|Carlo Coppola: “Apparently, I was singing out of the womb and my mother says that I just never shut up.”
Popular Vaughan-based recording artist Carlo Coppola recalls the exact moment he realized he could make a career out of his passion for music.
At the time, Coppola – then a teenager – had recently taken up his first job, as a dishwasher in a restaurant. His shift started at noon, but he would go in early simply because he could jam away on the restaurant’s grand piano. It was an instrument he loved, but just couldn’t bring himself to ask his parents to buy.
“I knew in my head, I didn’t even want to ask them… (they were) working middle-class people,” he said.
As his shift was ending at night, he would rush through his closing duties to get just a few more minutes on the piano before the lights went out for the night.
Then, one day, opportunity struck when he least expected it. Having shown up at his regular time, he made his way to the kitchen, only to have his manager rush in after him with a worried expression on his face.
“That one day I’ll never forget, I was in the back and the manager runs in and says… (Coppola switches to a dead-on Italian accent) ‘Carlo, the piano player no show-up.’”
A few minutes later, a young Carlo Coppola, in a waiter jacket one size too big and in his manager’s dress shoes, emerged from the back and began performing in the concourse. It was his very first live gig in front of strangers.
“I realized after that night that I could actually put this into action and make some money doing it,” laughs Coppola.
While that was a turning point for Coppola, his love affair with music actually began at a very early age; in fact, he cannot recall a time ever that he didn’t enjoy singing.
“Apparently, I was singing out of the womb and my mother says that I just never shut up,” says Coppola. “I became fascinated with music at a very young age, didn’t know why. I just kept pestering my parents until I cracked them when I was around seven and they got me into music lessons.”
Coppola spent his early years in Etobicoke before his family moved north to Vaughan. Early on, music was just a hobby. As he himself says, “I just didn’t think, growing up as a kid, that music could be a career. It never even entered my mind.”
What he did notice was the joy that he brought to people’s faces when he played an instrument.
His first experience in front of an audience, as well as the first impetus towards a life as a musician, happened in his own basement.
“I was taking all these lessons, and I could see the power of music even as a little kid, playing all these tangos and waltzes for my neighbours and parents’ friends. As they were dancing, I’d be thinking to myself: ‘I’m doing this!’”
Showing his natural sense of humour, he chuckled and added, “I realize now in retrospect that my dad’s wine was pretty good, too!”
Seeing the happy faces and dancing feet gave the young Carlo a sense of accomplishment and was pivotal in his continued experimentation with a variety of musical instruments.
The first instrument he learned how to play was the organ. After having seen a family friend play it, Coppola became intrigued. While his family could not afford to buy one, Coppola was steadfast in his determination and he joined the church choir. Not just to sing, but as Coppola explains, “When I was in the church choir, I would stare at the organist’s hands and then head home to try and mimic what she did.”
Then came the restaurant job, which he only took up so he could be near the grand piano – a job that would awaken him to new career possibilities.
Since then, Coppola has played in bands, appeared in musicals, performed at off-Broadway plays, released two albums, written or co-written songs for other artists, and contributed music to documentaries and independent films. A truly multi-talented singer-songwriter, Coppola crafts musical gems that transcend the generation gap. He writes and sings in English, Italian and Spanish, and his unique style incorporates pop, rock and ballads. Little wonder that he has captured the attention of audiences around the world.
Having purpose and passion is important to Coppola and it’s obvious that he was meant to be on a stage, doing what he loves to do and playing music. Each and every step along the way, Coppola has been guided by a variety of well-wishers, supporting voices and serendipitous fortune. He’s even had the opportunity to perform for and with legends in the Italian music scene. Gianni Morandi and Adriano Celentano are huge fans of his work and now look upon Coppola, who idolized these individuals growing up, as one of their peers.
Coppola’s growing stature as an artist is underscored by the numerous awards he has won, the latest of which was the City of Vaughan’s 2011 RAVE award in the performing arts category.
Sometimes people really are just destined to do what they do. Make no mistake about it, all of us were meant to be entertained by Carlo Coppola. The story of how Coppola became a musician isn’t so much about him finding music; it was more like music sought out Coppola like a lovesick teenager and made its case until he obliged.
For Coppola, and this is maybe why he seems so happy all the time, there is no endgame in sight either. When asked what his hopes are for the next five years, he just shrugs and says, “Hopefully, I’ll continue to be making music and enjoying my life.”
His story, and who he is for that matter, hasn’t even come close to its closing number. Coppola now has a family, a beautiful wife and two children who, despite all of the professional accolades, he lists as his greatest accomplishment.