This electric violin pioneer has conquered the desert—and beyond.
Growing up in the tiny upstate New York town of Lewiston, Nina Di Gregorio might not have seemed destined to move to glitzy Las Vegas—and at the behest of Wayne Newton, no less. But the young violinist went on to share the stage with some of the biggest names in show business. Then she founded one of Vegas’s most successful booking agencies, Bella Entertainment Group, which is gearing up for a busy New Year’s Eve and a major expansion in 2014.
Di Gregorio’s Bella Electric Strings came about when the savvy musician noticed that there were more potential gigs than a single string quartet could handle. Her company now has about 25 classically trained female string players, including a few in LA, and 2014 will see her expand to Orlando, Dallas, San Francisco, and New York. “We can play four shows on the same night,” she says. And she’ll have at least that many bookings on New Year’s Eve. Prior to that, they’ll play at the Wranglers game on December 16, as well as various charity and holiday events, including Venetian’s Winter in Venice program, running throughout this month.
Playing exclusively rock music, her quartets perform 200 shows a year, including ticketed events and as headliners at music festivals. Because nearly 85 percent of their bookings are conventions, more than half of their work is right here in Vegas.
“I write all of the music,” says Di Gregorio, 32. “All of the girls learn the same songs, and I train them for hair and makeup and pick out the outfits. The Bella brand is very important to me. Our girls are total rock stars.”
Di Gregorio honed her stage image while performing with the likes of Beyoncé, Shakira, and Toni Braxton. In that spirit, all of her “Bella girls” appear in sparkly, Vegas-worthy minidresses.
“We play our version of classic rock and Top 40,” she says, adding that effects pedals allow her violinists to do solos that sound like they’re playing an electric guitar—and with rock star moves to go with it: “We’re wireless, so we walk out into the crowd.”
Di Gregorio’s entrepreneurial spirit dates back to high school. Although she played in her school’s orchestra, she also had her own ensemble—Sweet Expressions String Quartet—which booked weddings and other local events before she was old enough to drive (entailing some help from her parents). “I was the only one writing music,” she says. “I would sneak arrangements in to see how they sounded.”
After college in Buffalo, she moved to Las Vegas to play with Newton and get her master’s degree in violin performance at UNLV. She also began to work with Yamaha, a connection that would prove fortuitous. “A few years later, I got their endorsement,” she says. “Once I got my electric violin from them, things exploded.”