This week I welcome back singer, songwriter and anti-bullying fundraiser Anthony Gargiula.
You know, this whole interviewing thing is actually Anthony’s fault. When I met him at the 30th anniversary performance of Mahopac High School’s ILLUSION rock ensemble last March, and discovered his beginning singing career, I suggested to his mother that we do an interview for my website. That got the ball rolling, and I’ve been at it ever since. Anthony hasn’t exactly been resting on his laurels, either, as you’ll see in the interview below, in which I chat with Anthony and his father Rich.
ME: Okay, let’s start out with Bowling Against Bullying. Remind us how you got started.
ANTHONY: Bowling Against Bullying started last year. My social studies teacher gave my whole class a challenge to change the word in any way we could. So I wanted to do something with bullying. I thought of doing an event that could raise money and bring awareness to the subject. So I came up with Bowling Against Bullying and I really enjoyed it so I decided to do it again this year.
ME: How much money did you raise last year and how many people were involved?
ANTHONY: Last year we raised just under $500 and I would say there were 20-30 people there, lots of close friends. This year there’s room for 300 people and possibly more. We have 4 hours, 2 two hour sessions, but may extend that depending on how many bowlers there are.
ME: How can people contribute if they can’t attend? Can people send checks?
RICH: They can mail a check to Bowling Against Bullying PO Box 433, Glenmont NY 12077 if they can’t attend. If we go to year three, we may add paypal and an actual website. It’s grown so much that keeping up with it has become a full time job. What we have done is go to people who Anthony has sung for and asked them to be involved, and that’s worked out very well.
ME: I saw something on the Facebook page about corporate sponsorship. That’s a new aspect, right?
ANTHONY: Right now we’re working with a local counter top company called Solid Surface Craftsman, Inc. The owner, Alan Boulant, is one of our dancer’s fathers. He is a diamond sponsor with a $1,000 donation. Also, SIS Insurance and Financial Services and Met Life are a Gold Sponsor with a $500 donation. More are coming, I’ll keep you posted.
Albany Broadcasting has decided they want to be my exclusive media sponsor and they own 6 local radio stations which will be covering the event. I’ll be on all the stations’ morning shows to promote the event.
RICH: April 1st they’ll start advertising the event on their websites, and then I think April 14th the radio spots will start. On the Thurs/Fri before the event, Anthony will go to each station and do the morning shows. Hopefully he’ll sing on them as well.
ME: Other than bowling, what else will be going on at the Lanes that day?
RICH: Anthony and his dance crew will be performing. There will be a magician, a face-painter, a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle … a pretty nice event. And of course the bowling. You know, families are buying whole lanes to be able to bowl together. We’ll have the local minor league baseball team & hockey teams mascots also.
ANTHONY: The Facebook page has really helped.
RICH: There’s a 70 year old man in Canada who read about the event on Facebook and wanted to donated $70 for his 70th birthday because he was bullied horribly as a child and still remembers it, and can’t believe Anthony is making such a stand at such a young age.
ME: I’ve said since I met Anthony at the Illusion reunion and we did that first interview that you really are one remarkably “together” kid, and how great it is that you’re committed to a cause like this. One of the great things about all the interviews I’m doing is meeting so many teens like you, who are committed to causes outside themselves – whether it’s bullying, cancer, MDA, homelessness. Almost every kid has had something outside of their career that they wanted to discuss with me.
RICH: Anthony, I don’t know about you, but I know when we were kids, all I wanted to do was play with my friends and hang out …, and these kids nowadays are so focused and are in fact changing the world.
ME: I was so shy at Anthony’s age, all I wanted to do was sit someplace and read comic books! Anthony, what else would you like people to know about Bowling Against Bullying?
ANTHONY: I want everyone to know that I’ve always been really focused on trying to change bullying because it’s a huge issue for teens, for adults, for younger kids, it’s insane and out of control. It’s something I’m passionate about and I wanted to do this. My birthday is the day after the event, and instead of a 13th birthday party I decided to do this again. My goal is to raise $10,000.
ME: That’s great. So what do you do with the money raised?
RICH: Last year he took the money and donated it to Teens Against Bullying (a charity that Demi Lovato promotes) and that was all fine and good, and as we were very excited about that, but it was a little bit of a bummer that you don’t get to see what good your money is doing. So this year, we’re going to use the money to bring in anti-bullying speakers and programming to local schools, YMCAs, churches … whatever we can do (as far as the money we raise will go) . We’re meeting with principals to see what kinds of programs they would like.
We want to do programs in gyms. Performances and such. Bring in speakers. There’s a woman in Michigan who does national anti-bullying work, and she’s been in touch with us. We’d like to have at least one of the events have her educating adults in one room while the kids are entertained and educated in another way in another room. We’ll see how that goes. It’s a work in progress.
ME: You know I have to ask, Ant, since I’m a big fan … what’s going on with your music?
ANTHONY: I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting lately. I wrote six new originals. I’ve been to Nashville three times for meetings. I’m hopefully going to start recording soon.
ME: Awesome! Can’t wait to hear the new stuff, so get to that recording soon, please! What appearances do you have coming up?
RICH: He’ll be at Madison Square Garden singing the National Anthem for the Knicks again. Their entertainment coordinator told us, “I wouldn’t go a whole season without Anthony coming down to sing.” It just took us this long to work out this season’s appearance.
ANTHONY: We’re looking at some summer concerts too.
RICH: There’s interest from Boston, NYC and Nashville. We’re just kind of letting it happen organically.
ME: That seems to be a running theme among the parents of performing teens that I’ve spoken to lately, sort of bucking the stereotype of The Pushy Stage Mom. Making connections, staying on top of things but not pushing so hard you because that can actually turn the opportunities away.
ANTHONY: Nashville was cool. I was there in July, August, and September.
RICH: He played at the Bluebird Café. From its’ reputation you expect this huge stadium but it’s really this sort of small bar / restaraunt. People line up hours early to put their name in to perform, and the show runners just pull people’s names from the hat and say “you’re on tonight.” It worked out that Anthony got to perform, and it was great.
ME: Anthony, you’ve become friends with country singer Jimmy Wayne, right?
ANTHONY: I loved meeting Jimmy Wayne. We’ve become friends, and he’s a really nice guy. We’ve been talking about my next visit. We had Mexican Food together. He is really passionate about his charity and he has inspired me to make a difference too. I’ve also become close with Melinda Doolittle. We had coffee at Starbucks last time we were in Nashville. She actually donated signed CD’s and a sweatshirt for me to use in the silent auction at the Bowling Event.
ME: Very cool. If I was going to be there, instead of halfway across the country, I’d bid on the stuff Melinda donated! Okay, I think we need to wrap this phone call up. I won’t ask you about your favorite book, since we covered that last time … unless your favorite book has changed!
ANTHONY: I’d love to talk about my favorite book, it did change. It’s definitely The Hunger Games! I’m really into it, absolutely into it. I haven’t quite finished the 3rd one yet but I really love them and can’t stop reading. I can’t wait for the movie!
ME: haha, I think Suzanne Collins should start paying me for all the free advertising I’m giving those books. I think almost everyone I’ve interviewed in the past month has talked about them! Okay, thanks again Anthony! Talk to you soon!
ANTHONY & RICH: Thanks!