Mixed Media

The Performance of a Lifetime

A lasting devotion to making beautiful music together

Michael Andriaccio and Joanne Castellani

Michael Andriaccio and Joanne Castellani at the Clement Mansion in Buffalo. Photo: Douglas Levere

By Sally Jarzab

“We’re not two Clement Mansion in Buffalo. people playing; we’re one instrument.”
Michael Andriaccio

Like many artists, Joanne Castellani (MFA ’76, BFA ’74) and Michael Andriaccio (MFA ’76, BFA ’74) say they love their work. But for these musicians, the sentiment is true on more than one level.

For more than 40 years the pair has played classical guitar as the Castellani Andriaccio Duo. They have performed at venues many people would be excited just to visit—Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the White House. They’ve recorded 10 albums, two of which earned “best of the year” reviews in Fanfare magazine and American Record Guide, respectively. The New York Times described their rapport as “just about perfect,” a good thing given that Castellani and Andriaccio have been married for almost as long as they’ve been performing.

Both Buffalo natives, the two met as music students in the 1970s. Andriaccio, who comes from a musical family, says he knew notes before he knew the alphabet, and played piano and percussion in addition to guitar. Castellani came to the instrument as a teen by way of folk music. They both intended to pursue concert careers.

“A requirement of the degree program was that we had to do ensembles, and so we put a duo together,” recalls Castellani. The new partnership just happened to coincide with classical guitar’s first big international convention, taking place in nearby Toronto.

“It was there that we were encouraged to keep the duo going,” Castellani says.

“After that, the duo was forever,” Andriaccio chimes in.

Even in conversation, the pair display their ensemble style, often answering together, echoing each other’s thoughts. It’s at the heart of what makes them an exceptional duo.

“We’re not a duet—we’re a duo. We’re not two people playing; we’re one instrument,” Andriaccio stresses. “That’s our trademark. There’s a unanimity to what we do, so that when the two of us are together, it takes on a kind of life of its own.”

And there has been an astounding amount of life in that life. After graduation, Castellani started the guitar department at Fredonia State, teaching there for eight years and later joining the UB faculty.

In 1996, the pair founded their own record label, Fleur de Son Classics, widely recognized as one of the top independent labels for classical music internationally. The diverse roster of artists includes not just classical guitarists but soloists and chamber ensembles of all kinds, as well as large orchestras, like the London Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic. “We recently released our 120th title,” notes Andriaccio.

Simultaneously, the pair has been instrumental (pun intended) in the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, serving as artistic co-directors of the biennial event, started in 2004, that brings guitarists from around the world to Buffalo to perform in competition for cash prizes, a recording contract, national and international broadcast exposure, and a return engagement with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

“We’ve worked on almost everything, from the rules to the repertoire, and we do the recruiting worldwide for the talent and the judges,” says Andriaccio. “It has become one of the premier music competitions in the world, and I would say the premier guitar competition.”

Despite the fact that they are still very much engaged in all of these activities, Castellani and Andriaccio describe themselves as now being in “legacy mode,” working to pass down their passion for classical guitar to future generations. About seven years ago, around the time of Castellani’s retirement from UB, they started the Castellani Andriaccio Guitar Studios, a private teaching studio for children and adults that has become the largest of its kind in the state outside of New York City. And while they still occasionally perform and teach at festivals, they no longer engage in what they call the rigors of concertizing.

Reflecting on what may be the proudest accomplishment from their list of many, Castellani and Andriaccio are again in perfect agreement.

“When I look back on all we’ve done, I think the real beauty is that we’ve done it together. For me, that’s the important thing,” Castellani says.

“Yep,” says Andriaccio. “I concur.”