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VIDEO PREMIERE: "The Prayer" by John Paciga and Charlotte MacMurray
By Gary Wien
originally published: 07/01/2018
It’s a busy time for John Paciga these days. The young musician has just graduated from Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey and is preparing to start a new chapter at Yale University. He’s also just released a cover of “The Prayer” with Charlotte MacMurray and New Jersey Stage is proud to premiere the video.
“The Prayer” is a song made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. They recorded it for the Quest for Camelot soundtrack in 1998 and the song would go on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration.
According to Paciga, it was one of his grandparents’ favorite songs. “They absolutely loved the song and would play it all the time at home,” he explained. “They kept saying, ‘John, you have to make your own version of this someday.’”
Paciga met Charlotte MacMurray at Delbarton last year when she auditioned for the school’s Abbey Players’ production of Catch Me If You Can. She wound up playing Brenda Strong and he played Carl Hanratty.
“Over the course of this past year, we did some more shows together and I thought she had a perfect voice for this collaboration,” said Paciga.
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Paciga started playing piano at the age of four, singing at the age of eleven, and writing his own songs at the age of thirteen. Surprisingly, he hated piano lessons when he first began playing, but with encouragement from his grandma and his parents, he kept at it. He is now comfortable playing anything from pop, rock, jazz, blues, and classical music. He's also written more than 60 songs and has released an EP (Gotta Play) and a full length album (Other Side of Town) while in high school. And for the last seven years, he's been living with Type 1 Diabetes. Instead of having that bring him down, he sees it an opportunity to be an inspiration to other children who are Type 1.
It’s rare to find a teenager who is as adept at writing original songs as he is covering artists as diverse as Billy Joel, Bruno Mars, and Bocelli; and one who wants to be seen as a role model for others, but that’s what we have in John Paciga. So we decided to find out more...
New Jersey Stage spoke with Paciga a few days before his graduation ceremony.
Are you planning on studying music or something else at Yale? I don’t think I’m going to do their music major just because if I did do a music major I would want to focus more on the music business in the modern industry in that sense and on songwriting, which is something I love to do. But Yale doesn’t have a program like that. Their music major is more geared towards a historical or classical context, from what I have gathered. I don’t think I would get the practical use out of it that I would want. So, I might do an English major or a theatre studies major because in addition to songwriting, making my own music, and recording, I love the theatre and acting. I’ve written a few one-act plays and directed them as well at my high school.
So, I’m not exactly sure what my major is going to look like yet, but it will probably be something in that vein.
Yale has a great theatre program, are you going to give that a shot too? Yea, absolutely. I’m definitely interested in acting there and getting involved in their theatre program. Whether or not I’m working on theatre-related things in the classroom setting, I’ll definitely be getting involved in the extracurricular sense with all of the performance opportunities there.
I know you took lessons once, do you still play guitar?A little bit. I don’t take lessons anymore. I took lessons for a couple of years. I know some basic chords, but I don’t play guitar regularly. If I had to - in a pinch - I could play a couple of four chord songs, but piano is my main instrument and I do play that regularly.
As far as playing piano, songwriting, and acting, are you hoping to be able to do all three? Or is there a single goal you have in mind?I’m not exactly sure. Ideally, I would love to be involved in all of the areas and to be able to take jobs or have a career where I’m able to do all of those things. but I would be happy with any one of them.
I don’t have a set vision for where I want to be in the next 5-10 years, but in the performance industry you never really know what direction it will take you. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing with all of my interests and talents and we’ll see where it takes me.
I noticed that some of the videos of your cover songs include Billy Joel and Bruno Mars. Is there a particular artist whose career is one you’d like to emulate? Billy Joel is one of my biggest inspirations in terms of artists today. Another one would be Ben Folds, another piano guy. His style is a little more edgy, more jaunty in his piano style, but he’s got awesome chops. I saw him at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank in September. It was an awesome show and he’s definitely another inspiration as well. Another one is Jamie Cullum. He’s a British pop/jazz crossover artists and a songwriter. Some of his stuff sounds more poppy and some sounds more jazzy, but he’s definitely an influence as well. I'm influenced a little bit by Elton John, but not as much of him as the other three.
Are you planning use the next few months to get ready for college or are you going to try doing some shows this summer? I’m definitely going to try to do some shows, hopefully in July. I’ll be away for much of June. I’m going to Germany for two weeks and then Florida for a while, but once I’m back I’m hoping to play some gigs to promote the music I have out and the new music I’m hoping to release later this year.
Are you looking forward to playing some new venues in New Haven?Absolutely! I’m not sure what the performance scene looks like there, but anywhere I can find I’ll try. It’s always good to get out in a new environment and get yourself out there and in front of a new crowd.
Finally, how has it been with your diabetes? Has that affected how you proceed with music in any way?Looking back on it, I was diagnosed almost seven years ago. It was in the 6th grade and I was 11 when diagnosed. I think it forced me to become a lot more mature and responsive at a younger age, which has helped me with leadership and my music by making me take it very seriously and professionally. I’ve had to take good care of myself to make it possible for me to do everything. I think overall it has made me a stronger person in that regard.
Of course it can still be a burden at times to manage it, but after doing it for seven years it’s just kind of my way of life now. I hope that as I start to gain more recognition I can use my platform to sort of empower other kids with diabetes and diabetics to go after what they want to do and let it be a source of individuality and strength rather than a hindrance.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Presents Motor City Live: A Motown Christmas (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City has extended Motor City Live: A Tribute to Motown through the month of December with a special Motor City Live: A Motown Christmas. Along with your favorite Motown classics, you’ll hear some Motor City versions of your favorite Holiday songs sprinkled in like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from The Temptations, Aretha Franklin’s “Winter Wonderland,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson’s “Jingle Bells” and much more. Wisin & Yandel To Perform At Prudential Center (NEWARK, NJ) -- Latin music’s most iconic duo, Wisin & Yandel, announced their first U.S. tour today since their five-year hiatus with the Como Antes Tour 2019. The 15-city tour will kick off May 23 and make a much-anticipated stop at Prudential Center on Sunday, June 16. Yandel is managed by Andy Martinez and Wisin is managed by Walter Kolm.Grunin Center Presents Canadian Brass (TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- The award-winning Canadian Brass takes the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, December 14 at 8:00pm to present “Christmas Time is Here.” Now in its 47th season, the Canadian Brass has performed in virtually every major concert hall in the world, has been seen by hundreds of millions of people on television, sold two million of its approximately 100 albums worldwide, and contributed nearly 600 new works and arrangements to the brass quintet repertoire. Renowned for genre-bending versatility and joyous performances, Canadian Brass is almost single-handedly responsible for elevating the art of the brass quintet to what it is today.Papa Roach To Perform At Stone Pony (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Alternative rock quartet Papa Roach will bring their summer 2019 headlining run, the Who Do You Trust? Tour,with Asking Alexandria and Bad Wolves to The Stone Pony Summer Stage on August 9, 2019. The tour will also have an area date at Philadelphia's Metropolitan Opera House on August 7th.Uli Jon Roth To Return To Newton Theatre (NEWTON, NJ) -- Uli Jon Roth returns to The Newton Theatre on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 8:00pm. During his five year tenure as a member of Germany’s number one rock band, The Scorpions, Uli built the foundation for his status of guitar legend. He quickly established himself as one of the main songwriters in the band and soon gained an international reputation as one of the most important innovators of the electric guitar.
An Interview with Chip Davis Of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas You can experience the magic of the holidays — Steamroller-style — when Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis makes a tour stop this Thursday, December 6, 2018, at New Brunswick, NJ’s historic State Theatre.Max Weinberg’s Jukebox LIVE! at the Grunin Center Something is different about tonight’s November 18, 2018 concert at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts starring Max Weinberg, celebrated drummer from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band!PHOTOS: Matt O'Ree Band at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- The Matt O'Ree Band returned to The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Friday, November 16 and photographer Estelle Massry of Coucou Photography was on hand to take some photos. David Bryan from Bon Jovi was one of the special guests that night."How Could You Not Love Them?" The Buckinghams and Herman's Hermits LIVE! at BergenPAC Although it’s a chilly Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 evening in Englewood, NJ, music lovers are lined up outside the Bergen Performing Arts Center waiting to hear classic songs of the ’60s as performed by two quintessential groups of the era — The Buckinghams and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone!If It Ain't Baroque... Bach's Brandenburg Concertos With Symphony in C You know the old joke: If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it? Well, put away those tools, dear reader. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos ARE Baroque, so no fixing necessary.
This Saturday, December 1, Symphony in C is performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 2 through 6 at the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts. Officially presented in 1721, these collective works are considered to be some of the finest orchestral compositions of the Baroque era (generally 1600 to 1750). These six concertos are among the most recorded, performed and beloved works by Bach. – And that’s J.S. Bach, for those of you keeping score at home. There are a LOT of Bachs.
Event calendar Wednesday, Dec 12, 2018
SONIC 5 @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 7:00pm