Tulane, Too Soon
Journal Provides Eye Into
Food Banks Efforts in
Chapin Christmas CD
Is a Hit Throughout
Chapin Family Marks
WHYs 30th Anniversary
With Benefit Concerts
in New York City
Harry Chapin Celebration
Time to Remember
Letter to the Editor:
to the Editor:
to read previous
issues of Circle!
Rossilli on the set with his guitar
Fans Making a Difference
by Linda Swanson
We never know when in our life, we will take a turn that will be the pivotal
point, the instant that will define us for the rest of our life.
For Randy Rossilli, that moment was when he was eight years old, sitting
on a crushed velvet couch on DeGraw Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. Rossilli
was watching Wonderama, the weekly Sunday morning New York-based
television show for kids, hosted by Bob Macallister.
On the show was a gentle individual who sat on a stool with a guitar
in hand and captivated the attention and imagination of the young audience
including me, said Rossilli. That person was Harry
Rossilli instantly ran to his mother and told her he was going to learn
how to play guitar. Although we had a piano in the house, and I
was already a fan of Billy Joel, I wanted to be able to tell stories and
be intimate with an audience a guitar playing storyteller,
On the day of Chapins death, Rossilli was sitting on that same couch
watching the television show Gilligans Island when he
heard the tragic news. I realized, for the first time in my life,
that one man could make a difference, and hoped one day I would also do
so. I wanted to tell stories and make people feel better about themselves.
And so he has.
Rossilli attended William Patterson University and majored in Communication
with a focus on radio and TV production. He then earned his Masters
in Education from Seton Hall.
He then spent 13 years in public education with positions including teacher,
subject supervisor, teacher trainer, central office director, and building
principal. Throughout my career I had always believed in project-based
instruction, and that children learned from doing, and being actively
engaged, not by passively sitting back, collecting notes, and regurgitating
facts, said Rossilli.
Over time, music became his life, but not yet his livelihood.
For several years, he was working steadily as a professional musician
and writing music for adults, performing live five days a week, and doing
pretty well in the local bar scene.
Then, in 1993, he was a middle school language arts teacher, when he was
drawn to the beauty and freedom of writing and creating for children.
I assigned a project on narrative poetry, when a student asked me,
quite innocently, what was my poem going to be about, and I said, You
know, I will do better than that. By tomorrow, I will have not only written
a poem, but I will write you a song that will fit into this assignment,
The next day, Rossilli came in with The Ballad of Gilbert the Brave,
a Harry Chapinesque story of the smallest boy in his kingdom, believing
in himself, showing fortitude and achieving his goal of becoming a knight.
That song gave birth to a childrens musical, which gave me
a feeling of freedom and creativity that I had never felt before,
he remembered. I then began the development of several properties
geared towards children and their families with the goal of empowering
self-affirmation while entertaining.
Harry Chapin was not the only great influence on Rossillis life.
He remembers the day he heard about the death of Frederick McFeely Rogers,
better known as the childrens television show host Mr. Rogers.
That day, the world lost the last man on television telling children
that they mattered who told them, without conditions, that they
were special who empowered them with a sense of self worth and
affirmation messages and gifts they may not have received from
anyone else, he said. It was then that Rossilli began to review
his own life and decided he should focus his energies on providing children
with the kinds of messages Rogers shared.
I was spending an inordinate amount of time watching other peoples
children doing things, attending countless nighttime meetings and programs
pertaining other peoples children, and would spend many nights when
I was home developing curriculum, budgets and programs for other peoples
children, he noted. I was getting concerned about the quality
of time I was getting with my wife and daughters.
Then he recalled the Harry Chapin interview where Harry discussed being
good tired. I was truly not good tired. I was just plain
old tired - fighting other peoples battles and living other peoples
dreams, he said.
His wife Jenny challenged him to follow his dreams of affecting children
everywhere with positive messages. She said, Make it your
life, not your mid-life crisis, he remembered.
Rossilli then made a conscious decision to follow the dream he had
as an eight year old boy growing up in Newark to tell children
stories and hopefully empower them with the same ability to dream as Harrys
music did for him and to pursue a life of good tired.
That day, he began creating his own television property called My Backyard.
Each series of My Backyard consists of a DVD, CD and book that provides
educational opportunities, language development, arts, science, humor,
and esteem-building messages to children ages two to six. They encourage
creativity and the concept that caring, compassionate individuals can
make a difference in the world. I speak with children, not at them,
he explained. My ultimate goal is to touch as many families as I
can, reminding them how important it is to communicate, develop character,
self esteem and strong morals.
Rossilli uses nurturing, enriching language, never words such as hate,
stupid, dumb or afraid. In My Backyard, the message is I believe
in you. You matter, he said. For some children, this
may be the only time they hear these words.
The Dentist DVD and book Hippos Toothache allow a child to
discover that taking a trip to the dentist doesnt have to be scary.
The book Elephants Rescue and accompanying DVD Animal
Rescue teaches compassion and awareness of wildlife preservation,
while Giraffes Sore Throat and the Pediatrician DVD
explore a visit to the pediatricians office. Each series also comes
with a CD of original toe tapping music called Songs From My Backyard.
Clips of the videos and music can be viewed on Randys Website www.nightstandcreations.com.
In true Chapin spirit, Rossilli had chosen to give back to the community.
Each episode of My Backyard hosts a guest and a percentage of the proceeds
of the sale of that episode go to the charity of the guests choice.
So far, those charities include providing dental care to under privileged
children, funding child adoption and contributing to the rescue and care
of avian wildlife. Rossillis wife coordinates this benevolent effort.
Rossilli with his wife Jenny, youngest daughter Megan, and daughter
is truly a family effort, with input from everyone. Rossilli sings, writes,
directs and plays eight musical instruments for the show. He hand crafts
the puppets, but before they or any of his songs are put into the program,
they must first pass the test of his daughters, Jessica, 5, and Megan,
3, for authenticity, believability, educational and entertainment value.
His wife Jenny, a Speech Pathologist, provides insight and is his conscious
and voice of reason. Even his dog, Jasmine, was inspirational in
creating the song Jasmine, Where Are My Shoes?
The realization of Rossilli s dream has afforded his family with
many opportunities they were missing before. He now can make time to coach
his daughters soccer team and watch their ballet lessons. He takes
them to school every day and is home for dinner each night; something
he was unable to do when he was bad tired.
We lose our childlike playfulness when we become an adult. Regarding
work, I say do it till its not fun anymore, then do something else or
make it fun, Rossilli said. My whole life is leisure now.
Though he rises very early in the morning and works many hours each day,
he still makes time for play.
The pursuit of this dream and this business has been one of great
highs and emotional uncertainties, however, it is the best experience
I have had in my professional life, he said. With communication
and planning, Rossilli said his family had developed a plan that has afforded
them more quality time together and more productive time apart.
When we go to sleep at night, I know I have fought fights and perspired
in battles that were for me and my children, with the hopes that in the
near future my self-esteem building music, television programs, DVDs and
other properties will help other peoples children meet their potential,
he added. My freedom to experience this is a reward that no six
figure salary, benefits and job security can match. As Harry would say
or his grandfather said, I am now living a life of good tired.
for the Next Issue of Circle! on March 7