Live Puppet Show Debuting at Public School
The idea for the main character in author and musician Joe Petrucelli’s series of children’s books and accompanying music videos didn’t pop into his head, but rather flew onto it.
“A sparrow landed on my head eight or nine years ago and that just inspired me,” Petrucelli said of Petronia, the elementary school-age dreamer who, as the
protagonist of A Sparrow’s Tale, aspires to be a great musician.
“I see birds as being able to take me to any place I want to go. They have no
barriers. They can fly anywhere they want. Be anywhere they want.”
Petrucelli’s creation, along with another character of his vivid imagination, Petronia’s musically gifted father, Benjamin, will be brought to life in the form of
puppets designed to entertain and inspire Title I students at a public elementary school during a live performance of A Sparrow’s Tale.
The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to assist pediatric
patients and children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area, is one of the April 11 show’s sponsors.
The musical adventure is a fun and interactive family event during which students and their parents or guardians will be exposed to various types of music and afforded the opportunity to construct, out of unexpected materials, instruments they can take home.
“I can’t believe how amazing this is going to be for the kids, seeing their reactions, seeing their faces with puppets teaching them about learning
music, building simple instruments like shakers, and having them sing a song that is just contagious,” Petrucelli said.
One of Petrucelli’s two adult sons, both of whom are products of Edison Township Public Schools, will narrate the show, while two professional puppeteers will have a hand (pun intended) in how Petronia and Benjamin perform on stage.
Petrucelli’s creative team includes singer and producer Michael Andrew, who spent two years as the headline act and bandleader at the world-renowned Rainbow Room atop New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Andrew later starred in the world premiere of the Jerry Lewis-directed musical The Nutty Professor. Andrew also produced music for the films Being the Ricardos, Inglorious Bastards and Heartbreakers, as well as for numerous radio, television, and theatrical projects. Andrew will be running the sound board for A Sparrow’s Tale.
Petronia aspires in Petrucelli’s series of children’s books to attain the type of
greatness artists such as Andrew have already achieved. Benjamin, meanwhile, appears to be a classic example of life imitating art, or perhaps the other way around.
Like his creator, Benjamin, according to the official website of A Sparrow’s Tale,
is “a talented musician who decided to become an accountant as he found that a more stable and practical way to provide for his family.”
The same description befits Petrucelli, who is the managing partner of Petrucelli,
Piotrowski & Co., Inc., as well as an adjunct professor at the College of Staten
“I’m a forensic accountant and college professor by day and a crazy dreaming
creator at night,” said Petrucelli, who earned a master’s degree in songwriting at
the age of 50.
“For me, it’s always been about the kids. I’ve been working with kids my whole life. I even consider my college students my kids.”
Petrucelli, who lived in Edison for 30 years before moving to East Brunswick, where he currently resides, previously coached youth soccer for two decades in the nonprofit Edison United Soccer Association alongside legendary mentor Spencer Rockman.
The highlight of Petrucelli’s time coaching was working with children with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in a Buddy Ball program.
Petrucelli said it was paramount for him to partner with a nonprofit such as The
Marisa Tufaro Foundation for his debut live performance of A Sparrow’s Tale. Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak, who has been among Petrucelli’s biggest
supporters, connected the author and musician with the nonprofit, which serves all seven municipalities, including Edison, in the state lawmaker’s legislative district.
“The foundation is looking to help underprivileged children and that’s my mission,” Petrucelli said. “I want to physically do something rather than just be a (monetary) donor. I’m looking to give back, trying to pay attention to awareness, and give people opportunities beyond contributing money.”
Since its inception less than five years ago, The Marisa Tufaro Foundation has paid forward the benevolence of others, donating nearly a quarter of a million dollars to assist pediatric patients and underserved children.
The nonprofit, which makes community service an integral part of its mission, has also donated thousands of toys, nonperishable food items, winter jackets, baby supplies and other items upon which it has placed no monetary value.
Marisa Tufaro, who would have graduated last year from Edison High School,
survived six open-heart surgeries and a heart transplant before succumbing to a
rare form of cancer in 2017 following a valiant battle.
Despite being hospitalized for more than two years and maintaining hundreds of doctor’s appointments, Marisa Tufaro lived a vibrant life that inspired.
Like Marisa Tufaro, Petronia was born with a cardiac abnormality. According to the official website of A Sparrow’s Tale, Petronia and her father both have enlarged hearts.
“It affects her in many ways,” Petronia’s bio on the official website of A Sparrow’s Tale reads. “She is a little more sensitive and vulnerable because of it. (Petronia) thinks of this characteristic as a blessing and a common trait creating a bond between her and her father.”
The April 11 show at the public elementary school, where Marisa was a student for six years and where her mother, Cyndi, is currently the school’s principal, centers around the fun-loving relationship between parent and child.
The script, tailored for an elementary school audience, teaches music through
sound intended to evoke feelings and excite the senses (think “sour note”),
predominantly through a short sequence of chords that gets repeated for an
extended period, known as a vamp.
“Learning music is a lifetime journey,” Petrucelli said. “You don’t have to be Bach or Beethoven. You can just have fun with all kinds of instruments. I don’t need to memorize the words (to a song). I can feel the song, tap my foot to it, and if I listen enough, I can get better at playing things.”
Petrucelli said he is “mesmerized” by music, especially the cello, and that he “can hear every instrument” while listening to a symphonic orchestra.
From the day a sparrow literally landed on Petrucelli’s head while he was sitting on a bench in the backyard of his Edison home nearly a decade ago, the bird inspired 37 unique characters, 26 original stories and more than two dozen clever songs.
“The sparrow is a simplistic bird who, by the way, has one of the best pitches of all birds, tweeting one of the most perfect pitches,” Petrucelli said, noting the
sparrow’s sweet song inspired him to believe in himself and his music.
“This is a way of getting kids to believe in themselves,” Petrucelli said of A Sparrow’s Tale. “You can ultimately achieve anything through the help of family,
friends and, most importantly, just belief in yourself.”
Petrucelli and his team currently have an animated TV series in development and an he aims to spread this magical brand to kids and families throughout the United States and the world.