Virginia Splendore 1965-2011Virginia Splendore, a wonderful Italian Stick player, composer and teacher, was found dead on May 7, an apparent suicide. She was truly passionate about her music and about the Stick. For over twenty years through her distinctive and original music, and her humble and inspiring teaching, as well as her role as our representative in Italy, she fostered a community full of diverse and talented musicians. The loss of Virna, as she was also called, is an enormous one for all of us here. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, musical partners, friends, fans and students in this sad time.
We will keep this web page active as a living tribute for our memories of her, and also as a celebration of her music. Please send your thoughts about her, in English, Italian, whatever language you wish, as well as photos, videos, and links to online articles about her to us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have already received lots of photos and tributes, and will put them us as quickly as possible.
Photos of VirginiaPlease send us your photos of Virginia (to email@example.com) to add to the slideshow (click any thumbnail)
from Emmett and Yuta
Yuta and I have been corresponding with Virna continually from the late '80s to the present, also on the telephone, and she has always been steadfast, nurturing and caring, not just to spread the good news about The Stick in her own country, but also caring toward us personally, as in all of her early hand written letters and more recent email messages.
My first musical "encounter" with Virna was by way of tapes she sent of a Stick arrangement of her song, "So Sweet". I was struck by an unmistakable style of gently shifting harmonies, haunting ambiguities as to key center, and graceful resolutions. It was her sense of harmony and chord progressions that got to me - original, personal, yet somehow in the line of Italian classical tradition.
Later in 1999 she released her first CD, "Guilty", in duo with Italian Stickist Roberto Fiorucci, and again, especially on the first song, "Nice Nose", I heard those moderate yet mysterious progressions.
In those days I sent hand written letters to our Stick friends and customers, and Yuta would type her letters on an IBM electric typewriter. We'd both keep the pink non-carbon copies. I always gave Virna sincere praise for her uniquely styled Stick music and encouraged her to record.
She in turn became our Stick sales representative for Italy, sold many Sticks, taught many students (some of them now well known in the world wide Stick community of players), organized large Stick Seminars, and she introduced us to many colorful Italian musicians and personalities. Later there were Stick feature articles by her and about her, also some TV performances and of course her Italian Stick Website and online presence.
Look at the art and symbolism of her photo she sent us for the Players Gallery. It was part of a photo session for the cover art of her "Guilty" CD. She is bathed in light but her shadow takes on a stronger form - another paradox of the Italian mind.
We've all lost an artist, a skilled Stickist, a patient and loving personality, a loyal friend, and a moving force in our Stick community, and what we have left are pieces of the history of her accomplishments, her music, and her personal influence on the rest of us.
"So Sweet", so sorry, Emmett and Yuta.
from Francesco Puddu
I first met Virna shortly after buying my Stick in 1990. I can't remember exactly how we got in touch: I was looking for other players in Italy, perhaps word got to her, or maybe Emmett gave her my number... I do remember our first meeting though! I was still living with my parents and Virna came to meet me there. I was very curious about meeting another Stick player, and a woman at that too! Her name was also extraordinary: Virginia Splendore (something like Virginal Splendor!!!). Anyway, Virna comes over and introduces herself (as Virna: I never heard her use Virginia) and asks me to play, which I did. I can't remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of "this is horrible, you got it all wrong!!!" (which it was, and which I had)... this might seem brutal, but that was Virna: totally sincere. Always.
We made a deal: she would give me Stick lessons and I would give her bass lessons. I might have been more "classically trained" as a bass player, but I honestly don't think I had anything to teach Virna: she was great on electric bass too, in fact she had her own original voice on the instrument. I saw her play with her band and she was amazing both on Stick and on bass: she played chords on bass to great effect... and it was a fretless bass! I never asked her, but I think she either had perfect pitch or an incredibly well developed relative ear.
I can't recall having given a single bass lesson, but I do remember her Stick lessons: she thought me her deceptively easy songs and built the foundation of my Stick playing. For that I'm forever grateful.
One of my fondest memories is our trip to the Stick seminar in Belgium in 1991. We drove all the way from Rome on Virna's beat up car, listening to music and talking on the long journey. I was meant to drive too which I did for a short time: after I managed to take a few wrong turns and got lost in Luxembourg (honestly, who does that?!? That country is tiny, there's no space to get lost!), Virna drove the rest of the way. The seminar was fantastic. Virna had been raving about Jim Lampi, who would be one of the teachers, and she was right: seeing Jim play changed my life forever, like it had changed Virna's a few years before.
I didn't see much of Virna during the seminar, I was beginner and she was advanced. After classes I would sneak out to meet a French girl whose name I've long forgotten; I would see Virna jamming with Kuno and Volker on my way out and meet them several hours later on my way back, still grooving. Quite a difference in commitment, but after all, they were advanced!!!
I'll never forget the trip home: we were running out of time and Virna had to get back to work the next day. Somehow she pulled some hidden forces from the car, and drove it at warp speed! I remember waking up on the autobahn, Virna flying past other cars, her left feet dangling out of the window. She asked me later why I was so calm under such terrifying circumstances, but the truth was that I felt completely safe in her care.
We kept in touch, though we met very sporadically after I moved to Norway in 1996. Virna kept moving too, all the time. I visited her in her remote house on the hills, I can't remember exactly when, a few years ago. That was the last time I met her in person... who could have imagined!
We did keep in touch though, and I was always happy to refer perspective Stick players to her, knowing they would be in very good hands. She had such a passion about the Stick, it was her life really.
Her last message was on the 16th of April: she wanted to know what the live scene was like in Norway and if I had some places to suggest for gigs. I feel terrible that I didn't reply in time... since I've become a father of twins my response time has become really slow, as I was about to finally write to her, I was shocked and devastated to learn that my friend had passed away. Virna's disappearance is a tragedy, not only for her friends and family, but for the entire Stick community. We all lost somebody truly great. I wish I could have been there for her...
All the Best, Francesco
from Tom Griesgraber
Virna was a wonderful person with a real love for the Stick and music in general. I was fortunate to get to know her quite well over the years, at different seminars and shows both here and in Italy. As one does with things like this I suppose, I'm finding myself revisiting old memories of time spent with her.
On one of the Marotta/Griesgraber tours in Italy, we had several days off in Rome and Virna was kind enough to take us in for probably the better part of a week, so we could cut down on the hotel bills, even though she only had a tiny one bedroom apartment at the time. I got the couch and Jerry and I can still laugh about how he slept on a fold out bed in the kitchen, with his head against the stove and his feet against the refrigerator. But Virna was truly happy to have us and truly a generous host. We were happy to have her Stick duo open for several of our shows on the tour as well, including one we also did with The California Guitar Trio. Paul from the Trio had the idea to throw everyone together for a (his term) "We Are the World" jam at the end, which was great.. three Sticks, three guitars, and Jerry on drums.
I always felt like we shared some common tastes and habits with music, both of us loving the process of writing music and sharing a love of melody and odd meters. On one trip through Rome, she asked me to play on something she was working on. I did.. but it was one of the oddest countings I've ever come across. I think she was hearing the groove with something akin to say a 15/16 or even 31/32 meter. The downbeat kept taking me by surprise, but she knew exactly where it was. While I was tracking she was sort of dancing to the playback, physically conducting to keep me on track. Musically, she always knew what she liked and always knew what she wanted.
Last fall, when I went to Italy, I got in touch with Virna. She said she wasn't feeling well and hadn't been going out much, so we didn't get together. Last month, I was there again and we chatted a bit. She said she felt much much better. We had plans to get together along with some other Stick folks, but she had to cancel at the last minute and didn't join us.
from Greg Howard
The first time I heard Virginia's music was in the cafe at the PARNAS Cultural Center in Leeuwarden, Holland, at the first European Stick Seminar in 1999. She and and a contingent of Italian players including her duet partner, Roberto Fiorucci had driven a great distance to be there and arrived just in time for the first concert. Each night after working with students there were concerts where soloists and small groups would perform.
I had never imagined that Stick duo music could sound like this. The way the two Sticks blended together, with sweet open chords against dissonant rhythmic clusters. Simple melodies over slowly evolving interweaving polyrhythmic arpeggios, always with a slight edge, but natural as could be. The sound was subtly magical, and totally original. The music created a sense of obvious beauty challenged from underneath by vague and persistent tensions. It was really a perfect metaphor for Virginia, a beautiful person, a beautiful woman, a kind and generous spirit, but who also felt life's frustrations and cruelties deeply.
As I got to know Virginia , I understood that beauty and the relationship between the musicians was always the goal of her music, a refreshing departure from the chops monsters and tone hounds that populate the instrumental music world. When she played it was always precise and deliberate, always doing justice to the music instead of for self-gratification.
This was how she was, modest, focused, clear-eyed about how things should be, but not pushy about it.
The duo format suited her well. She seemed to have a great ability to focus in on one person at a time, and to dive into relationships with people, musical and personal. My experience was always that she asked very little of others, but gave a great deal. She never put herself at the center of things, but she became the sun around which the Italian Stick world revolved, turning on so many people to the instrument, and always in a very open and supportive way.
After the two seminars in The Netherlands, she organized one in Milan in May of 2001. Thirty Stick players were there, including guest of honor, Tony Levin. She was so happy to have pulled this off.
I visited Italy twice more after that, and each time Virginia was a wonderful host to me, even in very humble circumstances. Many times we would be jammed into a small car with equipment, fighting traffic. She always did her best to arrange performances, and to introduce me to Italian players and to her friends. Once, after a few days of hanging out, I was probably getting on her nerves (as anyone who knows me well can attest) and she taught me a great expression for how critical I can be,
"Greg, you always find the hair in the egg!"
Whenever I find myself being unnecessarily critical I hear her voice in my head, and I know that she is right. It was the kind of honest friendly comment that can be rare from our peers, who may hold back out of politeness, or competitiveness. If Virginia knew you were her friend, then you know how she felt.
When you hang out a lot, you et to share a lot of meals. Virginia made a mean frittata, and she also taught me to take the bitter green center out of a garlic clove, and how to make the creamy froth on top of an espresso without milk. Her friend Peve in La Spezia introduced me to the wonders of panigacci. And I'll never forget the delight with which André Pelat discovered real Italian cuisine for the first time during our travels aorund Italy in 2004.
Virginia's personal life was a real trial for her, full of storms and setbacks. And in the time I knew her she also suffered from many circumstances that could only be called bad luck. The last time I saw her was at a moment of triumph. Her band, Splendore, had just performed a fantastic set at the 2004 Allaire Festival in France. She was really on top of the world. I will always wish that I had done more to stay in touch with her. It is my good luck to have met her and to have gotten to know the person behind all that beautiful music, music that comes back into my head at just the right quiet moment.
From Irene Orleansky
Virginia and I first contacted each other with an idea to create a female Stick band. Our idea turned into our duo Irene&Virginia. I first came to visit Virginia at her home in Casaprota in 2007. Our musical collaboration grew into profound and intimate friendship. I came to Italy to look for musical collaboration, but in addition to this, I found a true friend of my soul. Virginia was a sensitive person, generous and caring about those she loved. Her home in Casaprota became my home, and her neighbours became my neighbours. Our European tour was the time of true joy and happiness, when we not only shared music together but also pushed each other to new creative heights.
I will always remember you Virnush, your smile, all the nights we spent together talking, all the places we visited, your little wooden studio full of instruments, the way you drive your car like a racer, the way you roll your cigarettes, the way you call me "Bananush" or "Testa di Policarbonato" When I play your beautiful pieces I will think of you, and when I play the Oud that you bought for me I will think of you, and when I drink Moscato or Pina Colada I will think of you, and when I sit at the sea shore I will think of you. I will be with you in my prayers and meditations. Peace and love to you Virnush, and thank you for everything!
from Jim Lampi
Virna was such a passionate person about life and music. She is always one of the friends I play for and one of the reasons I play music. I'll miss her greatly as will all the people she touched.
from Olivier Vuille
Virna is a very important person in my "stick life". I first met her in 2001 at the Milano Stick Seminar she had organised. We had such a good time. The event was a big success (more than 30 stickists attended). She had an eye and an ear for everybody. Having just gone through a very serious health issue, I can say that the Stick and Virna's "go for it" attitude were a big help in my healing process.
The second time I met Virna was at the Swiss Stick seminar in 2003. This time I was organising. Virna immediately said YES to the idea and I know she was the main reason why no less than 7 italian stickists attended (we called them the "italocrew" : Andrea Tolin, Giovanni Bellosi, Antonio Cappadona, Nicola Carrai, Marcello Cravini, Marco Boeri, Gabriele Palombo). We also had Jim Meyer from Canada, Mathias Sorof, Rochus Knobel, Sonja Schellenberg and Thomas Simon from Germany, Lionel Cretegny, Jean-Alexis Montignies, Damian Eyholzer and Tobias Reber from Switzerland, and Mark Butler from UK.
Ron Baggermann, Jim Lampi, André Pelat and Virna were teaching and performed a fantastic Stick Night in La Chaux-de-Fonds. I will never forget the fabulous moments we all shared with Virna at the end of the day in the garden at my house. The fabulous meals we ate at the school where the seminar was taking place. The trip in the "Stick Bus" to La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Dinner at Café Petit Paris before Virna took the stage to play alone and with drummer Steve Grant and/or Ron, Jim and André.
Virna was fun. Everybody loved her and she gave a lot to all of us. What wonderful memories. I will cherish them until I reach the other side where Virna will ask me to play my arpeggios more fluently – "let these notes ring until you hit the next one" - no doubt about this.
Thank you Virna et "Au revoir". You and your music live in our hearts.
from Guillermo Cides
I send to all Virna's friends and family a big and warm hug, and I know that it will be not enough to cover the cold we feel when somebody we love goes away from this life. Today we all are in silence together. In some way, we love one each other right now because we love this life through Virna's life.
hugs, Guillermo Cides
from Andrea Tolin
My name is Andrea and I am a friend of Virginia, not a close one, but for a period of time I'd like to think we were. I took lessons from her starting in 2002 for a couple of years (then I quit) and then we stayed in contact till last year.
I'm extremely saddened by what happened, still in disbelief, can't find other words to describe it, especially in another language. I have many memories of the time spent with her, mostly unrelated to the Stick itself, small things, laughs or big discussions on the meaning of life or love. She was an incredibly sensible person, somebody would say too much, while I'm probably too down to earth, and our discussions were always interesting, sometimes heated, like two worlds colliding. But when I listen to her music, like in this precise moment, I leave the earth too and fly to other worlds.
While I was asking to learn some of her stuff, she was very humble about it, always telling me to listen to Jim Lampi, André Pelat, or Greg Howard, all the time, all the time: "You should try that, I'm not good", "C'mon Virna, I can't try that NOW, they live on Mars!" , "Mars is in you head, you should try, you should definitely try, listen to this Greg tune or that Lampi groove...try the basics". The basics ? Oh god....
There are many Virna compositions that I like, actually most of them, but If I have to choose one to define her as a person, not as a musician, there's only one I can think of: "Absent Lover" from the "Different Things" CD. That's the one, that's Virginia to me, totally there, a very sad love song, a search for love, in the deepest, true meaning of the word. And then I imagine her playing it to the end and have a big smile, that big contrast.
Thanks for all, Virginia.
from Giovanni Bellosi
Ciao Virva, I cry for you. Fly in beautiful word of serenity.