When he made his First Communion, Anthony Gargiula got a website and business cards. He has his own LLC and aims to form a publishing company for his songwriting.
"There aren't too many people in this world that are like me," said Anthony, now 13. His increasing fame as a singer may make him a household name someday.
His mother, Jude-Ann, had been a classical opera singer and feared that her children would be tone deaf, so she placed headphones on her pregnant stomach and played them Bach and Beethoven.
It must have worked: Her two sons both sang (one, she says, with perfect pitch) before they could talk. Sixteen-year-old Louis recently recorded an original song to raise scholarship money for the National Catholic Youth Conference (see previous story at www.evangelist.org).
Anthony has also become a rising star with his strong voice, songwriting abilities and charisma. He's sung the national anthem for more than 200 sporting events throughout the country, recorded a pop album of songs he wrote and performed with his brother and dancers at fairs and events nationwide.
He's also a philanthropist and has even appeared as a character actor on a cable television show and a web series.
Anthony's success has been a family affair, with everyone making sacrifices to improve his prospects. Through it all, Catholic faith is a foundation and a guide.
"If you don't have a strong faith knowing that there is a plan out there, this business would drive you crazy," said the boys' father, Rich, who plays guitar and once recorded a children's album.
Mr. Gargiula teaches fifth grade at Arbor Hill Elementary School in Albany and runs a part-time disc jockey business with Louis' help. Mrs. Gargiula is a retired teacher and sells cosmetics.
The Gargiulas attend St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Delmar, where Mr. and Mrs. Gargiula directed a folk music group for 20 years. The boys' four grandparents serve, respectively, as deacon, parish secretary, bulletin-writer and eucharistic minister.
Louis does a lot of behind-the-scenes work for Anthony's career, now including choreographing the AG Dance Crew's moves.
"I'm the singer," Anthony said of his family. "They're the parents. Louis is everything."
Mr. and Mrs. Gargiula use Catholic ideals to screen their children's producers, managers and marketers, the outfits the dancers wear and the gigs they take. Anthony wears a crucifix on stage and prays with his group before every rehearsal and performance.
"Everything is a blessing," said Anthony, an altar server along with Louis. "It's really important to me to stay religious. Just the word 'faith' is all over the house."
Anthony was "discovered" in 2007 through a YouTube video of him singing at a Siena College basketball game. It has almost five million views.
Anthony has appeared three times on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and once on the Today Show, the Early Show and televised sporting events. He's interviewed American Idol contestants, opened for well-known country artists and performed at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. He met his manager through country star Tim McGraw.
This summer, the Gargiulas took a trip to New York City, where a Japanese TV station recorded a performance by Anthony and his dancers to use in a documentary about American music. The group will tour Japan next year.
Back-to-school time is a little different for Anthony, an eighth-grader at Bethlehem Middle School. He earns high grades and participates in select choir, musicals and jazz band - and also takes piano lessons, rehearses four hours a week and performs on vacations and weekends.
Lately, he has traveled to Boston, New York City and Nashville to meet with record labels. He often leaves school midday for performances or meetings.
Mr. and Mrs. Gargiula want Louis to finish high school, but anticipate that Anthony might need to get private tutoring or learn online eventually.
"We pretty much live our lives day to day," Mr. Gargiula said. "You never know what a phone call could bring."
There are some downsides to fame - Anthony has been bullied in school and online - but the teen has turned that into fodder for positive, anti-bullying songs. In lieu of a 13th birthday party, he sponsored an anti-bullying event at a bowling alley, raising $9,000 for a charity he plans to launch.
Anthony has already spoken and performed at area school assemblies and hopes to expand his efforts. To help cover expenses, he's selling wristbands with his image and slogans like "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" and "Stand Up."
The Gargiulas haven't profited from Anthony's career, which they compare to that of an Olympic athlete, calling it an investment and a way to fulfill their child's dreams.
"I think if it was up to Louis and Anthony, they would perform every night," Mrs. Gargiula noted, adding that a younger Anthony cried when taken off stage.
Work is fun
Anthony explained: "It's not work if you like what you do. I don't feel like this is taking our lives over. It's everything we want."
Next up for Anthony is another album - he has a book full of song ideas - in addition to orchestrating some charity flash mobs and hosting free dance classes for children. In his free time, he enjoys swimming and playing with Stewie, the family's Jack Russell terrier.
Mr. and Mrs. Gargiula say they'll hang on for the ride until it's no longer fun. Anthony says the family keeps each other in check.
"We just gotta stay ourselves as we go on," he said. "I love when people use their power to do good, and I hope to do that someday."
Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012
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Great article Anthony! Keep up the amazing job that you do.