MILTON — Heads were bobbing, toes were tapping and phones were recording. It's not every day that students are so moved in a classroom setting, however Friday showed the power of music, and the brilliance of a world-class musician.

Guitarist Luca Stricagnoli, all the way from Italy, performed for students in Eric Bergmueller's master class Friday morning at Milton Area High School. His emotive playing brought smiles to students' faces, especially when the guitarist played his version of the Guns 'N Roses classic, "Sweet Child O Mine."

An original composition featured Stricagnoli placing the acoustic guitar on his lap as he played the neck almost as if it were a steel guitar, while incorporating percussive taps on the strings and fretboard, as well as the body of the guitar.

The result from Stricagnoli, and the single guitar, was something that may have otherwise included several musicians.

Stricagnoli, who plays acoustic guitars, incorporates a unique fingerstyle into his playing, earning the 29-year-old world traveler the label virtuoso. He has been featured in Guitar World magazine — among dozens of others — and his videos have garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube.

"It's beyond words how lucky we are to have him here," said Bergmueller. "For me, it's not just how gifted he is, but he talked about how he composes... From the simplest concept, and just building and building.

"That's what a master class has to be for kids."

Stricagnoli told students he hopes they can expand their own creativity on the guitar.

"I hope that you can be a little inspired today," he said. "If you have some ideas, I hope you can develop your own creativity, not just by using my techniques, but by developing your own style." 

Friday's performance was but one of 21 workshops in area schools Stricagnoli has taken part in thanks to the generosity of the West Branch Arts Consortium, and, in part, the Degenstein Foundation. Warrior Run and Selinsgrove were two of many area schools to welcome Stricagnoli into their classrooms.

"He's played for third and fourth graders, fifth and sixth graders, and high school students," said consortium President Dave Morgan. 

Some performances were for small classes, while others were for larger groups. Stricagnoli spent time with students any chance he got, including Friday, when he answered questions and signed phones and more.

"He's so gracious," said Bergmueller. "This is just... wow."

Stricagnoli's most recent release is "What If?" features the guitarist exploring even more approaches to his guitar playing. He picked up the instrument at age 10, and studied classical guitar until age 16. 

He's touring the album and is scheduled to play the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts tonight in Owings Mills, Md.

Chris Brady is managing editor at The Standard-Journal and can be reached at chris@standard-journal.com.

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