Mention his name and people smile. They’ve heard him play, often wistfully remembering where they were and with whom they were listening as this classical guitarist got lost in his own music..
Mention his name and others think of his light jazz renditions, traditional Celtic offerings or Broadway show tunes. Whatever your musical pleasure, Danny Infantino is looked upon by some as a “legend in his own time.”
Musician, recording artist, college professor and private teacher of guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and bass guitar for students young and old, Infantino does it all.
A product of Queens, N.Y., Infantino began studying guitar when he was just 14 with jazz “finger-style guitarist,” Howard Morgen, and later with classical guitarist William Mathews in New York City.
In time, he received his bachelor’s degree in music from St. Andrews Presbyterian College and later, at age 42, received the master of music degree in classical guitar performance from the University of South Carolina.
But in between all the studying Infantino performed with several music legends, including Ellie Greenwhich who had ten top-10 records in 1965 (the same number of hits by the Beatles that year) even sharing the lead with her in a single called, “I Hear the Grass Singing.”
He eventually ventured into rock, country, folk and Celtic music, appearing in venues in New York, Connecticut, Bermuda, Arizona, both North and South Carolina, and even on cruise ships.
But these and other milestone appearances were long ago, and for those of us in the Sandhills, it is the current Danny Infantino repertoire that enthralls most of us.
There are the 11 CD recordings produced over the years that feature his own arrangements and compositions to enjoy, as well as his appearances at local venues including weddings, dinner parties, and venues at the area’s resorts and country clubs or in nearby Raleigh, often with violinist and fiancee, Seren Lyerly.
Yet a larger audience continues to lurk over Infantino’s shoulders. It started seven years ago when he had his old garage converted into a professional recording studio he named, OutBack Studio.
When asked why that name? Infantino smiles and says, “It’s out back — in a converted garage behind the house!” It is here that he not only records his own material but produces albums for several local artists, including Neville Beamer’s collection of his own original songs described by Infantino as “earthy, lyrical, and sung in Neville’s raw, inimitable, gutsy style.”
A compilation of faith-based songs titled, “Songs We Believe In,” by the duo, Dust and Ashes (Tom Page and Mary Lou Troutman), which includes Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that Infantino says “sends chills down your spine,” adding, “They have a message, but the message is beautifully rendered without being too preachy.”
“In Jail In Whispering Pines,” by Stephen Smith is “great fun” according to Infantino, and is included with other Smith originals.
Recently appointed North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, Shelby Stephenson and his wife, Linda, recorded a tribute to North Carolina songwriter, Don Gibson which feature old classics.
And, Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” by Rick Smith, the first album recorded in the studio (other than his own) is “a retrospective album that harkens back to songs that stand out in the timeline of Smith’s life.”
But that larger audience involves popular TV and movie scenes.
“I retired from teaching at Sandhills Community College five years ago, and about a year and a half before that, had the studio built,” he says. “I heard about a company called TAXI that acts as a screening intermediary between music industry companies and artists. They post listings of what these companies may be looking to include in a particular TV show or movie scene.
‘Libraries’ of music are developed so that a particular mood – suspense, pathos, whatever — can be searched for and reviewed. The show or movie music supervisors can then choose what they feel will embellish the scene and just upload it.”
Infantino is now linked into 10 different libraries, some with specific shows.
“It is very exciting,” he says, “because it gives you a chance to have a new creative outlet.”
Through his OutBack Studio and TAXI, Infantino’s music has been featured on numerous TV shows including, “My Name Is Earl,” “Saving Grace,” “All My Children,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” “Let’s Make a Deal,” “Access Hollywood,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Glee,” “Gotham” and “Scorpio,” among others.
On a completely different note, he has also recorded an audio book, “The Core,” by Leigh Bortins, for the homeschooling organization, Classical Conversations.
“And, when someone put up money for vintage recordings,” Infantino says, “I sent several songs to him, and he signed one I co-wrote with Richard Ivans 44 years ago! It will be used on the Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black” during episode six.”
Danny Infantino is a man with a passion for his art. But he does take time to relax.
“I putt around my garden, travel, and love to play tennis three times a week at the Lawn and Tennis Club,” he says.
But his greatest joy is one that he never thought he would experience. That is the thrill of parenting his 17-month-old son, Daniel.
With an unmistakable twinkle in his eyes, he says, “At 65 years of age, I never expected to have this kind of joy. Having a child of my own! I only wish my parents, who have been gone a long time, could experience this with me.”
This down-to-earth, unaffected “legend in his own time” appreciates every moment and shares them with others.