John: When you come from a town like Scranton, Pennsylvania, family is everything. Christmas is everything. I loved Christmas songs and fell in love with the piano listening to jazz records and hearing my aunt play songs on the piano around the holidays. My mom and dad bought me a keyboard when I was 7 years old and I’ve been in love with music ever since. I am humbled and honored to call myself a professional musician more than 20 years later. I’ve made Philadelphia my home. I have made incredible friends, played with immensely talented people and have made some of the deepest and purest connections of my life over the past 5 years.
Rob: I first saw Liberty Devitto play drums for Billy Joel on a concert DVD and I was hooked. That dude could play!
2. Permission to humblebrag: Tell us how you’ve been killing it.
Rob: I’ve been doing well. My band Hambone Relay and I have been touring the east coast almost every weekend for the past year and a half, put out 2 records (working on the 3rd), and we’re playing 7 or 8 music festivals this summer to be announced on our Facebook page (keep your eyes peeled).
As a sideman, I’ve been playing drums with many artists in the area including the amazing John Gilbride, Lauren Marsh, Tye James, Emily Drinker, the Funky T, Seth Aaron Jones, and Christy Irizarry. I like helping these artists push their dreams/songs to the next level.
As for me individually, I came out with my own record in 2016, I’m currently writing for another, developing a music festival, and developing an idea for a podcast…hopefully announced soon!
There’s a lot happening!
John: In 2013, I quit the job I had after graduating college, a “corporate gig”. I told myself that very day that I wouldn’t live my life on someone else’s terms. Music meant too much to me. From there, all roads led to music. I served tables to keep a roof above my head, started writing, and hit the open mic scene really hard for more than a year. Slowly but surely I started to attract attention from audiences and venue owners. Over the course of the past 4 years, I’ve played all over the city of Philadelphia and elsewhere; from bars, clubs and major music venues, to backyards, beaches and beyond. Venues include The TLA, World Cafe Live, Bourbon & Branch, The Tin Angel, and more. I support myself fully from playing music at bars, clubs, and other venues here in Philadelphia. What I am most passionate about is creating music. I am currently in the middle of writing and recording my debut record, set to be released in June!
3. How do you give back? What causes/organizations are important to you?
John: Cancer research is close to my heart. My mother passed away almost 8 years ago from cancer and my father battled the disease this past year. I’m passionate about lifting up and supporting universities, research centers, countries and individuals on the forefront of new medications, therapies and alternative remedies. I think it is tremendously important to educate and support young people about these diseases in a responsible way. More generally, it’s important to support kids who lose loved ones at such an early age. The Moyer Foundation, specifically Camp Erin, is an organization making big strides in this area. I’ve supported them for quite some time. Cancer or losing someone to cancer is a club no one wants to be a part of. But once you are, it’s crucial to surround yourself with and seek advice from others who have been through it.
Rob: My festival “The Taitertot Music Fest” takes donations to give to the charity Musicopia, a nonprofit looking to help get musical instruments into the hands of kids who can’t afford them. They are wonderful, I highly recommend you check them out!
4. Why did you choose to volunteer your talent for the Spruce Gala? What part of Spruce’s mission spoke to you?
John: I’ve always believed that music is first and foremost, an amazing form of therapy, and an art form enjoyed and beloved by everyone– whether or not you play an instrument or can carry a tune. So, any time I am afforded the opportunity to use my music to help an individual, a charity, or any good cause, I always do what I can to accommodate and never take the opportunity for granted. The Spruce Foundation is one amazing example of an organization I’m happy to help because they work to enrich the lives of the youth in this great city. I am happy and honored to be a small part of the Spruce Foundation’s annual Gala.
Rob: I support non-profits and I’ll help out in any way I can. I’m honored to be apart of such an event.
5. Why do you think it’s important for our generation to give back?
Rob: Its important for our generation to give back because we’re responsible for doing so. We need to help build the communities around us.
John: I don’t think there’s anything more important. Giving back has so many forms, macro and micro, and can mean so many different things to different people. It’s easy to get caught up in the politics and mired in the negativity of the media. But, I think if we take a moment to slow down, take a deep breath, appreciate what we have and the good we can do, we’d be better off. For me personally, giving back and wisdom go hand in hand. If you’ve found success in any small facet of life, you have wisdom to impart and advice to give. Take the experiences you’ve had in your life, the obstacles you’ve overcome, the lessons you’ve learned and find ways to share with others. Feeling alone is a devastating feeling. To instill hope in others is what giving back ultimately means.
6. Where can we see you perform next?
John: Follow on Instagram @john_gilbride_music and ‘like’ my Facebook page “Music By John Gilbride” for updates and and my weekly show schedule at clubs and bars around the city. I’ll be performing for another amazing organization, City Year Philadelphia Thursday evening June 21st with my band. Another organization, helping schools, helping children and setting them up for a brighter future.
Rob: My next 2 Philadelphia shows with Hambone Relay are on Saturday April 21st: The first is at Ardmore music hall at 1 p.m. (Record Store Day) and the second is at Time Restaurant at 10 p.m. Hope to see you there. Follow me on the socials and let’s chat: Insta is @robtaitmusic and Facebook is “The Rob Tait Experiment.”
Elizabeth Starrantino is a Spruce Foundation alumni board member and chair of the organization’s communications committee. She spent five years in non-profit marketing and fundraising, and knows from first-hand experience the difference dedicated, enthusiastic, hard-working volunteers make to move organizations forward. She got involved with the Spruce Foundation because she knows her peers have the skills and drive to be those volunteers and make that difference, and she wants to help connect them to the causes that need them so they can start making Philadelphia even more awesome than it already is.