwork influenced your life and music?
Oh, yeah. Growing up with my mom and dad, we spent a lot of time going out to reservations, out to powwows and celebrations, so the Native American music — I call it the music of the Southwest — had a really strong influence on how I create. It became the foundation for my imagination. With my dad’s artwork, there’s really so many pieces that one can look at and interpret in different ways to evoke feelings. I have a handful of pieces of artwork in the house that are a daily inspiration for me.

Do you recall seeing your dad’s work in Arizona Highways growing up, and if so, how did that impact you?
My dad passed when I was 8, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get to know him, but knowing that he was in Arizona Highways and the magazine was going all over the world was really an affirmation that his artwork was important to a lot of people.

That idea comes back to me even today, because I’ll meet people at concerts or galleries, and they’ll come up and say, “I have to tell you this story about your dad from the 1960s,” or something, and whatever the story is, that time that they spent with my dad decades ago still has a really bright impression on them and it’s something they want to share. It reaffirms whatever magic that my dad had, it had a great impact on people and really touched a lot of people’s lives. I know Arizona Highways was a huge part of getting him out to the world and making him accessible to people throughout the globe.

For tickets or more information on the upcoming Sea of Glass performance, call 520-398-2542 or visit www.theseaofglass.org.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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