Showcasing talents

Mark Anthony Rizzo and Nacci Palloto performed pop and worship songs

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Dozens of students gathered in the LaHaye Event Space Tuesday, Jan. 26 for the debut performances of musicians Mark Anthony Rizzo and Anthony Benacci (Nacci) Palloto.

Hosted by Liberty University’s Student Activities, the concert was a night of entertainment and an intimate time of worship. Rizzo and guitarist Tanner Ingold took center stage as the first performers of the night with an electric-acoustic combo.

With his Ibanez “Mother of Pearl” guitar in hand, Rizzo, a Liberty sophomore majoring in music and worship, welcomed the crowd with three original songs, all of which depicted his passion to surrender to and serve God in all he does.

“I wrote this song, (‘My Desire, My Song to Sing’) because despite everything I want and everything I shoved in my face, I need to remember that my desire is Christ, and he is what drives me,” Rizzo said.
Influenced by musicians such as Hillsong United and Brandon Heath, Rizzo explained much of his creative process comes from past experiences and current struggles that remind him to remain genuine while pursuing his goals.

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“I’m different in that when I write songs, it’s usually worship music,” Rizzo said. “When I write it comes from a really honest and authentic place. It just has to be real. It can’t be fake. … I just have to experience something first.”

Rizzo announced his upcoming EP, “I’m Nothing,” will begin recording and production in February. The EP is titled after an original song that expresses Rizzo’s desire to spread the promises of
God’s faithfulness.

“There was a point in my life where I felt nothing but desperation,” Rizzo said. “I broke it down to the basics of Jesus’ promises and Scripture, which showed me that I am nothing without God. … He is
my everything.”

As Rizzo ended his set with covers of Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Coldplay’s “Yellow,” inviting the crowd to clap and sing along under the green and blue beams of light, Palloto and his seven-man band were gearing up to showcase their energetic and indie-rock sound.

Before the lights hit the stage, the soft melodies from pianists Cassidy Johnson and Nathaniel Totten filled the room while chords shifting from guitarists Jonathan Simon and Joey Watson began to strike.

And then all at once, a rainbow of lights transcended as razor-sharp tones from violinist Braxton Mann and the roars of Callum Gale’s drums erupted from the speakers.

With a similar sound to Tenth Avenue North, Palloto, worship leader for both Elevation-Roanoke and the Thomas Road Baptist Church campus in Danville, opened up strong before deciding to get up close and personal with a special acoustic solo of his song “Mountains,” which he said holds a special place in his heart.

“It is a very personal song for me,” Palloto said. “It was with that song that God really changed my whole point of view in life.”

Palloto explained the inspiration for his songs comes from various passages such as Psalm 139, past experiences and struggles or even little encounters he has throughout his day-to-day routine. However, it is his calling to serve God that gives his music meaning.

“Where he’s sending me is what these songs are all about,” Palloto said.

Whistles and cheers were heard from the crowd as the inspiring, worship-themed solo came to a close and the band returned to the stage for the spirited song “Centuries Collide” and a cover of Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars.”

Liberty student Samuel Cooper, who stood front row for both shows, said he was satisfied with the performances he heard.

“The quality was extremely high,” Cooper said. “I was really impressed with the song-writing and lyric form for both of them. Some of it reminded me of Scripture, and I was just like ‘Wow! What great lyrics!’ I just really loved it.”

As the night came to a close, the music began to fade and lights dimmed to black, the lyrics of Palloto’s songs were mirrored in his desire to portray Christ to the world in all that he does and inspire others to do the same.

“I hope that everyone can see God through me,” Palloto said. “I just hope that someone hears (my music) and that they can better understand what is going through my head or better understand what they’re going through. … I am just so ready to be used, and that is my dream right now.”

ELLIOTT is a feature reporter.


  • i am so very proud of my grandson. he not only displays talent, but a love for life and a direction in and for his future. God bless you nacci, i love you.

  • I don’t know how to meet both of you, but would love to next time I visit liberty. Great job for putting God first!

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