Walk for Music Spotlight: Johnny Giraldo

How did you get involved with ZUMIX and Walk for Music?

I never attended ZUMIX as a teenager, but I knew where it was, and I often walked by the old building on Maverick Street. The energy was there—you could sense that there was something interesting happening in that building. I lived nearby; I used to live on Sumner Street, close to where the ZUMIX Firehouse is now. I met Madeleine through the neighborhood and also through my involvement with a Colombian folk dance group. I remember connecting with Madeleine and being aware of what ZUMIX was doing. 

Some years ago, I started doing a salsa radio program, called Ritmo Salsero, online – posting it on Facebook and other places. After ZUMIX Radio made the switch to FM, I asked about doing a radio program on that station. So then I started coming into the building and getting more familiar with the space and what was going on there. For my birthday one year, I decided to do one of those birthday fundraisers on Facebook, and I think I raised close to a thousand dollars. Madeleine reached out, and Gaby (Perry) also reached out, and they both asked me if I wanted to be on the ZUMIX board. I joined the board, and the rest is history, as they say. 

What drew you to ZUMIX?

The idea of music being a vehicle for change, for empowering youth—I believe that’s such an important thing that everybody should experience. I’m a dance instructor; I run a salsa company called Salsa y Control with my brother Andres, and I got into dancing because of the music first. Music has always been at the core of a lot of what I do, and it’s always around me. 

Now, as an adult, and now that I have kids myself, I believe it’s important for kids to be exposed to anything that’s artistic, that can help them explore their place in the world. Music and the arts – it’s self-expression. It allows us to discover different things about ourselves and other people. The teenage years are those years of curiosity, and being able to explore the world in a positive way is really important. 

ZUMIX aligns with everything I believe in. It aligns with my values, with what I believe is important, with what I want the future to look like. Music is so powerful. The more kids are exposed to it and involved in it, the better outcomes I think we can have for our world.

Do you have a favorite Walk for Music memory?

I love the joyous energy that you can feel all around when you’re walking with everyone. The Hot Tamale Brass Band always brings such a great energy – I think it’s contagious. Everybody wants to play along and march along, which is why I always bring my cowbell. I love to play it, even if I don’t really know how to play. You see people smiling, dancing, singing, and the community coming together. 

Walk for Music isn’t a massive walk – we have a good crowd, but it’s still kind of intimate. But at the same time, it has a lot of positive energy. It feels like it’s a bigger crowd than it is. When you see the group photo, you realize how many people are there to support. 

The Trike Called Funk is a lot of fun – it gives a good balance. They’re in the back with the music blasting, and the brass band is in the front. A couple years ago, we ended with a dance party in Piers Park, which was great. And last year, Mayor Michelle Wu showed up for the last couple of blocks, and she played my cowbell! 

Why do you Walk for Music

I really believe in the power of music and how it brings people together, literally. We experience just that at Walk for Music. People come together to celebrate and root for a great cause, and to help empower youth. Music is just the perfect intersection to bring people together.

Read all of ZUMIX’s Walk for Music spotlights here, and donate to Johnny’s Walk for Music page here.