While well-known actress Petrina Bromley is a member of the musical’s cast, Di Nillo plays in the show’s band.
Di Nillo, who was born in Grand Falls-Windsor, took time recently to do a phone interview with The Advertiser about his career.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Grand Falls in ’74.
When did you leave Central Newfoundland and where did you grow up?
I left Grand Falls when I was six months old. I grew up in St. John’s.
Your family moved there?
Yes. Dad took a job as the chef at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.
Are your parents still living?
Mom was Eileen Le Prieur (now deceased). She was from Port-au-Port... Dad (Vince Di Nillo) still lives in St. John’s. He was the chef for the Holiday Inn for 18 years and chef for the Battery for about six years.
When did you graduate from Memorial University’s School of Music?
1996 and then I took a year off. I played in St. John’s with Ron Hynes for most of the year. Then, I started my master’s at McGill in Montreal.
What attracted you to music, initially?
When I was five, my mom took me to see her brother (Roddie Lee) at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s. It was his first year playing (drums) with the Carlton Showband... I was stage left, looking through the wings at my uncle. I looked at my mom and said, that’s what I want to do.
You went on to play drums in numerous bands?
There was a Sir Wilfred Grenfell music camp in Corner Brook. I went there in ’85. I was 11. It was unbelievable to go to a place, away from your parents for nine days, with like-minded individuals. Up to that point, you’re just a geek at school because you love music so much. But, when you go to that camp, your peculiarity is everybody else’s peculiarity. So, everybody there was going to Gower Youth Band back in St. John’s. So I had to do the same thing. That band was amazing. It was a fantastic experience.
(In a story published in MUN’s “Gazette” in February, Di Nillo noted that he was a member of the Gower Youth Band, Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra, Holy Heart Choirs as well as numerous musicals).
Tell me about your career and where you’ve performed?
After my master’s, I spent most of my career in Toronto. I started freelancing as a percussionist, mostly for orchestras... There was a lot of theatre... I was a jack of all musical trades. My tenth year in Toronto I got to sub on “Wicked” the musical as the drummer. I played about a dozen shows one fall. Then, about a year after that, they hired me to start their second national tour. I went on the road with them for about seven years around North America. Then, I got a call about this show (“Come From Away.)”
How did that opportunity come about?
I happened to be in Connecticut with a musical director, a friend of mine... There was a place there called Goodspeed Musicals... It’s where my friend grew up so he wanted to show me the theatre. We went in for a tour. They all knew him. And they heard I was from Newfoundland and told me they were doing a reading for a show about Newfoundland and what happened after 9/11. I said, let the powers that be know I’m a musician from Newfoundland. But nothing came of it... It turns out that the sound designer for “Wicked” was involved with the show (“Come From Away”)... He asked if I was interested in playing with “Come From Away.)” So, I knew I had an in but it wasn’t really connecting. Then, when I was in St. John’s, I bumped into Bob Hallett (formerly of Great Big Sea). I knew he was involved in the show... He went to bat for me and contacted them for me.
What instruments do you play in the musical?
I play percussion.
How does it feel to be part of “Come From Away”?
I feel extremely proud... Myself and Petrina are the focus point for a lot of Newfoundlanders coming to New York and that’s wonderful. I relish the opportunity to meet people coming to see the show... It’s a constant of going for breakfast, doing a show, after the show taking friends out, showing them backstage.... going out for dinner with them... It’s amazing. I don’t feel overtired. It’s exhausting but it’s a wonderful exhaustion.
What will people remember most about the musical?
I hope its kindness. Just the knowledge that there is, within everybody, this unconditional willingness to help.