Year-long Sunday Service gig with rapper Kanye West kept Gina Luciani on her toes
Story By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner
Playa Vista flutist Gina Luciani performed with rapper Kayne West at Coachella and his Sunday Service dates throughout the last year. She learned something most people would expect from the controversial West: Be prepared for anything.
“Literally, during the Coachella set, he was rewriting the setlist in the middle of it,” Luciani says with a laugh. “If you watch the video they posted, you can see him rewriting the list.”
“Obviously, coming from a classical background, you’re taught to practice one thing over and over until it’s perfect. This is an entirely different thing. You have to go with whatever is happening around you.”
She landed the job with the “Jesus is King” rapper through an app for professional musicians looking for placement. She was entering an influential music conference when she received a call about a prospective gig.
“I was on my way into NAMM [National Association of Music Merchants], and that was a Friday,” she says. “I had literally just gone through security and I got a call from a music director saying there’s this gig this weekend with Kanye West — am I available? I was supposed to be at NAMM on Saturday and Sunday, but obviously I changed things.”
West was a hands-on performer, and she enjoyed watching his vision come to life.
“He’s involved in the entire process,” she says. “He’s not like other artists, where they show up and perform and let the music director do most of the work. It’s definitely all him.”
Hailing from Utah, Luciani began pursuing music at age 4 after seeing her favorite movie, “The Little Mermaid,” which featured a character playing the recorder.
“I asked my mom and she said it was a flute,” she says. “When I was about 13, I decided to go into music and play for films.”
She earned her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from the Colburn Conservatory of Music and her Master of Music degree from USC. Soon, she started working in the industry.
“The Kanye West gig was a little different from what I normally do,” she says. “I usually do one-offs with artists. I also record for a lot of TV, films and videogame soundtracks. I get a big variety.”
With her work, Luciani has garnered more than 83,000 followers across her social media platforms. She also works as a studio musician, having recorded for projects like “Lady and the Tramp,” “The Simpsons,” “The Nun,” “Maniac,” “Planet Earth 2,” “Halo Wars 2,” “Chef’s Table,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “The Middle.” Luciani has also performed with Ariana Grande, Josh Groban, Billy Idol, DMX, Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign, Pentatonix and Weird Al.
“A big aspect of my career is playing for TV, film and videogames,” says Luciani, whose two albums are available on iTunes and her website, ginaluciani.com. “I’m really excited. I just played on the ‘Lady and the Tramp’ soundtrack on Disney Plus.”
“I also do remote recordings from the house. I have a home studio, so I’m able to work with composers all over the world. A lot of musicians have found me through my social media accounts, and I’ve gotten to work with them. It’s truly incredible what you can do with the internet. The Kanye West thing wouldn’t have happened without the internet.”
West recently switched up the instrumentation in his songs and no longer needed a flutist.
“It was just a blast to play,” she says. “I’m excited about my career. Just because you live in Los Angeles and go to certain schools, it doesn’t guarantee anything. I’m thrilled I can actually be doing this. My dream actually came true.”