Who: James Mastrianni
Where: Caffè Lena
Congratulations on being elected Board Chair at Caffè Lena Where are you originally from?
- Niskayuna originally. I’ve been in Saratoga Springs since 1994.
Do you recall the first time you came to the café?
- I know exactly when it was. The spring of 1990. I had a guitar teacher who was playing a show.
You play guitar?
- I’ve been a musician for 40 years, a pianist and guitarist. I’ve played with The Refrigerators, in Dead cover bands, with jam bands and duos with guitars. I have a recording studio in my house and release music of my own as well as produce other folks.
What do you think of the café since the renovation?
- It’s awesome. I think it has the chance to be one of the best listening rooms in the country - capable of attracting high caliber performers to a great sounding intimate space and in an awesome community. We also have the capability now to be a full-fledged studio and offer production services to artists – off-hours recordings, or live recordings. We can do audio. The next phase is video. If you’re an up-and-coming artist, we can create these videos that go on YouTube and can go viral. So, there’s an opportunity to be a little video production studio as well. That’s what we’re shooting for. We’ll see if we can get there.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
- A professional hockey player. I was a hockey addict from 5 to age 15 and grew up ice skating rink in back yard. But, I couldn’t do both – play piano and hockey. I was missing my piano recitals and it got to the point where I had to choose. I chose music.
If you had the opportunity to play music with anyone, who would that be?
- It’s hard to pick just one. I’m a huge fan of Lake Street Dive. And if I could hang with the guys from Snarky Puppy, that would be unbelievable.
What stands out to you about Saratoga?
- I think there are some very interesting people and businesses who are doing very interesting things. There’s a heck of a talent pool of very committed folks in this community and that’s what I like about it.
A Saratoga entrepreneur and business owner, since 2007 Mastrianni has served as president of a company that administers federally funded affordable housing programs in 11 counties. What is the vision in the near future for Caffè Lena?
- We’ve built this tremendous infrastructure and now we have a real organization to run. We have to deal with things like human resource issues and health insurance, employee handbooks and contracts. I’ve done these things my whole career - these things you do in business. It wasn’t too long ago, if we ran out of copier paper we would check the bank balance to see if we could buy some paper. We’re a very different organization now. The nuts and bolts stuff, and that’s where the café is now.
Who would play you in a film about your life?
- George Clooney, of course. I’m often mistaken for him.
Mastrianni was joined by five new Board members the famed music venue: Tom Kernan, Margo Olson, Christopher Shaw, Kevin Veitch and Joanne Dittes Yepsen. They join current Board members Kevin Bright, Eric Brodwin, Michael Eck, Wanda Fischer, Kira Karbocus, Peter Martin, Bob Rehm, George Ward and Brent Wilkes.