Luca Somigli, FX Options Support Analyst & Jazz Musician

What I love the most about Jazz Music is the freedom of it. Jazz is a pure music art form, where the improviser really owns what he wants to say. It is maybe the purest and most animalistic form of communication amongst human beings.

My name is Luca Somigli. I graduated with my MSc in Mathematical Finance from Birkbeck College in London and started working as an FX Options Support Analyst at BNP Paribas, where I have been for the past 6 months — at BNPP, I do lots of troubleshooting, reverse engineering, and investigations. This job gives me a lot to work with and it opens a lot of opportunities in Fintech/trading or the maths & finance world. I love to comprehend complex systems of any sort, including mathematical or musical ones.

I was born in Rome, where I have lived all my teenage years. I initially moved to the UK to work first, then to study for a BMus in Music. When I first came to London, I decided to carry on studying and working as I was amazed at the opportunities and the open mindset that was around me, which was lacking in my home country. I started playing with different artists, both for academic projects and in indie collaborations. I scored a few independent movies and worked with an artist to showcase musically-oriented projects in live concerts. The diversity of communities and environments, the ease of starting a new business, and the opportunity to meet new people were real game-changers.

London was everything I needed at the time. I started out with no money, social anxiety, mental health concerns, and nowhere to go — but I had a passion and a good musical talent, as well as a willingness to change my economic conditions and grow. London tested me heavily on everything I got, but because I believed in it, it rewarded me. And I still think it all started out for me here.

Outside of work, I love playing music. I currently teach music to children, adults, experienced players, and anyone who is interested. I teach less than before due to my current schedule at work, but I am still able to cut off part of my time and give it to music. Of course, this includes going to jam sessions and hosting them once in a while.

I first became interested in Jazz Music through my family. My mother was the owner of a renowned Italian music magazine Chitarre, which was a solid centre of exchange between musicians in Italy up until recent years. My father was a fine guitarist, who played in his youth years and had a couple of important opportunities during his early musical career. He taught me everything, from playing the drums when I was 5 to embracing the guitar at 7, then the flute and piano at 10 — all this shaped me into the musician I am today. I can say that I was lucky in one way. I grew up in this highly musical environment where I would meet internationally acclaimed guitarists (Steve Vai and Andrea Braido being some of them), as they came for interviews at my parents’ office. I then carried on my way and expanded myself towards jazz in my late teenage years.

My most influential style would probably be Bebop, which I find to be such a colourful and pure art form. It does interest me as well on the social side, as it started as a musical protest amongst black American musicians to impress the whites and show them how good of a player they could be.

Some of my favourite musical influencers are Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Antonio Sanchez, Paul McCartney, Brian May, and many more. Recently, I have also started to appreciate people like Nils Frahm, Bon Iver, and others. Some might not realise this, but we are living in a time where there is so much good music around that it is getting insanely overwhelming. Unfortunately, most of these genuinely good artists are not well-known among youngsters. To know the real deal, one would need to filter names out from what mass media gurus are constantly proposing to us.

I have been very active with my music over the years. I have worked as a music tutor since I was 15 or 16 years old — it was a way to express myself around other people in my community in Rome. At first, it was a simple way for me to make some quick and easy cash, of course. I started teaching simple guitar songs, and later went on to do full masterclasses on Jazz improvisation, ear training, and more. Soon enough, I was teaching to cover most of my expenses, trying my best to live as cheaply as possible. Jazz is renowned not to pay high fees, and gigs were not enough to pay for the full deal!

Right now, I like to write my own jazz pieces and am planning to release an album soon. This will feature some of the major standards I got to know well over the years (which also tend to be my favourites), together with my own pieces that I have recently composed. Some of the best-known ones include: There Will Never be Another You, Someday My Prince will Come, and Donna Lee.

Recently, I have also experimented heavily in electronic music production and have released a ‘secret’ album called Beauvoir Town, which consists of phonically reworked recordings done in different areas of London and Rome. Feel free to check it out on my Spotify: @lucasomiglimusic!

Overall, I have had some great experiences when playing music. I once had a St Patrick’s Day gig in a distant pub somewhere in the North (I cannot quite remember where it was). This singing Irish duo needed a guitarist to be able to quickly pick up a list of 50 Irish traditional songs in half a week. Anyone who is a musician knows that this request is insane, but I was put forward by their guitarist, who knew me at the time. Well, I needed the money so I went for it. We ended up doing great and having lots of fun. Sure enough, I now can’t remember half of those 50 songs. Possibly something around taking a shovel and going back to work …!

Finally, I have a few future goals with my music. I am looking to get more jazzers together to finally release a Standards on Guitar album. Mainly, this will include some of my favourite standards along with some of my creations, and will try to keep it as simple and as fun as possible. No need to impress anyone; just for the purest love of doing music with other humans. There will be live concerts at probably small intimate venues, but that still needs planning. As of now, I am focusing on gathering the right musicians (bassists are busy, as usual) and getting in a studio to have some well-deserved swing.

Ideally, I would like to record one or two albums a year. I think that would be enough for me. Of course, having said that, no one knows what the future will hold. Surprises are always around the corner, as they say.

My advice to anyone interested in playing Jazz Music is listening, listening, and listening again. Jazz is a language, and one needs to really listen and study it to comprehend its structure. Nonetheless, practice a lot and try your way in. It will work out eventually, but you really need to pay attention to what your favourite musician is doing on his or her instrument.

What really did it for me was forcing myself to listen to pieces as if it was a job. I would sit down in front of my scoring software (I use Musescore) and transcribe everything I could. I would look at what I transcribed for hours and try to see relationships with chord changes, rhythms, licks, lines, etc. I was so into it that I began to dream about shapes and musical phrases. Whenever I took the London Tube, I would try and visualize these on the fretboard; it did get into a bit of an obsession. But I really believe that is part of the requirements to become a great improviser. You need to become obsessed with it.

I strongly believe that my experiences with Music have been a benefit to my technological career. Musicians naturally train themselves to perform tasks in a high-focus environment. They seek the most ideal balance between accurate performance and scientific beauty.

It is not a surprise that musicians were first called to work as ‘software programmers’ in an IBM article from a 1968 American newspaper — crazy to think about it. I believe that at the time, IBM recruiters sat down thinking that the most similar skill to a programmer in a non-programming world would have been that of musicians. They were right. It is not uncommon to see a lot of musical people in the software world.

Finally, I’d just like to say that there is always more than tech, and it is quintessential to share your passions in whichever scenario you are in. Passions are what shape our thinking, and technology and music are great places to start. I still find myself feeling like a little kid again when trying to build something with code, confront complex applications, or learn a new framework. It all has to do with learning the composition in front of you, and the circle is complete.

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