“Billy was the bully on our school bus, always waiting to bother any one of us,” says Philadelphia’s WMGK Debbi Calton. Her voice is gentle, but emphatic. “When walking down the aisle to your bus seat he’d jump ahead and step on your feet…while on his face there’d be smirking, snickering, snide.”
Debbi’s spoken piece “Bully on the Bus Billy” (chillingly reminiscent of this year’s bus monitor bullying) is part of 2011 release “All About Bullies…Big and Small,” a children’s album produced and directed by Warminster resident Steve Pullara. The album showcases voices from over thirty national artists, with Steve contributing his songwriting skills to a dozen songs. More than fostering awareness, the CD funds the cause: 100 percent of sales goes to the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center.
“Everybody brought their heart to the project,” said Steve, when we spoke over the phone. “You just hope to do the best job possible so that it becomes nationally recognized.” Steve and the contributing artists have garnered recognition beyond what they could have anticipated; at this year’s Grammy Awards “All About Bullies…Big and Small” won for Best Children’s Album, an honor that joins a recent National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA), and a Parents’ Choice Award. “Now we’ve got the trifecta,” said Steve.
After the jump: Billy the bully reconsiders, and listen to the album’s opening song “Jump Rope” by Blue October.
Children’s musician and Californian Dave Kinnoin contributed his song “No Matter How Small” to the track list. He sings an anti-bullying campaign wherein the bully is no less of a victim – “All of us need to feel ten feet tall, no matter how small. All grown up or still a child, a lesson to the wise: It’s about what’s in the heart and not about the size” — and where healing grants no space for blame.
“Through the songs the bullies are helped by other kids to find another path to take,” said Steve, referring to the loose narrative that backbones the album, through which “where the children interact with the listener.”
At the close of Debbi’s “Bully on the Bus Billy,” Billy’s targets gather and confront him, and the bus bully backs down: “There was fear in his eyes and on his smirking face.” With what I imagine to be a plea in his eye, Billy responds, “‘I’m new in this school. Can’t we all be buddies? All my mean pranks will come to an end. I just didn’t know any other way to make brand new friends.’”
“You can enjoy it, even though it’s a dark subject,” said Steve. “You don’t mind being there [in the album’s world] because the kids are solving the problems.”
FOOD COURT runs tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00 pm at The Perelman Theater at Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street. Prices vary.