The Ricci Family

“We enjoy playing together.”

by Bill Weaver

“Music is something near and dear to me,” says Lewis Ricci when asked about the small ensemble he’s formed with his wife Margaret and sons Campbell and Duncan. Families often make good music together, most often they are informal groups playing in the living room or back yard, but sometimes they venture out into public venues. Groups such as the Carter Family and the Neville Brothers spring to mind. The Sandersons, another local family, also performs together. In the Riccis’ case it all came as a complete surprise.
“They took lessons when they were little,” Lewis says, “It’s funny, I didn’t see it coming. One day I realized that I had these guys in my house who were competent players and wanted to play. We started with no thought of an end point except we enjoyed playing together. I think that’s the best motivation there is.”

Lewis’s favorite memory of the collaboration (so far) came one night, “when we nailed a tune pretty well and Campbell said to Duncan, ‘You know, before we started playing with Dad we were competent players but Dad has turned us into musicians and that’s something we’re going to take to our grave.’ I’m like, oh my!” he laughs.
They’ve played together for about three years, regularly showing up at Muddy Boots in Nashville and the Player’s Pub in Bloomington as well as such events as the “Paint Out” and Outdoor Concert at T.C. Steele State Historic Site and the DINO Mountain Bike Race at Brown County State Park.

Lewis–who has been playing piano since he was four and has studied classical voice–plays keyboards. Oldest son Campbell plays guitar and sings. Duncan keeps the rhythm on the drums. And Margaret–who grew up in a musical family herself–handles backup vocals and plays bass on keyboard. “I guess it’s genetics but our voices blend pretty well,” Lewis relates. “It’s nice. We get some very good harmonies.”

When it comes to the songs they choose to play they all get a choice. “It’s funny because a lot of times I may pick a tune of a more contemporary artist and they might want to do someone from my era. We play Coldplay but the latest song we tried, at Duncan’s request, was a Bruce Hornsby tune, which is someone more in my era. It’s great. It makes me listen to a lot of music that I might not normally hear because their tastes are fairly wide, which is good.

“That’s not something I had with my parents,” he continues. “My sons and I have more connection musically because the musicians of their generation look back to earlier musicians more than I did with my parents’ music.”

The Riccis also have plenty of original songs. “I’ve written since I was thirteen years old so I have lots of music past and present,” he says, including co-writing the theme of WFIU’s A Moment of Science. “We’re in the process of recording a bunch of our current stuff. I don’t know if it will be a CD or an online thing. We have about four done and have another five or six that we want to do. Maybe if it’s an online thing we’ll never be completely finished,” he laughs.

Every year they invite their friends to their home near Nashville for “a big jam session. We play late into the night. What’s nice about that is that my sons have a lot of friends in high school that are musicians so they come over and join my friends for an intergenerational jam session. We’ll have four or five drummers, two or three guitarists, a few keyboardists–it’s a lot of people, a lot of different musical perspectives, and a lot of fun.”

Ricci is Executive Director of the Indiana Arts Commission and music helps keep him focused. “It is extremely releasing and relaxing,” he says. “It’s important for someone who’s an administrator in the arts to be a practicing artist–you don’t ever want to lose sight of what you’re trying to support. Being an artist myself helps me keep perspective.”

Campbell Ricci, who graduated from high school this spring, has decided to attend Indiana University in Bloomington this fall so the band will be staying together for the foreseeable future. “I think that one of the reasons was that he wanted to continue to make music with us and that’s a great thing,” says his proud father. “It’s a dream come true to have a family that plays music. I couldn’t ask for much more.”