Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

WITF Music: Nick DiSanto

Written by Joe Ulrich, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Jan 29, 2018 11:15 AM
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Nick DiSanto (Facebook, website) of Millersville plays a lot of instruments. All at once.

"I like to have a bass drum and a snare drum played with my left and right feet. I like to have cymbals on there. I like to have a cowbell most of the time, some lung-powered percussion. And I always have the harmonica and the kazoo for doing solos."

He built this contraption which he carries on his back while he plays a guitar and sings. It's gone through multiple iterations. And what else would Nick DiSanto call this instrument but the...

"DiSantomophone. It's kinda like Air Force One: whatever contraption I'm playing is the DiSantomophone...I guess it started off as just one bass drum strapped to my back. And I would just play the guitar and stomp on the bass drum and sing songs out on the street. Just kind of half an engineering challenge that I embraced and half a way of trying to get back to playing my main instrument which is the drums, which I don't get a chance to play very often."

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Nick's gone through multiple iterations of the DiSantomophone, learning a little bit each time about how to make it smaller and lighter. The current model weighs in at 30 pounds. In addition to music, Nick also does sculpture. Building his own instrument to play music on has kind of brought two aspects of is life together.

"The one-man-band building doesn't involve a whole lot of my actual sculpture education, but I think it gives me the same kind of feeling when I've been sawing things and drilling things and varnishing things. It just feels good to make something. I guess it's a different part of my brain that's at work when I'm doing that."

Nick describes his one-man-band music as Garage Vaudeville music. And along with originals, he also plays a number of older tunes. His gigs involve a lot of retirement homes and also some street performances. And he approaches his art a bit differently than a singer-songwriter would.

"The one-man-band in particular is a little bit different than any other music that I've done for people. Sometimes I'll play outside and I almost think of it as sort of a public kinetic sculpture going on. I try and invite a lot of participation. Sometimes I'll have shakers and things for other people to use. I guess it's much more other-oriented than other music I play. It's not always about even getting things off my chest or giving my message. It's about transforming space as a sculpture would in a square or something. So that's usually my focus when i'm playing, whether it's in a retirement home or just on a street corner or at a fair. I feel like I'm there to transform the space and take everything out of the commonplace."

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Trying to catch Nick DiSanto in action isn't so easy it turns out.

"I try to promote it on my Facebook page and my website when I get these public shows. For now I tend to just announce what city I'm going to be in, when I'm playing out on the street, what city and what part of the city. I try and give people a couple days heads-up that I'm heading to that place. I'm almost like a food truck: I'm just posting what street I'm on and you have to sort of follow the noise and come find me."

If you're out and about and you hear any combination of bass, snare, kazoo, guitar and harmonica, you may be on the trail of the elusive DiSantomophone. And somewhere under all those instruments is Nick DiSanto making all that noise. Nick will be doing some public performances at Kitchen Kettle Village on March 9th and 16th and most Fridays through 2018. You can also catch him with a band called Lava Cave. 

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WITF Music is supported by:

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