Through music, Andy Vaggalis learns about the world and himself.
Vaggalis, a music teacher, has been playing the bass guitar since he was 14 years old. For the past three years, Vaggalis has played the instrument in four different bands.
“It’s the instrument I feel most naturally drawn to,” Vaggalis said. “The feeling when I’m locked in, laying down a groove with a drummer, is a feeling unlike many others: It’s meditative, really.”
After acquiring a guitar in eighth grade, Vaggalis started to make his own music. After graduating from Lincoln Pius X Catholic High School, Vaggalis decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to receive a Bachelor of Music.
“I attended UNL for three years and changed my major three times before taking time off to work and find what I’m truly passionate about,” Vaggalis said. “I’m auditioning for the music composition school at UNL later this month, so hopefully I’ll be back next school year.”
Vaggalis plays guitar, piano, bass and ukulele, and he is the vocalist in his band Bandy Vaggalis. The Lincoln-based ensemble plays easy-going music with influences like Ben Folds, The Beatles and Vulfpeck. He incorporates these instruments in the four bands that he performs with — The Wildwoods, Swaul Pope, Jack Rodenband and Bandy Vaggalis — while balancing work as a music teacher.
“Any energy not put toward work or other bands I’m in is put into my songs and band,” Vaggalis said.
Bandy Vaggalis has had a few different lineups over its short existence, but its first debut was in September 2019.
Vaggalis said he picked his band members for specific reasons. With Jack Rodenburg on keyboard, Harrison ElDorado on drums, Chloe Gose on violin, Noah Gose on bass, Dean Dalton and Tony Connot on guitar and Vaggalis on vocals, Bandy Vaggalis was complete.
“Each person in the band contributes something different, but everyone is wildly supportive, creative and talented. Everyone’s spirit of ingenuity and confidence in the group has stayed consistent, which helps us succeed in every show,” he said.
Dalton, a junior at the University of Kansas and the guitarist, has known Vaggalis since second grade. The two grew up with each other; they created their first band, wrote their first songs and learned about the music industry together.
“When I learned how to play guitar in eighth grade, he learned how to play bass, and we were hooked on learning as many of our favorite songs as we could. The Beatles seemed to be the format we gravitated to the most,” Dalton said. “Andy would sing and play Paul McCartney’s parts while I’d sing and play John Lennon’s parts, and that’s kind of how we started writing music together.”
Dalton said he joined the band because he enjoyed Vaggalis’ creative process and loved exchanging ideas with him.
“Andy’s always really open to other people’s ideas,” Dalton said. “He always wants to accommodate and showcase his friends even though we’d be happy to take a backseat and let him run the show.”
Vaggalis said he gathers inspiration from relationships, friends and songwriters. He said he is comfortable playing folk tunes with hints of funk, rock, pop and jazz.
“For the most part, the style is pretty chill and easy-going … I like to think a lot of what I listen to finds its way into whatever I’m writing,” Vaggalis said.
After creating this band, Vaggalis continues to search for his individual and his collective stage presence.
“I’ve been so used to playing in other people’s bands that leading the show has been a process as far as finding my voice,” Vaggalis said.
Making music doesn’t always come easy for Vaggalis. He said writing music is a process that takes time. Since Bandy Vaggalis’ first show in September, the group has written seven songs. The writing process has kept them busy, as the band hopes to release its first EP before the year ends. According to Vaggalis, his goal is to make honest lyrics to reflect on what he loves.
“Don’t be afraid to find those people, passions and little things that bring you joy and spend as much time with those things as possible,” Vaggalis said.