In reflection, Cheshire’s John Ingrassia is thankful for the impact that music has had on his life. At age 11, he received his first guitar for Christmas and was inspired to become a musician after watching the MTV show “Headbangers Ball” back in the 1980s.
“The first time, I saw (the rock and roll band) Guns N’ Roses play “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” that is what I wanted to do,” recalled Ingrassia. “I’m a quiet person by nature, so music was a way to express myself.”
Ingrassia doesn’t think there are as many musicians today as when he was a child, but he is proud to have had the opportunity to share his craft with others. He performs with his own group, the Johnny I. Band, and teaches from his John Ingrassia Music studio.
“I’m 45 now and there is a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world. Growing up in the 1980s, there were a lot of great bands. I also grew up watching (skateboarder) Tony Hawk and BMX,” reflected Ingrassia, a guitarist and music instructor. “I think some of that stuff is lost today because people just text each other. We are in instant gratification right now, so if things don’t connect immediately, people move away from it. I want to show that those things still matter to people like me.”
At his studio, Ingrassia works with people ranging from age 4 to 70.
“Music plays a big role in people’s lives,” said Ingrassia.
Five years ago, Ingrassia started working with Music Matters, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group that focuses on utilizing music to bring joy to people’s lives. The organization plans and promotes activities for people to learn and perform music.
Through the program, Ingrassia has worked with musicians like Richie Ramone from the Ramones, as well as actors.
“I like to keep music going,” said Ingrassia.
He also loves how Music Matters supports charitable functions.
“My goal is to help kids, teenagers, and adults to get equipment for people with disabilities,” said Ingrassia.
For that effort, he has enjoyed partnering with Abilities Without Boundaries in Cheshire. Founded in 1978, the organization works to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have more productive lives.
About five years ago, Ingrassia learned about the program from a board member, Gerry Barker.
“He asked me if I would work with the group on some music things,” recalled Ingrassia. “It is a great organization.”
With members of AWB, Ingrassia plans music acts locally. He estimates that shows typically go for three hours.
“I’ve had the students warm up on some patriotic songs and then perform at some hospices,” stated Ingrassia. “Some (acts) are solos and some are duets.”
Ingrassia has a special place in his heart for performing in front of veterans. He feels that listening to service men and women has changed him for the better.
“I’m trying to help them and do more songs like ‘God Bless America,’” said Ingrassia. “Those people deserve a lot. It is easy for me to give back musically and friendship-wise.”
He is currently planning a pair of fundraising events. On April 30, students from his music studio and another five or six people from AWB will perform from 1 to 4 p.m. at Señor Pancho’s in Prospect.
Ingrassia said that there will be 10 to 12 acts during the afternoon.
“There will be a lot of rock and roll, classic rock, and grunge (songs). Those are the styles of music that I teach, but I’m open to a lot of things,” explained Ingrassia.
The event has free admission, but there will be a spot for attendees to make a donation to AWB.
“Since 2019, most of the shows we’ve done have been at Senor Pancho’s. There is a lawn there and the owner is very supportive,” stated Ingrassia. “People can donate money and or listen to the music.”
On June 22, Ingrassia and some of his friends will perform a warm-up act for Herbie Hancock at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.
“With these (two) shows, I hope that people can raise money toward getting sports and bicycle equipment for people with disabilities,” said Ingrassia.
He has also had success getting donations from former professional athletes. Ingrassia has reached out to the media as well as sports franchises about his causes.
“You have to search for it, but if you can get to them (the athletes), they are excited about giving back,” explained Ingrassia.
Ingrassia is happy that former National Football League player David Howard will be sending gardening equipment and signed footballs for AWB. Howard played for the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots, and the Minnesota Vikings.
“Once you get one guy from the leagues, more reach out to you,” said Ingrassia, who is also now working with the Pawtucket Red Sox baseball team.
Ingrassia says that football has been his favorite sport for a long time.
“I’m a Patriots fan going back to the 1990s,” reflected Ingrassia. “I played football through high school, but I also love baseball and hockey.”
On social media, Ingrassia has started doing interviews with former athletes, including National Hockey League goalkeeper John Vanbiesbrouck.
“I was a fan of his growing up with the New York Rangers,” recalled Ingrassia. “I’ve found that a lot of the athletes also love music, so we have something in common.”