by Len Lear
Lisa Bello, who left special education teaching to devote full time to a music career, will perform as a headliner at Dino’s Backstage next to the Keswick Theater in Glenside on Thursday, Oct. 18, 8:30 p.m.
Bello, a singer/songwriter and mother of a 5-year-old boy named Cassius who is actually on three tracks of her latest album, “Tommy Boy,” has won a bucket full of awards such as the John Lennon Songwriting Award: Song of The Year; OUTT Music Award; Boston Music Awards Artist of the Year; Boston Music Awards Female Vocalist of the Year; and Nightlife Music Award Artist of the Year.
“The hardest thing I have ever done is quit my job as a special education teacher in order to pursue my music career,” she told us last week. “It was the right decision, but it was hard to walk away from my other passion. Some day I will return to the classroom in some form.”
Bello was a Boston public school special education teacher for 10 years until this past spring. “I had students with challenges ranging from autism to behavioral disabilities. I loved my job and still speak with many of my students from over the years.”
Bello, who is “in my 30s,” was born and raised in Boston but currently lives in Brooklyn. You might say that music is in her genes since her father and brother are both vocalists, “and incredible ones at that.”
Although it can take many years to make it in the music industry, if one is lucky enough to make it at all, Bello was actually making “demos” for major artists at the callow age of 13. (Ed. Note: A demo is a way for a musician to approximate his/her ideas in a fixed format, such as cassette tape, compact disc or digital audio files and to thereby pass along those ideas to record labels, record producers or to other artists.)
“My brother connected me to a super-talented duo of producers/engineers, Brad and Dow, and they got me into the loop before I truly knew I could sing. I didn’t often get to meet the artists as I was the avenue for their ears to hear new songs that the boys had written. I was honored that they got to hear my voice each time a new song was presented.”
By the time she was 18, Bello was so well-known and respected that she was often asked to sing the National Anthem before major league sporting events. Videos of her singing on YouTube actually landed Bello her first Boston Red Sox game performance.
What was it like singing before tens of thousands of people? “I find it easier to sing in front of 50,000 people than to sing in front of 50,” she said. “The intimacy of a small crowd leaves me vulnerable, which is actually exciting. It presents a new challenge. Large crowds make me feel so powerful that It fuels me.”
Bello, who has also done voice work on network TV shows such as Prime Suspect, Law & Order, Joan Rivers Show, etc., was also the winner of the Humanitarian Songwriter of the Year Award in 2014.
In 2013, she sang lead and co-wrote the songs on an album, “Mob Music,” with her music director, Mike Flanagan. The next year they were nominated for five “OUT” music awards, the most of that year, and won two. When they were putting the album together, there were stories in the news about LGBT youth being brutally bullied or even murdered. Bello and her music director wanted to write a song that paid tribute to the victims while simultaneously spreading a message of empowerment, love and acceptance. The money generated from the song was donated to GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network). The song, “Be Strong (LGBT Youth),” won Bello and Flanagan the “Humanitarian Songwriter of the Year” Award.
What is it like for Bello to juggle her career, including lots of traveling, with everything a mom has to do? “It’s incredibly challenging, but what part of life isn’t? I am a creative person, and I tend to thrive off of unstructured chaos. This life seems to make sense for me. I truly wouldn’t trade it.”
If Bello could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be and why? “PRINCE! I would love to be in his presence while he created music on stage but more so in the studio. His talent far exceeded the hype. The way he owned who he was unapologetically was so admirable. The way he finessed a room. There is no one like him, and I doubt there ever will be.”
More information about Bello’s Oct. 18 show at https://lisabello.wordpress.com or 215-884-2000.