Pop into POPSJul 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Kelly Stemcosky
A singer and an orchestra walk onto an ice rink…It may sound like the beginning of a joke, but it’s what audiences will be treated to during a free pops concert offered by Endless Mountain Music Festival on Sunday, August 7, at 2:30 p.m. Two for the Road—Corning POPS!—at the Corning Civic Center Plaza Ice Rink features a newcomer to EMMF, Anthony Nunziata. The critically acclaimed singer and songwriter is a recent winner of Album of the Year from Broadwayworld, which calls him “an explosion of love and entertainment.”
Stephen Gunzenhauser, EMMF’s founder and artistic director since the festival’s inception in 2006 (seven concerts in eight days for the inaugural season), also sings Anthony’s praises. “Anthony, every eight months or so, is coming out with new CDs, and they sell like hotcakes. He’s a wonderful singer and is somehow able to connect with any audience,” says Stephen, adding with a laugh, “He’s doing this as a favor to me.”
Stephen is always scouting new talent to bring to EMMF, and has been known to tap old friends in the process. As Anthony explains it: “I did a private concert this past Christmas in Lancaster and he (Stephen] was there. It was actually an event honoring him and I was brought in as sort of a surprise performance. And immediately, he said, ‘Oh, Anthony, you know, I really want to have you in the festival this summer.’ So since then, we’ve been talking about putting together a program.”
Stephen’s friend’s performance is part of a dedication to another friend of more than thirty years. Cornelius O’Donnell, a beloved chef and fixture in the Corning area, as well as a long-time Mountain Home contributor, passed away last September. “This will be a wonderful dedication. I hope everyone comes and celebrates the wonderful life he led, a man who always had a smile on his face,” says Stephen.
Anthony’s goal for the performance, and his work overall, is simple: write great music and tell great stories. “I went to school for journalism, and I also trained in improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade for many years in New York City. I’ve found that’s just who I am, like how I’m talking to you right now, is how I’m going to be on stage. In between songs, I just sort of dive into moments from my life, or talk about things that happen during the show, so even if people are familiar with my songs, they’ll always get a different show from me. And that’s exciting for me because we’re all there to just experience it in the moment. I’ve always been someone who just loves to connect with people. If I can do that through my music, that’s doing part of what my mission is for being here.”
That clear mission has helped Anthony build up quite a résumé: two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops symphony orchestra, a part in the Netflix film The Last Laugh starring Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss, and original songs featured on MTV, Comedy Central, CBS News, NBC News, and Good Day NY. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is currently using Anthony’s “The Gift Is You” as an anthem. Anthony wrote the song in honor of his mother’s battle with breast cancer; she’s now cancer free.
The singer/songwriter/actor/storyteller is coming to the area by way of Nashville, a move he made during the covid pandemic. “I was living in Manhattan for quite some time and I had been looking to do a move for a bit. When the pandemic hit, I think it made a lot of people sort of reassess where we need to be. I just asked myself ‘Where do I need to be to further fulfill my deepest desires and passions?’ I made the move to Nashville at the end of October 2020 and just sort of dove right in.”
The pandemic also inspired the album that earned Anthony Album of the Year from Broadwayworld. “I had written so many original Christmas songs during the pandemic, because that’s what you do to make yourself feel better, so I released a Christmas album in December of 2021 of all original songs.”
Anthony has several new singles coming out this summer, which will be available on Spotify and Apple Music. As for what audiences can expect from his live performances, Broadwayworld says, “Nunziata captures the authentic songwriting passion of a young Billy Joel combined with the soulfulness of Ed Sheeran,” and “It’s like somebody took James Ingram and Celine Dion and this man, Anthony Nunziata, was born.” The Chicago Tribune calls him “a winning combo of a beautiful tenor voice and comedic flair” and the Huffington Post dubs him “a nearly impossible combination of talent, stage presence, and charisma.”
His EMMF performance in Corning, accompanied by a horn section, drummers, and flutists, will be no exception. “My performance there is going to entail a mix of Broadway, classic pop songs, and some of my original songs as well, so it’s going to be sort of a representative of the crossover music that I do. I know Steve has some amazing orchestral pieces planned as well. We’re just going to give folks a great eclectic mix of music for music lovers of all ages.”
This is the first POPS concert in Corning, but, if attendance at past concerts at the Wellsboro Johnston Airport are any indication, to say they are very popular is an understatement. So, pre-registration for both events (the Wellsboro Johnston Airport concert is Sunday, July 24, at 2:30 p.m.) at endlessmountain.net/program-schedule is requested.
“Pops concerts are basically music that is newer,” says Cynthia Long, EMMF’s executive director. “We get maybe 500 to 600 people who come to these. People get the opportunity to meet the musicians after the concert, so the festival is all about the experience. I think the audience appreciates getting to be up close and personal to the musicians who come from all over the world.”