When you are as talented as Nick Raia, FSC ’17, you have your pick of ways to express yourself.

Raia, who has been FSC’s Web Application Developer for five years, has breathtaking multidimensional coding expertise, which is unparalleled across the College. But when he is not developing innovation on the web and wrestling with troubleshooting coding challenges, he is playing one of his many guitars, writing and recording music, and producing impressive artwork.

During summer 2021, Raia sketched and painted scenes on one of his 18 guitars from one of his favorite movies, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The images are eerily similar to the ones in the movie. “I love Tim Burton’s art style,” he said. Burton conceived and produced the film. Raia also recorded a YouTube video of himself playing a song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

“A guitar is not only about the feel; it’s an aesthetic thing,” said Raia, in explaining his desire to personalize one of his instruments. “My guitar hero is (the late) Eddie Van Halen and he created a signature design on his guitar.  It’s about taking an existing thing and giving it a new look.” 

Raia spent about a month and a half completing the work; first he sketched the images with pencil and then drew over them with a permanent fine- point black paint marker.  “The problem was if you made a mistake, you could not fix it,” Raia said about his artwork. “And I spent a lot of time waiting for stuff to dry so I could keep working on it.”

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” was not his first venture into guitar-art. Raia also is a fan of the illustrations in the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and was almost done covering the same guitar with those images when he changed his mind, sanded them all off, painted the guitar white so he had a clean “canvas,” and started over with the “Nightmare” theme.

That particular guitar has been in his collection for years; Raia started playing guitar when he was 5. While a student at Kings Park High School, he played in a number of short-lived bands before deciding he’d rather write and record music on his own. 

His father had been a drummer and encouraged Raia to learn to play the drums, but after listening to some of his father’s music on vinyl—including Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix—he knew he was going to stay with the guitar.

“I was a really shy kid—the guitar let me ‘speak’ and made people listen, especially growing up in a loud family,” Raia said.  “I could turn up my amp.” He loaded up his iPod with music from his father’s collection, none of it more recent than the 1990s.

Raia met his wife, Olivia, at Kings Park High, and she convinced him to join the school chorus, even though he had not done much singing. “We bonded over music,” he said. “She got me interested in musicals.” 

Also in high school, Raia discovered his other love: computers and technology. He decided to pursue music for fun and use it as an outlet.  “Someone said to me, ‘If music is a job, you could lose your passion for it.’  I like to play and write what I like. With nothing at stake, you have more freedom.”

Raia knew he wanted to attend college close to home—he had too much equipment for a dorm room—and while in high school attended a college fair with local schools. The FSC representative was the only one from all the colleges to speak with him one-on-one and answer questions, he said, which impressed him. He enrolled at FSC and while majoring in computer science, was a work-study student in the Department of Marketing and Communications. As a sophomore, he designed a “gadget” for the College’s content management system, which won a national contest. “I did more higher-level programming than most students,” he said.  “It gave me a lot of confidence.”

After graduating, he applied for a job in the Marketing & Communications Department, and beat out other candidates with more experience. Now he handles coding for most of the College. “Coding is like a puzzle,” he said. “The answer may not be immediately clear—but there are multiple ways to approach a programming challenge. There is always something you can do differently.”

Raia also continues to try new past-times. “My wife said my hobby is collecting hobbies,” he joked. “I enjoy drawing; when I draw, everything slows down. I really like any kind of craft, including woodworking.” 

The couple recently moved to a house in Kings Park and Raia plans to convert one bedroom into a recording studio. “Recording is a whole art itself,” Raia noted. “I’ve recorded my wife singing, and we’re working on duets.”  While his wife sometimes says he has too many guitars, Raia said, she also said she is proud of how he grew with the guitar and started seriously playing.

For his next project, Raia bought a kit so he can build a guitar from scratch.  He is considering a Farmingdale-theme featuring school mascot Rambo. “There is a guitar called a Stratocaster,” he said. “This would be a Rambo-caster.”