BY OLIVIA DORFMAN
Flexibility is a running theme in Travis Puntarelli’s life and career. He plays multiple instruments (his website lists everything from guitar and accordion to whistles and ukulele), is restless and widely traveled, and performs eclectic music in diverse venues.
Though born in Los Angeles, the 32-year-old musician says he’s really from Bloomington, nurtured here by family and community.
He studied violin with Donna Bricht (“She taught Joshua Bell,” he notes) and still plays on occasion with former piano teacher Bob Tamborrino.
Puntarelli left Bloomington High School North as a senior. “I went traveling, hitchhiking around for five years,” he says. He ultimately acquired his GED certificate and entered Indiana University, majoring in Italian. Then dance. Then theater. Then ethnomusicology. “I take a couple of years off every semester,” he explains. “I have junior standing.”
Puntarelli describes his style as “acoustic, mostly folk, some faux hip hop—with ‘folk’ meaning the people, getting the audience involved.”
His current project is Balladir. “Bringing back the bard style, with storytelling and old music,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in fantasy and the romanticism of medieval times.” His group, Balladirs, includes four vocalists for “lots of harmony.”
Recently back from a tour out West, Puntarelli has a busy schedule. The middle Wednesday of every month he’s at The Venue Fine Art & Gifts. Twice a month he plays piano at the Orbit Room pinball bar. Once or twice a month he does folk nights at BloomingTea. During Gallery Walk, he’s at the FAR Center for Contemporary Arts. FAR owner David Moore recently commissioned Puntarelli to create a work based on the Gallery Walk experience. “I recorded sounds from the streets and added music, then drew pictures,” Puntarelli says. The resulting EP (extended play recording) and book were released in March.
Puntarelli also is collaborating with builder Daniel Weddle of Carpenter Owl on “tiny concerts in a tiny house.” Weddle has constructed a 16-seat concert car for short, half-hour concerts during the April Gallery Walk.
“I have really good support,” Puntarelli says. “Some really prominent people in the community really help me out. But I need an agent. I need a ton of help.”
For a schedule, to hear his music, or to book your own balladir, visit Puntarelli’s website at balladir.com.