Giovanni Mazza’s music bug bit when his mother entered him into a young artist’s contest.
The Chicago-based violinist had been playing for six years and enjoyed his fiddle tunes, but was an actor not really ready to show off his musical talent.
“When we were driving home, after she told me she’d entered the video, I was saying to myself, ‘it’s Chicago, it’s such a big city, I’m probably not going to get it anyway,’” Mazza says.
Then he played in front of a crowd during the Youth Talent Search at a Chicago Bulls game and Mazza knew he was a musician.
“When I did, I was jumping for joy and I really liked the feeling of performing,” he says. “I did it, and I don’t regret it.”
On a vote from the fans at the game in March 2015, Mazza was impressive, but finished second of the three young performers, his mom Lisa remembers.
By November of that year, he was called back by the Bulls, who liked his violin talent and hoped to find some entertainment for fans at the game during a TV timeout. Mazza was quickly bumped into a halftime role and the Bulls recommended him for the NBA All-Stars Rising Stars halftime show as his violin was joined with a hip hop back beat.
Which is the short story of how Mazza, who started playing the violin after being attracted to it at a library instrument petting zoo, became a sought-after halftime performer in the NBA and cut his first album, all by age 13.
Mazza has played his violin in roles in movies and shot a music video, Evaporate, that came from a song on his album. Another movie, Encantado, is an animated music video from his five-track EP that has been shown at movie festivals around the world.
Mazza practices two to four hours per day, plays soccer and still attends public middle school. He, his parents and his sister have hopped around the country, from Dallas to Boston to Cleveland and Oakland, to play on NBA courts in 16 cities, including in the postseason. Sometimes, a team’s dancers will join him on the court.
“Anytime that he commits to something, we tell him he has to follow through with it,” Lisa says. “When he was first asked to do the NBA All-Stars that was kind of surreal, and now it’s become the norm.”
With his star on the rise, Mazza hopes to continue his career as a musician and plans to keep his Screen Actors Guild card after graduating high school.
“I want to be one of those musicians that also does acting,” Mazza says. “My dream to be a musician is to win a Grammy; my dream for acting is to be in an action movie.”
Lisa is glad to see that Giovanni is showing the functionality of the violin to audiences.
“There are a lot of different ways to play the violin, a lot of different schools. Find your own way,” Lisa says. “If you like to play fiddle music, play it. There’s a teacher for every type of music style you want to play on the violin. It doesn’t have to be the orchestra.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.