Harmonica Heaven: Fourth-Grader Wows Them All

Northmont Elementary student takes the Spring Harp Fest contest for second year in a row.
Go to original article in La Mesa Patch online Newsletter here.

At the 13th annual Spring Harp Fest, Luciano Costello’s luck held for the last time. Next year, he’ll be unknown no more.
Luciano, a 9-year-old harmonica prodigy who attends Northmont Elementary School as a fourth-grader, won the Unknown Players Jam contest for the second year in a row at the Harry Griffen Park amphitheater.

Two dozen amateur players ponied up $10 each to play 20-30 seconds with a professional band, attempting to wow the crowd and win a trophy.

The MC implored the audience to cheer and applaud for the best player, and not just the cutest. But the crowd decided Luciano was the complete package and he brought his silver-and-blue trophy back to parents Paul and Teresa Costello of Fletcher Hills.

Luciano says he’s played harmonica since age 6, and is self-taught. He also plays the bass guitar. His hero is Willie “Sonny Boy” Williamson, the legendary King of the Harmonica.

For event organizers Budd Willis, Robb Bower and “Harmonica John” Frazer, the heroes were the musicians who played for free, the volunteers and others. Among them was banker John Vigil, who called himself Willis’ “slave extraordinaire” and set-up helper.

“It’s all for the good of music programs in the schools,” with proceeds handled by Blues Lovers United of San Diego, Willis said as hundreds lounged on blankets under cloudless skies with temperatures in the mid-80s.

Last year, $500 to $800 was netted after expenses, said Bower, who handled event publicity.

Next year, Frazer told Luciano on the stage, “I want you to put a band together, OK?”

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