By Michael Nova
Overcoming Childhood Cancer
Musician Charlie Scopoletti has certainly had his share of falling down seven times and rising up eight, but through his music and fundraising, he’s helped to raise over $1,000,000 for charities, and has been honored by his hometown Port Chester NY with a proclamation naming March 7th “Charlie Scopoletti Day”.
Charlie has overcome cancer twice in his lifetime. He was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at only ten years old, and then in 2006, diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. Both times he successfully conquered the diseases, and through it all, found success in the music industry.
We recently spent some time with Charlie to discuss how he was able to overcome those challenges, and we hope it inspires you to rise up eight.
Charlie, we’d like to know about your early years—how you handled your diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease when you were only 10 years old. What was your life like before and after your diagnosis? How did your recovery change your life?
Being diagnosed at such a young age was a scary thing. I went from being a kid; playing and just doing the things children do, to being told I had something called cancer. The truth is, hearing the words “You have cancer” didn’t really have meaning to me then. It was 1985, and cancer was not an everyday word like it unfortunately is today.
I didn’t understand or comprehend exactly what “cancer” meant, but I felt the worry from my doctor and parents. They explained that I was sick and needed to get better. I would have to be admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC to get treatment. The fear of the unknown is what I remember weighing heavy on me, and that was what affected me the most.
I believe everything that I went through from diagnosis to recovery set the foundation for my life, so that I could grow and build upon it and become the person I am today. The power of music, the act of giving, and the showing of love were set in that foundation and changed me forever.
What kinds of challenges did your diagnosis present? How were you able to overcome those challenges as a youngster?
I was going to be in treatment for over a year. There would be surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation over that time period. Feeling ill and tired was a real challenge but having amazing support from my family and community helped get me through.
In the hospital at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC, there was a recreation room. They provided books, video games, a pool table, and a music room. I was so intrigued by the music room and loved going in there to play the drums. Once a week, a volunteer musician would come and perform for the patients. He also would teach us how to play different instruments, and then we would all have a big jam session. I was obsessed with the instruments and our weekly jam.
I realized quickly how music made me feel. It was such an escape for me. There was no chemo or radiation…just music, and I was able to be a kid again. A musical seed was planted within my soul, and I would come to realize the true power of music.
How did your fascination with music lead you to choose a career as a musician? How did you get started in music? Did you have formal training, or were you self-taught?
Music was and still is such a way to express myself. As I was growing up, I always seemed to have problems communicating my feelings, but it was easy for me to express them in a song. Getting what was in my head out and into a song gave me an outlet.
Going through the local school system from elementary to high school, we were taught to read and perform on our chosen instrument. But I was just better at playing by ear. I could hear something a few times and than be able to play the song through. I originally played the sax and then switched to drums. I then started to pick up the guitar for my own personal interest. But I did not have any formal training. I was self-taught on my acoustic guitar.
As I mentioned previously, a musical seed was planted in me at 10 years old, and that musical seed grew into my career. I wanted to affect people with my music just like I was affected by it. When I decided to be a full-time musician, I went all in, performing everywhere I could. I was fortunate to know a well-known band where I grew up in Westchester NY, performed with them, and got my foot in the door of many venues.
During your youth and young adulthood, you had a passion for sports as well. How did you combine your interest in music with your interest in sports? How did music finally overcome the rest of your interests to become your career?
I loved sports, specifically basketball. During that time, those who were around me could not get me off the court. I would practice and then stay after for hours working on my skills. When I didn’t have official games to play, I would go find pick-up games in town.
It was certainly a balancing act, because I loved music just as much as I loved basketball, and there were rehearsals and performances. I was busy, to say the least, among all the activities. Both during that time were my passions and were what lit me up inside, so I always found a way to make it work.
The battle between the two finally came to an end when I went to college. I had a few local scholarships for basketball in NY but decided I was going to try to be a walk-on at Ohio University and ended up breaking my leg in a random accident. I knew then my life would become only music! As I laid in bed recovering, I picked up my guitar and really started to learn how to play.
I went back to college for one more semester but decided not to return after that. I knew that music was my passion and in my heart. I never looked back and have been a full-time musician ever since.
When you had an accident while playing sports, how did music play a part in your recovery? Do you still have a hankering to play sports? Do you still play any sports?
When I broke my leg, I was laid up in bed for a while. There was no better time then to pick up my guitar and really start learning it. So that’s what I did. I spent time figuring out chords and working on how I approached playing the instrument. Music is healing in every way, and it helped me get back on my feet sooner rather than later.
As for playing sports, every once in while I still get the urge. I like to shoot around here and there but nothing on a team or league. I like to see if I still have it and if I can still bury “threes” and hit my free throws. If you are wondering…I most certainly can 🙂
Becoming A Successful Musician
Let’s get back to music. Every musician knows it’s difficult to get your songs in front of publishers, let alone get a recording company to take you on as one of their artists. Yet you accomplished that very feat. Tell us how you brought your music to the attention of the recording company’s executives and convinced them to publish your work.
It is really difficult, but I didn’t know any other way. I sent my music out to everyone who I thought could help or direct me in the right direction and performed constantly. I have always prided myself on having a good reputation, being kind to people, and being professional. I believe that goes a long way.
I’ve been blessed to have people champion for me along the way and give me such high praise. Between the music and that support, I was able to get the attention of an independent record company that believed in my story and my music. They helped in getting my first album recorded and released. They are no longer in business, but it was great to have that support at the time.
Tell us about how your music communicates your life experiences to others and encourages them to overcome their own set of challenges?
Going through adversity gave my life a new perspective. I started to see things in a new way. I realized early on how short life can be and to truly appreciate the time I am here. My music is a reflection of those experiences with an uplifting message. I want others to know that no matter what they may be going through, that there is always a reason for it, even if you can’t see it in the moment, there is and you can learn, grow, and rise above the challenge. I believe we all have a gift to share with the world and often times, it’s through adversity that it reveals itself.
I’ve made it my mission to inspire, spread hope, and make positive change in people’s lives and in the world. I strive each day to continue sharing my music and trying to strengthen that mission to reach more people.
You toured with your band, CSB, to promote your work. Tell us how cancer brought that to a halt and how you were able to overcome that challenge and come back to your work as a musician.
Life works in amazing ways. After my first album, “Circles,” was released, I was set to tour around the country promoting it. At the same time my best friend Natalia Crespo was losing her battle to brain cancer. She fought for 14 long years and at the age of 30, we lost her. It was a pivotal point in my life.
While being by her side and grieving, I also was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was forced to really take a hard look at life and at some of the unhealthy decisions I was making. I had to cancel the tour and go back into treatment. Even though I was upset and angered for a short time, I didn’t let it spiral out of control or prevent me from moving forward. I was determined to get through it as quickly as possible, get back to performing, and honor my friend’s life by living the best life I could.
Music was such a huge part of both our lives, and I vowed to never forget that connection we had. Getting back to music, performing, and how important that was gave me daily vision to get through the challenge and back to being a musician but more important than that…because of that experience, I became a better version of myself.
How did your experience with cancer impact your art?
Cancer gave me the opportunity to look inwards and really take stock of what was important. By doing that, I gained insight and was able to look at things in a different way.
That self-reflection transferred into my music; it was a catalyst for many songs. The story from adversity into triumph is one theme I believe is so important to share, and if I can incorporate that into my music to inspire others, I will do all I can to do that and give back what was once given to me.
How did you launch your career as a solo singer-songwriter after spending so many years as a band member? How were you able to rebrand yourself and attract the attention of people in the music recording industry?
I always tried to do both: perform with a band and also solo acoustic through out my career. When I formed my original band, I sought out the best players in the area. We really connected and became family.
When the time came for me to fully commit to being a solo singer-songwriter, I had an open and honest conversation with my band mates and they understood I had an opportunity. All the players in the band were at different times in their personal lives with different commitments. It was time for me to branch out and seize the opportunities that were in front of me.
Making the transition took a few changes. I always used my initials as the band name…”CSB”…so it made sense when I switched to my full name, and because of that, I didn’t lose any recognition, which rolled right into my solo career. From there I updated my social accounts, website, and marketed myself as a singer-songwriter.
The major change was that I started working on my songwriting, digging deeper and expressing myself in a new way. Becoming a true storyteller. By having the song speak for itself, I got the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business.
How do you use your music to help others? How do you combine your fundraising activities with the need to maintain your income?
Music can change someone’s emotion in an instant. If I can perform a song and open their heart to feel something, I have done what it is I am here to do.
Being able to perform all across the country at different venues and charity events gives me an amazing platform to connect with people. Through doing that, I am able to help inspire others through my music and story of survival.
I use my music to help raise money through these live performances and music downloads. I also write and record specific songs for charities that align with their mission. I try to maintain income by performing other non-charity shows and through sponsorships.
What is your latest project? How can people connect with you?
I have written a song for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation called “Light That Shines” that was recorded with Robert Smith of Defy Recordings, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning, Emmy-nominated producer, engineer, and mixer.
I love connecting with people. You can go directly to my website at www.charliescopoletti.com to find out more or contact me directly at email@example.com
You can also listen and download my songs on iTunes and Spotify.
Great Charlie, and our final question. If you could share one thing that you’ve learned through overcoming the illnesses that you have experienced in your life, what would you advise anyone who is going through a similar experience?
To always believe in a positive outcome. Our mind and what we believe can affect so much. Getting in a positive state can help in so many ways, even in the midst of any pain. Don’t let anything or anyone bring you down. I also think with new research always coming out and all the advancements in treatment (Traditional and Natural) you need to be involved in looking at all the options, I would suggest building an integrative and functional medicine team around you to help improve you overall well-being. Be active in your journey to get well.
We completely agree with Charlie’s last statement. As I have personally experienced in my life, which led me to founding this website, a positive attitude can work wonders on self-healing, and diet and nutrition makes a huge difference. We believe that Charlie’s story illustrates that no matter how many times you have serious setbacks with your health, it is possible to recover again and again. The road to recovery is not easy, but as humans we are incredibly resilient. We can fall down seven times, but we can also rise up eight. The important thing is to keep fighting. As Conficious said, “it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”
What do you think of Charles’ story? Please let us know below.