Love of music fuels career
Chris Torti's new business is on a roll -- and that's definitely music to parents' ears.
SHARON ASCHAIEK -- Special to Sun Media
The brains behind the band Mr. Chris and the Gassy Bubbles has found and filled a gap in the children's music market: tunes that both kids and their parents can enjoy.
"I've heard many parents complain about their kids' music. It's usually very high-pitched and repetitive and designed specifically for children -- the makers don't realize that parents are listening, too," says Torti, 29, a teacher to visually impaired students by day.
Torti has a strong musical bent: growing up, he took piano lessons for years. And he can carry a tune -- he sings and plays piano for children at an Ontario Early Years Centre in Woodbridge, and his shows are very well received by parents.
His passion for both music and working with children is what inspired him to act on his hunch that he could make better children's music.
In the summer of 2005, the Brampton resident put pen to paper to start crafting his first songs, and found that he was quite natural at it.
Then he went about forming his band by approaching his friends with musical talent. His buddies were excited about his initiative, and in short order, Torti had assembled two bass players, two drummers and a guitar player.
The band started working on developing their sound, and what emerged in June of 2007 was their first CD, Dance Shake Rattle & Roll, which Torti describes as "rock 'n' roll music with a kids' twist."
"We incorporated a lot of ideas for harmony and melody from bands like the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Supertramp. The lyrics are all children related, but the sounds have influences of funk, soul, and rhythm and blues," says Torti.
To get the word out, Torti started a MySpace page, which can be accessed via www.gassybubbles.com, which featured samples of their music, and invited everyone he knew to check it out.
He also sent 500 complimentary CDs to schools and children-related organizations across the GTA and beyond.
His efforts paid off in a big way: his music has been accessed by countless families all across North America. As well, calls to book the band started coming in quickly, and last year, they played 53 shows at schools, libraries, daycares, community centres and festivals.
The 45-minute show they put on is energetic and interactive, and includes take-home instruments for the kids that Torti actually spends hours making himself.
"Parents love it and so do the kids. Everyone leaves with a smile," he says.
The strong interest in Torti's band (more information can also be found at www.mrchrisandthegassybubbles.com) has enabled him to take a benevolent approach to his business: while he sells the CD for $5 at shows, it can be downloaded for free on his websites.
"A lot of families can't afford music for their children, and I don't want money to be a barrier to them accessing this music," says Torti, who in the past has worked with disadvantaged children. "I'm working with the cosmos and reciprocity."
Torti's passion for helping and selfless attitude is also behind his newest initiative, a new a cappella song called Different People that has an anti-bullying message. The song, as well as a music video for it, was released through his websites on April 22.
Running his fast-growing business in combination with his teaching job is very demanding, Torti says, especially since the birth of his first child, Aidan, in January.
But he says seeing the joy on the faces of families who enjoy his music makes all the hard work worth it.
Says Torti: "I like making children happy, and I love during my show when I see kids dancing around and laughing -- that's it for me."