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Q&A with musician and performer Gene Federico

By Staff | Jan 14, 2010

Singer and lead guitar player for Island Jazz, Gene Federico soothes the crowd with his crooning.

Gene Federico is an island musician who loves making people happy with his performances. He is a member of Island Jazz and can be found playing at BIG ARTS with the band on Sundays thorough the end of April. He also performs at many other island functions and locales.

Where did you spend your childhood?

I was born and raised in the Boston area.

What brought you to Sanibel?

About 20 years ago some friends of ours visited the island and upon their return to Boston, they couldn’t say enough about Sanibel and it surroundings. Several months later, my wife Dottie and I vacationed here and knew immediately that one day this would be home.

What do you most appreciate about Sanibel?

The pleasant weather, the pristine beaches, the wildlife, the sunsets and the many friends we have made over the years.

What were you doing before you came to Sanibel?

My occupation has always been music related. I operated a retail music store that offered equipment, music lessons and repairs. During this time, I taught guitar & bass along with performing for various venues in the New England area. In the mid 90’s, with a competent staff able to run the music shop, I branched out of New England and worked as a solo performer doing vocals, guitar & keyboards for both Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines – what a treat to be sailing around the Caribbean, especially in the winter!

Can you describe your experience as a band member and musician with Island jazz?

My fellow musicians are a great bunch of people to perform with! What is hard to comprehend by most people is that jazz musicians can usually gather together and start playing pretty much anything and sound like they have been playing together for years – without practicing! This surely holds true for Island Jazz which is comprised of talented musicians from all over the U.S.

What style of music do you perform?

That question requires an explanation along with the answer. I have been exposed to so many genres of music in my life that I can perform for many “musical tastes”. Growing up in a big city like Boston there is much cultural and ethnic diversity. Like most young players, I played high school and Y.M.C.A. Dances, playing the pop music of the day, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys..etc..In my late teens I started playing with a “wedding/jazz” band and that led to my meeting many musicians. Baron Hugo, orchestra leader from the famous Totem Pole took me under his wing and gave me some playing dates and introduced me to other band leaders/agents in the area. I was pretty much off and running and playing several gigs a weekend, weddings, clubs, private functions, and getting paid!. From there I got involved with a “Latino” band that played for Latino communities in the Northeast. Among some of the acts that I worked with were, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Los Swing Boys & Sonora Mantacera. However, being young and not familiar with these acts, years past before I could appreciate the importance of their contributions to music. Musically I was all over the board and expanded further when I was recruited to play in an “Italian” band. This band, similar to the Latino band, played all over the Northeast and opened for some well know Italian acts, Peppino Di Capri, Gianni Morandi, Mina, etc…..With so much musical variety in my life, it was at this point that I decided to become a free-lance musician….basically being available to all without a commitment to none. In the late 80’s, Harvey Robbins Productions contacted me to see if I was available to play some “Oldies” cruises out of Boston. It was then that I got a taste for playing cruise ships and the opportunity to work with entertainers like Levi Stubbs ( Four Tops), Gene Pitt (Jive Five) and Herb Reed ( Platters)…In fact a former student of mine is still playing for Herb Reed. In the mid 90’s I contracted with Carnival Cruise Lines and added Island Music, Caribbean, Reggae and Jimmy Buffett selections to my repertoire. That in a nut shell gives you a brief understanding of how I came to have such a diverse repertoire, and the types of music I perform. My Web site has some samples of the various styles of music I perform.


What do you enjoy most about being a musician and performer?

Watching the smiles on people’s faces as they are listening or dancing to the music, tapping their foot, singing along, applauding, or receiving a compliment. To have someone come up to you and say , “that was great”, or “nice job”, or “thanks for playing my request” makes it all worthwhile.

Do you have a favorite musician?

That’s a difficult question since there are so many great musician/composers. I have favorites for various genres of music. The Gershwins, Cole Porter, Burt Bachrach, Carole King, Lennon and McCartney, Antonio Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Gibb Bros., A.L. Webber, Elton John, Brian Wilson, just a few that come to mind – all giants !

Any words of advice for aspiring


Do the basics, learn how to read music! Listen to a variety of music, don’t limit yourself to one particular style, experiment, and of course PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! What is amazing is that with all the music that has ever been composed or played, it was all done with only 12 notes!!

What do you do when you are not playing music?

When I’m not practicing new material, I enjoy boating, golfing, swimming, fishing and biking.

What is your family life like?

Well, I’m married to the most wonderful and caring woman in the world. Dottie and I have two children, one of whom has made us grandparents for the second time.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That along with the many years of music studies, I hold a degree in Electrical Engineering from Franklin Institute of Technology, and a degree in Finance from Boston University.

What are your long/short term goals?

Long term, I would really like to finish an album I started several years ago. Short term, I want to keep playing music and having a fun time trying to make people happy.

Any words of wisdom for living a happy life?

Musically/artistically speaking – “Life is not a dress rehearsal, so make it your best and most memorable performance”!