Master of the Galaxy (Electric Harp)
As Joe LoSchiavo puts it, the small back office at Family Melody “was the size of my booth in Anaheim,” he said.
That’s where the National Association of Music Merchants Musicians Trade Show at the Anaheim Convention Center recently took place, a huge space that can draw 125,000 people.
His booth may have been tiny, but LoSchiavo, a low-key guitar wonder and Medford native, is hoping his Galaxy electric harp will make a huge impact on the music world.
The innovative instrument — a psychedelic board shaped in a musical eighth note with 12 strings — is a stunner. “As colorful as this instrument is,” he said, looking at the vivid pinks, purples, aquas, oranges and reds, “the sonic quality is equal to the eye candy.”
You can play it strapped upright like a guitar or harp, or seated with it on your lap.
You’ve seen LoSchiavo regularly at Gateway shows; he plays in Bellport and Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts and figures he’s performed in close to 500 shows in both, as well as in bands over the past two decades.
“Joe’s played for us for a number of years,” acknowledged Gateway artistic director Paul Allan. “He’s a great guitar player and what I like about him is that he doesn’t just play, he becomes part of the show. He’s also a really smart guy and a great resource. A recent example: I didn’t have a pedal steel and he said, ‘let me make a phone call,’ and he got one for us. He’s a good friend of the theatre.”
It was a 2002 Gateway show that incubated the idea for Loschiavo’s electric harp.
“I had 20 measures of rest and heard synthesizer musicians playing harp patches,” he said. “I heard all these wonderful harp-like sounds and said, ‘why can’t I do that but with an electric guitar-like sound?’ I knew the only way that could happen was with electric magnetic pickups, that’s how it differs from an acoustic harp. It has the sustain of a harp, but with all of the crazy guitar-like sounds. This has never been done.”
He began working seriously on the concept about four years ago.
Attorney Victor Yannacone, a pivotal founding board member of Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, has been handling LoSchiavo’s international patent application. Yannacone, who’s also a musician, plays baritone saxophone. He referred to LoSchiavo as one of the top five or six guitar virtuosos in the metropolitan area.
“He’s the go-to guitar player,” commented Yannacone. “He came to me one day and showed me a prototype of the Galaxy and I asked him to play and recognized it as truly unique. There hasn’t been a new electrical instrument since Les Paul.” Paul was an accomplished jazz, country and blues guitarist who was an innovator and inventor of the solid-body electric guitar.
LoSchiavo calls it the “Galaxy” electric harp because “it’s all encompassing. You can play rock, funk, disco, jazz, classical.”
Like any invention, the steps to completion include trial and error. His first prototype snapped. Too much tension on the strings. When he freehand shaped the eighth note, he knew he was onto something. As he put it, “then I said, ‘I’m undeterred.’”
He’s looking for investors. A Japanese distributor at the Anaheim show has already expressed interest, LoSchiavo said, and according to Yannacone, a production unit could easily be set up locally. “It’s created with local machining in a local shop and it’s easy to set up a manufacturing plant for this instrument,” Yannacone pointed out. “And it can be exported right out of Long Island MacArthur Airport.”
A graduate of Patchogue-Medford schools and a former board of education member, his first instrument of choice was drums. “You were 4 years old,” pointed out his sister, Cathy LoSchiavo, who was also in Anaheim passing out cards and steering potential customers to the Galaxy booth.
It took a little while for LoSchiavo to find his true musical love. There was a foray attraction to the trombone, but that didn’t last. Then in sixth grade he found his match with guitar and devoted significant time to the sound. He remembers playing in a Battle of the Bands in seventh grade when he was up against seniors, and didn’t think he did well. But after the competition, “some of the 12th-graders came over and said, ‘hey you, you played guitar. You were awesome,’” he said.
LoSchiavo teaches students guitar and banjo three days a week at Family Melody and also gives private lessons.
There are several models of the Galaxy electric harp, depending on your wallet, but the instrument is affordable, starting with a plain model at $1,299 with different designs up to $1,699. “One of the things I knew I wanted was for it to be visually appealing,” he said, looking at the psychedelic model. “But you can do any design you want.”
Besides it being a boon to musicians looking for a new sound, “I can teach any kid with reasonably good rhythmic skills simple melodies in 10 minutes,” he said.
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