The Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival is known for great authentic Italian cuisine, but it’s also known for the ethnic entertainment.
‘The Faiella’s’ are a father and son duo who have been playing the festival for 14 years. Tate Blanchard sat down with the mandolin players to learn more about their story of keeping an Italian family tradition alive.
Benny and Matthew Faiella are a father-son mandolin duo who have come to be an Italian Fest Favorite. They have been playing the festival since 2003 after they were seen playing at an Italian Festival in Pittsburgh and they were invited to come to the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival. The love of music is a family tradition for the Faiella’s that goes back to their roots in Italy, “My dad taught me the guitar when I was 13, my father is James Egidio Faiella and he’s from the Introdacqua, Abruzzo region of Italy,” said Eugene ‘Benny’ Faiella.
This father and son travel all over playing their music at weddings, parties, and festivals. Matt got started when he was 15. Benny tried to get his son to play when he was 13, but it was two years later when Matt heard his dad playing one of his favorite rocks songs that he decided to learn, “I never knew if there were going to be five parts to the song or 10 parts,” Matthew said.
The two live in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and they say they love coming to Wheeling to be part of such a great festival that celebrates their heritage. If you were to come down to the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, you can catch ‘The Faiella’s’ starting Friday at 6 and Sunday at 3, you’ll notice they don’t use sheet music and the incredible part of that is, they know and play about a hundred songs off the top of their heads, “When you’re reading, you’re playing fine, but if you take that paper away from you, you can’t play. You can play that song ten times, read it and play it, but if you take that paper away and play it without the music, you can’t do it,” Benny said.