Italian culture has had a long and influential impact on American culture.
Musicians, actors and artists of all types have allowed us to experience sights and sounds of Italy, weaving into American culture to create the widely celebrated Italian-American subculture.
Out of the celebration and immense pride taken in this subculture have come organizations like The Sons and Daughters of Italy.
The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Sons and Daughters of Italy, an organization with nearly 7,000 members across the state, has two lodges in Williamsport and two in Lock Haven.
Together, this organization has planned a concert to celebrate Italian-American heritage, while also raising funds for an integral part of the organization, the Charitable & Education Trust, which supports such causes as Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer & Cooley’s Anemia Research; additionally, they have started to support the Wounded Warrior Project and autism-related causes.
The concert will feature award-winning singer-songwriter Giada Valenti, who was born and raised in Venice, Italy.
Among her many accolades, she was awarded by the Commission for Social Justice of the Order of Sons of Italy in America for “Being a Good Italian Role Model.”
She will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15, at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., with Williamsport Area High School’s Strolling Strings band as the opening performance.
It is the first major fundraiser in central Pennsylvania for the organization.
“The concert profit will go in our general fund that supports all of our charities and also supports the scholarships for high school and college students,” said Rose Mumbauer, the director of the C&E Trust for the Grand Lodge. “As with all of our fundraising, we never take out administrative fees, and whenever possible, we try to keep all givings within Pennsylvania.”
Mumbauer is a fourth-generation Italian American whose great-grandparents immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. SDoI was a big part of her childhood, she said, with yearly Christmas parties and family picnics, and eventually she started her own memories with a family of her own.
“My great-grandfather was a charter member of the Lock Haven lodge over 100 years ago,” she said, “although I’m not 100 percent Italian, it is definitely the part of my heritage that I most closely identify with.”
Valenti has helped out SDoI for several years, so asking her to help with a charitable cause for the organization seemed like a perfect fit, according to Mumbauer.
Attendees of the concert will get to hear Valenti’s romantic renditions of popular songs from past to present, with an Italian twist.
“I’m very proud to promote Italian heritage,” Valenti said, adding that she sings songs that generally have some kind of Italian connection.
“They (the audience) can expect sounds they love, that they may never (have) known there is an Italian connection with the songs. I share a lot of my personal story about my family in Italy,” she said.
Valenti moved to the United States permanently, and – despite her still-thick Italian accent – calls herself an almost-New Yorker, having now resided in the city for approaching a decade.
Valenti loves to sing and talk about her heritage, but it’s obvious, via a telephone conversation with the Sun-Gazette, that she sincerely cherishes the Italian-American culture in America.
She recalled a sentimental moment at the end of one of her shows near New York City.
“At the end of the show, the lights went on, there were about 300 people in the room … the faces of the people in the audience were really Italian to me,” Valenti said.
She said in the these faces she can faintly see her uncle, brother or grandfather.
“To this day I can still spot the Italian-Americans. It’s a discovery, like, what is America? You’d be surprised Some (Italian-) American’s have traditions that we lost in Italy.”
Valenti envisions the event to be one of elegance, hoping the audience will join in, perhaps wearing nice gowns, or even a mask to join in on the fun.
“I always do what I do from my heart; if you are honest, the audience gets that. I hope Williamsport will like it too,” Valenti said.
Valenti added that one of the things she loves most about music is the fact that she can help others through her profession.
“I promote love and kindness,” she said.