Louis Vangieri possesses a subtle duality that acts like a siren song for fans who have faithfully followed his professional music career for years at Peninsula-area coffeehouses, restaurants and other intimate venues.
The Williamsburg resident’s warm smile and humble demeanor is welcoming. But when he puts pick to steel string on his Martin acoustic guitar, the grin is replaced by introspective intensity and Vangieri showers the audience with rich melodies that ebb and flow, almost hypnotically.
His infectious musicality played out on a recent Saturday afternoon as Vangieri performed acoustic arrangements of holiday favorites at the Hampton History Museum’s Holly Days Open House. With families milling about crafting tables and drinking hot chocolate, Vangieri strummed his matte black guitar as his wife Lauren sat close by, knitting. While he was not the sole focal point of the event, Vangieri’s soundtrack appropriately complemented the din of activity with festive energy.
Vangieri, who is also known professionally as the LCV Project, was clearly in his creative element, whether patrons were distracted by activities or actively pausing to listen. His smile effortlessly returned between selections when someone would stop to engage him in conversation.
The retired college counselor recalled that a teacher-friend in Pennsylvania was the first to tell him his music is “really pretty.”
“I’ve heard that probably 3,000 times. I think that’s the goal,” he said, of his musical purpose.
Vangieri wasn’t always a string instrumentalist. In elementary through high school he was a percussionist, rising to the level of state band/orchestra. But he knew his heart wasn’t in drumming, although he loved the rhythm of it. A musician friend asked if he ever considered the acoustic guitar, noting similarities between the instruments.
“So, I picked up an acoustic guitar and never looked back,” he said.
Vangieri took lessons through college, focusing on jazz and rock techniques. He also learned from a banjo instructor, who taught him “folksy things.” In 2010, he launched a professional career after retiring from Delaware Technical and Community College and moving fulltime to Hampton Roads, where he and his wife owned a house and Vangieri performed periodically since the 1990s.
His strongest influences reside in the folk genre, but Vangieri said he is also heavily inspired by the acoustic work of the Beatles as well as James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Pat Metheny. He performs a blend of folk, country swing, pop-rock, traditional, soft jazz, new age, classical and nostalgia.
Vangieri, who has recorded three albums as the LCV Project, gravitated toward composing and performing instrumental arrangements because, “I didn’t consider myself a good singer,” he said.
During his career, Vangieri has also served as the opening act for marquee performers such as Taj Mahal, Livingston Taylor (James Taylor’s brother), Chris Smither and Ralph Towner.
“Those guys are fantastic,” he said, of the experiences. “I’ve had a touch of feeling what it is to be a top notch professional. When that happens, it is very special.”
Still, his preference is playing small venues including his favorite, the Williamsburg Library Theatre, where he will perform “An Acoustic Christmas,” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13.
Typically, Vangieri plays a mix of covers and original selections at his shows, but he finds the most satisfaction in sharing with audiences the music he creates.
“Originals are fun. Anytime you play an original and the audience is into it, that’s really fulfilling,” he said.