Last weekend, I boarded the train in New Jersey, not knowing that two days later, when I boarded the same train to head back, I would spend most of the three-hour train ride singing “Volare” over and over in my mind…
What I experienced in-between was an experience that every Italian-American would dream of. I spent the weekend with 3,000 Italians and Italian-Americans at the National Italian American Foundation’s (NIAF) 41st Gala event in Washington D.C.
There are many things that I remember from the weekend, but what stands out the most is one word: community; we Italian-American have a very strong one. What was even more memorable was the large number of young Italian-Americans that brought their energy and passion for their heritage to Washington last weekend.
When we started The Italian American Podcast, one of our goals was to take the traditions and memories of our ancestors and create a space where they could be recorded, shared, and passed down to the next generation. Honestly, I had my doubts that there were enough young, passionate Italian-Americans who were interested in learning about these traditions and carrying them on. This past weekend proved that my doubts were false.
Here are a few of my experiences from the weekend that helped me to realize that young Italian-Americans are ready, willing, and able to carry on old traditions…
- I watched (and danced to) the beautiful sounds of the accordion played by the young, world-famous Italian-American accordion player Corey Pesaturo. His skills are unimaginable, and his passion for his craft leaps off the stage.
- I danced the Tarantella, led by the young Italian-American, Emmy-Award winning, television show host Mickela Mallozzi (of “Barefoot with Mickela Mallozzi”).
- I watched more than one hundred other young Italian-Americans dance the Tarantella with me on the dance floor. Goose bumps…
- I was approached by many young Italian-Americans, including college students, at our booth during the Expo Italiana on Saturday. Their passion for their heritage was apparent with every word that came out of their mouths. Inspiring.
- I watched (and participated) as the young leader of NIAF, President and COO John Viola, led a large group of Italian-Americans of all ages in singing and dancing to Italian classics deep into the night. We were one big family. We were, viscerally, Community.
My point, it’s easy to say – “Things aren’t the way they used to be.” That’s exactly right, they’re not, and they never will be. But here’s the good news: There are thousands of young Italian-Americans ready and waiting in earnest to carry on old traditions, and to create new ones. It’s our job to help them do it.
Maybe, just maybe, passing on our traditions isn’t going to be as hard as I thought. Either way, after this past weekend, there’s no turning back for me. I’m all in.
Volare, oh oh
E cantare, oh oh oh oh
No wonder my happy heart sings
Your love has given me wings
Nel blu, dipinto di blu
Felice di stare lassu…
The Italian American Podcast