John-Paul Gasparrelli – The new Musical Director for “O”!

Just as we were putting this issue “to bed” we were surprised by an “introductory” message from the newly-hired Musical Director/Conductor/Keyboardist for “O”, John-Paul Gasparrelli, which appeared on the Cirque Mailing List. Of course we couldn’t let such an opportunity pass!

We’re quite pleased to bring you our first interview – an introductory chat with John-Paul! He’ll be starting his Cirque career in late October, so here we discuss a little of his life pre-Cirque and how he got the job.

The interview was conducted by Ricky via Email within the last week. We were so excited we just had to include it in our premiere issue, as a special bonus! We’ll check back in with him after he’s “settled in” to his new position, so stay tuned…

Q: “I see many performances before Las Vegas were in Los Angeles, is that where you are originally from?”

Yes, I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in the Bay Area of California and Sacramento, went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston (with others like pianists Diana Krall and Makoto Ozone – both were in school there when I was)…I then moved to Los Angeles after leaving Berklee, and started playing in various groups in the Southern California area… One thing led to another, and 15 years later, it seems as though I had racked-up a number of good credits, so I guess I was doing something right with regards to my playing and honing my craft…

Q: “What made you choose music as a career, instead of other professions — any one single thing?”

Well, at 10 years of age, I wanted to be a musical-theater performer, so my mother enrolled me in the San Jose Children’s Musical Theater. We discovered within four shows there, that I had a natural singing ability. After awhile, I was starting to get calls from Broadway agents asking if I would go to New York to do Broadway productions, but my mother didn’t want me to be a “child-star”… Soon, my voice changed, and I lost the “show” quality of singing, but my focus then turned to the piano, which I was able to teach myself how to play. As I entered high-school, I was becoming stronger and stronger of a player… I guess to answer your question – I never had anything else in my heart that I wanted to pursue… I have always been passionate and totally consumed with being involved with performing music. It’s something that, to this day, I think about non-stop – how to get
better, how to keep growing as a musician… If I were to say what the “single thing” was that made me pursue a career in music, I’d have to say “passion of expression”…

Q: “Your travels have taken you to the Fontana Bar inside the Bellagio Hotel where you ave been performing since June 2001, what brought you to Las Vegas?”

Actually, in April 2000, (living in L.A.), I was hired to play keyboards with original Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte, at various casino lounges. While here with Bruce, I heard from a friend that Cirque du Soleil was advertising in the newspaper and various musician-referral services on the Internet for keyboardist openings in their various productions. So I sent them my promo package (my newly-released CD, resumé, and a photo). At the end of April, I got a call to come and audition for “Mystere”. They sent me a CD of some of the “Mystere” music, and two days later, I auditioned…I then moved to Vegas in May, as I was offered the gig with singer Dian Diaz
(coincidentally – at the Bellagio), and was still hopeful of the CDS happening… It’s pretty ironic that “O” and Dian Diaz are both at the same hotel… It made it that much easier, once I got the spot with “Denny Diaz”, to get to know the band members and staff of “O”… The whole thing couldn’t have happened any better if it had been planned!!

Q: “How do you like it at the Bellagio/Las Vegas?”

Vegas is great, and I love the Bellagio. Working and spending so much time there really can spoil you when going to another casino. When I first started working there in June with Dian Diaz, it was so impressive to be in such a luxurious place on a daily basis… Now that I’ve been there so often, it’s become “normal” to be in such an environment – but… it makes the other Vegas hotels and casinos look [“not as nice as others”]… Not to sound insulting to the others, but Bellagio, I have to say, is in a class by itself, and in my opinion, is the best place to work in Las Vegas…

Q: “What decision did you make to pursue Cirque du Soleil? Did they come to you or did you go to them?”

Not only was I impressed with the performance aspects of CDS, I was also impressed with how they demand the highest standards of excellence in _everything_ they do. They just seem to do everything “right”… They always insist upon the best, regardless of the money costs, and it shows in everything they do. In wanting to work with Cirque, I’ve always been striving to surround myself with the best possible people, as I take great pride in my work and the quality of performance of which I put out. Cirque seems to have the same concept, and I felt as though I would be very happy in an environment of “like-thinking” people… Creatively, it seems as there is no limit on what is possible with Cirque, and throughout my career, I was constantly tiring of working with people that always thought “small”, and never wanted to go any higher than they were. So many people can “talk” about what they want to do, but very few ever really put it into action. It seems that CDS really does take action.
They’re not just a bunch of “talkers”, which is so prevalent these days in this industry. When they do something, they really follow-through, and I really like that. A class organization, all the way around. Initially, when CDS advertised for keyboardists, I sent them my promo package in hopes of getting an audition.

Q: “What was the interview process for you like? Nerve wracking?”

Actually, the only thing you could consider “nerve-wracking”, was that I learned the audition material on _my_ equipment, and then at the audition, had to instantly learn _their_ equipment setup, and perform the material on a very different setup. As a keyboardist, you learn a particular way of accessing sounds, etc., and every player has a different way of thinking and doing it. So I think that it was a test to see how a person could perform “under pressure”. It made sense, but obviously wasn’t the most “comfortable” initiation into the situation… But it worked out just fine, and the CDS staff auditioning me couldn’t have been any nicer or more helpful. Also,
they video-taped the audition, so that can add to the pressure… So – I received the audition material on a Thursday, spent the weekend learning the four pieces, and then had the audition on Monday morning. It seems to have gone just fine… 😉

Q: “Had any other people applied for the position? And, if so, how did you hear the news that you were in?”

I never knew if and who the others were, that were also being considered. Actually, getting the “O” show and the conductor’s spot, was a pretty big surprise. I thought that I was being considered for the keyboardist for the “Mystere” show, as that’s what I had auditioned with… I didn’t hear from CDS for about three months after my audition, and I figured that they had chosen someone else. Out of the blue, I get a call asking if I am available to work, and that I would be offered the MD / Conductor position for “O”. I was very pleasantly surprised, and of course, accepted the offer. Just goes to show you that you _never_ know what life is going to give you, if you just “hang in there”, and keep following your dream !

Q: “Being the new Musical Director, the Conductor and the Principal Keyboardist of the show, “O”, how big a step is that up from previous engagements?”

Although I’ve played keyboards for some pretty big names and amazing musicians, and _have_ been conductor / MD on a very big-scale production show in the past, I would have to say that this is indeed the “crown-jewel” of my musical credit list.

Q: “How excited are you to be joining Cirque du Soleil?”

I’m very excited and flattered, I just can’t tell you. It feels like such a great match to me ; I’ve worked so long and hard on being the best musician and player I can possibly be, and it’s such a treat to be given an opportunity like this to realize your potential. It’s a big job, but I’ve done so many things and played for so long, that I am indeed ready for a challenge such as this. I feel like I have a lot to bring to the show, and to the company. And I know that they have a lot that I can learn from and grow even more as an artist. The educational aspect of this will be the true value of the opportunity. That is what I am most excited about – the learning experience of this amazing company. And the other exciting thing, is the chance to give to them, everything that I can, to make this the best show in the world…

Q: “How long do you expect to be with the show, “O”?”

Honestly, I can see myself being with CDS and the MD of “O” for as long as they’ll have me. I never take _anything_ for granted or as being ” permanent “, and treat every situation as such. I’d like to do this as long as it’s mutually beneficial for both of us, and if CDS is the company that I suspect that it is, I see myself being with them for many years to come…I would love to build a long-lasting relationship with them, as they seem to be really integrity-filled people…

Q: “Just to switch gears, you have a debut CD, entitled ‘Moonlight’, can you tell us a little about the album – the style of music?”

I’m very proud of my first solo CD effort; I learned so much from the experience, as aside from the guest performances, it something that I did completely alone, from start-to-finish… I think it sounds great, given the limited budget that I had, and seems to really capture my life-state of the time I recorded it. I’m influenced very greatly by artists such as David Foster, David Benoit, Bruce Hornsby, Toto, Earth,Wind,and Fire, Chicago, Michael McDonald, and many jazz players as well… You definitely can hear these influences on my CD, and I’ve gotten many compliments from people on it… I hope your readers will want to get a copy and enjoy it themselves… That’s what really makes it all worthwhile – if I can give something of value to someone, and learn the most I can in the process…

More information about John-Paul (including how to order his CD) can be found at his website, (you can also use

Our special thanks to John-Paul for being so friendly and open!