Headlined Guests that have appeared on BBS Radio TV
Sonja is a suicide survivor with over 30 years of lived experience with mental health challenges. She is one of today’s most insightful and inspirational speakers on mental health. Her award-winning and best-selling book, An Impossible Life, which details her struggles with mental illness, was featured on CBS This Morning as a story of hope. CBS This Morning Correspondent, Dr. Tara Narula, said that Sonja’s story was “one of my most sacred and special I’ve ever done.”
Sonja is a devoted mental health advocate. Her mental health advocacy work includes drug addiction recovery programs, homeless shelters, firefighters, police officers, veterans, women’s prisons, and others.
Oprah Winfrey graciously participated virtually in one of Sonja’s mental health book clubs’ discussions to inspire the women inmates at Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison.
She has traveled the country speaking with Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit organizations, government officials, advocacy groups, and top media outlets about the importance of mental health. Sonja has been an op-ed contributor in such publications as The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Hill, Ms. Magazine, Kevin M.D., NAMI (National Alliance Mental Illness), Oprah Daily, and others. She is a member of Newsweek Expert Forum.
Sonja has been interviewed in all 50 states on local and national news about the importance of raising mental health awareness. She has had the privilege of sharing her story and message of hope with millions of people. Sonja is passionate about helping individuals and organizations create open, inclusive, and educational conversations around mental health.
Monica Fawzy Bryant, Esq., is a cancer rights attorney, speaker, and author, dedicated to improving access to quality information on healthcare-related issues. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer for Triage Cancer, a national non-profit organization that provides education on the practical and legal issues that may impact individuals diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers.
Ms. Bryant is co-author of the first and only book on Cancer Rights Law, published by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2018. In 2019, she received a 40 Under 40 in Cancer Award, and in 2015, was awarded the Legacy Advocate Award by a leading young adult cancer organization. She is an Adjunct Law Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Law, teaching a class on Cancer Rights. Throughout her career, she has provided more than one thousand educational seminars for individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer, their caregivers, lawyers, advocates, health care professionals, elected officials, and the general public.
Today I am speaking with a talented healer and spiritual mentor. My guest is Amy Robeson who is a skilled teacher with a rare ability to clearly communicate high spiritual concepts, so her students become powerful healers in their own right. She has been gifted with the ability to tap into the depths of one’s soul’s desires to discover the inner dialog that is preventing them from being in alignment with their true self. Amy is devoted to re-connecting people to their innate divine nature so they can experience more joy, abundance, and love in their lives. She channels divine messages from the Akashic Records and loves teaching her clients how to access them as well. Sacred Awakening: https://theamyrobeson.com/sacred-awakening/ref/147/
RUTH MILKMAN is a sociologist of labor and labor movements who has written on a variety of topics involving work and organized labor in the United States, past and present. Her most recent books are Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat (Polity, 2020) and On Gender, Labor and Inequality (Illinois, 2016). Her early research focused on the impact on U.S. women workers of economic crisis and war in the 1930s and 1940s. She went on to study the restructuring of the U.S. automobile industry and its impact on workers and their union in the 1980s and 1990s; in that period she also analyzed the labor practices of Japanese-owned factories in California. More recently she has written extensively about low-wage immigrant workers, analyzing their employment conditions as well as the dynamics of immigrant labor organizing. She co-authored a 2013 study of California’s paid family leave program, focusing on its impact on employers and workers. She served as the 2016 President of the American Sociological Association, where her presidential address focused on Millennial-generation social movements. She has also conducted extensive policy-oriented research on such topics as wage theft, unionization trends, paid sick leave, and the aging workforce. After 21 years as a sociology professor at UCLA, where she directed the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment from 2001 to 2008, she returned to New York City in 2010. She is currently Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, where she chairs the Labor Studies Department.
Peter Elste has been a Police Officer for 21 years, starting with the NYPD 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn as part of the Street Narcotics Unit and Community Conditions Unit.
Pete is currently serving with the Danbury Police Department where he is a Field Training Officer, Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator, and a member of the Emergency Services Unit and Peer Support Team.
Scott Alvord is an experienced therapist and clinical supervisor. Scott works with the Crisis Intervention Teams for two local Police Departments as their Crisis Intervention Clinician. Scott has over a decade of experience in IOP (Intensive Outpatient Programs) PHP (Partial hospitalization programs), and persistent mental health diagnosis support and care. Scott also currently runs a private practice.
Expert at introducing cutting edge, unique, innovative products to the holistic health marketplace since 1980. Momentum98 Natural Health Products - the oldest natural health store in Columbus, Ohio is the largest distributor of massage tools (# of items) in North America and is nationally recognized for carrying the most unique selection of wellness accessories in the industry. Introduced the Relax Sauna to the US market in 2002. The Relax Far Infrared (FIR) Sauna contains patented ceramic chips which produce the highest and purest levels of far infrared found in any sauna.
Far infrared waves increase human energy and create warmth in the body, thus producing resonance with the body and providing healing power, especially with wavelengths of 6 -14 microns. It is essential for growth of humans and all beings. Now, it has been recognized by biologists and societies of human engineers.
> Discharge toxins from the body (especially heavy metals)
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> Safe: CE and GS certificates
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Did you know that most prescription drugs have a
Goldilocks Effect? Elizabeth Reed Aden holds a PhD
in biomedical anthropology and did her post-doctoral
studies in Human Genetics at Stanford. As Senior
Vice President of Global Pharmaceutical Strategy at
Roche headquarters in Basel, she participated all
product-based decisions. Her responsibilities spanned
pricing, reimbursement, new product planning,
acquisitions and business planning, She has held
numerous C-level positions spanning many different
technologies and co-founded biotech companies.
Presently sits on a couple of Boards of Directors,
including a gene therapy company developing a nov
This episode is a conversation on UFO’s and Intuitive Vedic Astrology. My guest, Serena Wright Taylor is an award-winning conference producer. Intuitive Vedic Astrologer, UFO Researcher, Writer, Creative Artist and Humanitarian. Serena is an Ambassador for the Love Button Global Movement which fosters acts of kindness all over the world. An Intuitive Vedic Astrologer for more than 35 years, Serena combines her psychic ability and astrology to .
Salvatore (Sonny) Provetto MSW, LICSW is an EMDR clinician and a trauma consultant for police departments and emergency responders nationwide. His experiences as a police officer and emergency mental health clinician have guided his clinical practice with first responders for more than 20 years. Sonny consults on issues of stress and trauma with police officers, firefighters, emergency responders and their organizations.
He works closely with 10 Vermont police departments, fire departments, and EMS. Sonny has testified in front of the Vermont legislature as a subject matter expert on PTSD and influenced legislation making Vermont the first state to recognize PTSD as a compensable work-related injury for first responders.
Sonny is also the recipient of the EMDR advocacy award for the effective treatment and advancement of EMDR in treating first responders. He also has created a EMDR group intervention specifically for first responders which is currently being researched and used in the United States, Europe and now with the Ukrainian military.
A Southern California native, Karen maintains an active schedule as a performer, teacher, composer, multi-genre keyboardist, recording artist, and is the founder of ValleyGirlBeats, a music production studio.
Because Karen is an incredibly versatile keyboardist and has performed and recorded with some of the most respected artists in the music scene including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diane Schuur, Madeline Eastman, Vinnie Colaiuta, Scott Colley, Cathy Segal-Garcia, Chris Conner, Dick Weller, Steve Cardenas, Kenny Wollesen, Mariane McSweeny, Eric Marienthal, Putter Smith, Bob Shepherd, Ron Stout, Dawn Bishop, Gina Saputo, Melissa Manchester, Tierney Sutton, Kate McGarry, Michael McDonald, Larry Koonse, Judy Wexler, Julie Christensen, Cris Barber, Janiva Magness, Sweet Baby Jai, and Cynthia Jones.
Some musical career highlights include:
- Performing at Royce Hall in an all-star tribute to Leonard Cohen, headed by Grammy-nominee Perla Batalla featuring Jackson Browne, Don Was, Bill Frisell, and Greg Leisz;
- Performing with the great Maurice Hines in Tappin’ Thru Life, his homage to his brother Gregory and himself featuring the Jazz Diva Orchestra;
- Music director for jazz and gospel great Niki Haris , who was with Madonna for several years. With Niki, Karen has performed at the Vail Jazz Festival, the I Love Jazz festival in Brazil, and several times in Bern, Switzerland at Marians Jazzroom.
Karen has recorded on countless CD projects and has 2 CDs of her own, My Beating Heart and Oh Beautiful Life, and has several original tracks which were recorded at her own production company ValleyGirlBeats that are available through this site.
She is also an active educator and has been teaching at Musicians Institute of Los Angeles for 15 years and taught at Los Angeles College of Music for 12 years. She was on staff in 2015 for Madeline Eastman’s JazzCampWest, alongside great jazz artists Josh Nelson, Sara Leib, and Laurence Hobgood. Karen has also been involved in well-known jazz vocalist Julie Kelly’s famous Jazz On The Hill, an intense workshop for budding jazz singers, for 10 years. She was involved in trumpet great Bobby Rodriguiz’s Jazz Adventure, a Los Angeles Music Center sponsored jazz education project for kids. Karen also teaches privately at her home studio in Los Angeles.
Gail Lynn is the inventor and creator of the Harmonic Egg®. As a 37-year-old woman, she was diagnosed with severe cardiovascular stress stemming from the pressure of a competitive career and more than one broken relationship. She had depleted physical, emotional, and psychological reserves. Searching for a natural therapy that might help her, she stumbled across light and sound therapy.
The healing she experienced from a single session of this therapy, while not immediate, seemed almost miraculous to her. She was intrigued, and she reserved a few more sessions.
Gail has a wide-ranging background in creative endeavors, as a business owner and in the field of engineering. She knew that the light and sound therapy she had experienced could be improved, and she was excited to realize that she possessed the exact gifts needed to do that.
In 2010 she opened her first light and sound therapy center in Denver, Colorado using the older technology she had first experienced. Over the next few years, she studied bio resonant frequencies, Nikola Tesla’s theories of 3,6, and 9, sacred geometry, heliotherapy, chromotherapy, and much more. She pondered how to create a chamber with the perfect combination of size ratios, materials, and shapes to enhance resonance. She enlisted the expertise of professional musicians to create some proprietary music specifically designed to utilize the acoustics of the egg shape to help the body heal itself. Gail also collaborates with professional light and sound engineers on the Harmonic Egg® team. In 2020 she was approved for a patent for her invention, the Harmonic Egg®, just 4 years after applying.
Now Gail has turned her attention to bringing the Harmonic Egg® to more communities throughout the US and the world. In addition to making the Harmonic Egg® available for sale to other holistic practitioners, she generously shares her knowledge. She is passionate about helping people transform their health and achieve mental and emotional well-being by energizing the healing power within them.
To learn more about Gail’s story and for additional details on the inner workings of the Harmonic Egg®, read Gail’s book “Unlocking the Ancient Secrets to Healing.”
Through Retreats, One-on-One Sessions and Spiritual Coaching, of Evolution of the Heart, Bill provides guidance for a thriving life. He believes that to fully thrive and live from your center, a healed and whole foundation is necessary. The modalities that flow are unique to each individual; providing specialized support for the healing needed to rebuild and strengthen the souls foundation and heart.
I know the importance of surrendering to the opening of my own heart and embracing the brightness of the light within. Through deep awareness and guidance, I support you in moving towards your opportunities for profound healing, so that you too may step into the freedom to be who you have come here to be. I use real-time healing and practical tools and practices to support you in building emotional muscle. Through the process, you will discover your own strength and resilience and the truth of who you really are. Patricia and I started Evolution of the Heart from the fundamental desire of people wanting to open their hearts and live a life of fulfillment and freedom.
It was through 30 years of seeking and experiencing many modalities of religion and spirituality, that I finally discovered my own true, divine path. I was born in London, England in 1947 and moved to the United States as a toddler. My childhood military family set the foundation from which I would grow. I became a certified Federal Aviation Agency Technician and later moved into the automotive industry. I owned and operated a successful business for 30 years before turning my attention fully towards supporting others on their paths to enlightenment. I now live in San Diego, California, and I am so grateful to share this life with my wife, Patricia, and our beautiful children and grandchildren.
Using both sensitivity and strength, I welcome you into self-acceptance and forgiveness, guiding you through pain, grief, fear and anger. I support you in building and strengthening your own foundation, providing tools and skills for emotional and spiritual growth. Our work together offers you the opportunity to transform into the person you are here to be. I also lead Man to Man Coaching, a coaching practice to support the everyday man to heal and awaken. “When you can move into acceptance of what life is right now, you are in the movement of what is truly inviting you to experience the depth of yourself.”
My own journey of awakening has led me to extensively explore both mentoring and healing, developing skills across several healing modalities and professional certifications. Devotion and commitment have blessed me with the opportunity to have been among many gifted teachers, always discovering even greater depths of my own heart.
JUAN ESCOVEDO, aka The J
As a child, Juan taught himself to play bongos, congas, trap drums, timbales, percussion, and other instruments. When he turned 14, he went from studying his father, Pete Escovedo, to proudly performing with him.
Juan has toured, performed, and recorded with many artists, including Prince, Tony Toni Tone, Miguel, El Chicano, Con Funk Shun, Patti LaBelle, Amerie, Chingy, Jody Watley, Lou Bega, MC Hammer, Lionel Richie, En Vogue, El DeBarge, Freddie Hubbard, Barry White, Herbie Hancock, Cyndi Lauper, Teri Lynn Carrington, Bobby McFerrin, Tito Puente, Cheryl Lynn, Raphael Saadiq, Bobby Womack, his sister Sheila E., and, still, his father, Pete Escovedo.
Juan tours, writes, and records as a solo artist with his father’s Latin Jazz Orchestra and The E Family: his father, his brother, Peter Michael Escovedo, and his sister Sheila E. Produced and arranged by Peter Michael Escovedo, The E Family’s latest CD, Rhythm of the Night, is a collection of nine “Old School” Soul & R&B hits, re-arranged and transformed into an explosion of Latin Jazz articulated through a fourteen-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra. The album features guest vocalists Peter Michael, Simon Russel, Sy Smith, Sheila E., Peter Michael, and Debi, as well as Escovedo’s great grandchildren.
Juan Escovedo released his first solo CD, THE J, on November 8, 2021, at his official record release party with two sold-out shows in Oakland. This CD elevates your soul with a masterfully crafted sound and rhythm meticulously created with an orchestra of seasoned sound that promises to take your breath away. Angel, the first single, features singer-songwriter El DeBarge with Martin Kember from Color Me Badd. Raphael Saadiq plays bass on two songs, Eddie M plays saxophone on two songs, and Andy Fargas of Santana sings on another piece. The video Angel was released on December 1, 2021!
Award-winning adventure romance author Stacy Gold would rather be in the middle of nowhere than almost anywhere else.
To that end, she’s run more than 50 rivers in three countries, been heli-dropped into remote ski huts multiple times (and made it into even more under her own steam), and most recently completed a self-support kayak trip in the Grand Canyon.
She has worked for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service as a backcountry ranger, river ranger, and naturalist, and spent fourteen years as a commercial river guide and kayak instructor in the southeast, Rocky Mountains and PNW. Her last “real job” was serving as Communications Director for a state-wide mountain biking non-profit.
When she’s not busy kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, or hiking, with her husband and happy dogs, she writes stories about independent, capable women finding love and adventure in the great outdoors
It’s my love for Pop music. And I do really love it. I’m the girl that’s singing the pop songs at the top of my lungs in the car and hoping other cars don’t think it’s road rage. That’s actually a part of my make up.
I grew up with a Jazz trumpet player dad, Alan “Buddy” Bailey. He wanted me to be a great Jazz singer, and I just didn’t know how. It affected how I chose music, and how I viewed myself as a singer. I started this project knowing that I wanted to collaborate with my dad on a CD. We had a mutual love for Chet Baker.
Chet Baker could break your heart and bring you joy with the way he sang and played his trumpet. This is what makes a great musician. They find a way to touch your soul.
Jazz with POP is a collection of funk, Jazz, and Pop. I picked the songs I love, and I hope you will love them too.
This Chicago born singer-songwriter is a thoughtful lyricist that attributes her ability to weave intoxicatingly beautiful entrancing songs into the hearts of her listeners to her musical family upbringing. Sheila’s father Sean, a folk musician from Donegal, Ireland first started teaching her to sing when she was old enough to talk and from that point on, Sheila focused her incredible talent and energy into developing her diverse musical career. Today, she is a dynamic, charismatic performer whose passionate and clear voice blends world, folk-rock, Celtic and pop styles
On November 11th, 2000 at the Hothouse in Chicago, Sheila released her first CD of original songs entitled “Waking Up” produced by Greg Crook and Allen Burnett of Tic Toc Entertainment. Sheila’s songs communicate a heartfelt invitation to live life fully and playfully, with love and respect for all people and her lyrics invite the listener to dive into a new way of thinking. Ultimately she hopes that her music has a positive effect in the hearts of her listeners and that it will in some way have an impact on creating world unity.
In October 2001 she moved out to Los Angeles and continues to perform throughout LA at venues including Genghis Cohen, The Viper Room, The Knitting Factory, The Mint, the House of Blues and the Derby and in November of 2003 she was a featured act at the VH-1 Save the Music Foundation party in Beverly Hills.
Six of her songs, from her album, “Clear”, a collaboration with poet and musician Richard Fammeree, are featured in the independent short film, “I Heard the Mermaids Singing” which won a Silver Award for Excellence for the soundtrack at the Park City Film Music Festival. “I Heard the Mermaids Singing” continues to make the Film Festival circuit and was screened at the Cannes International Film Festival.
On the electronic music front, her song “She She Land”, a mix with DJ/Producer Carlo Astuti, was #3 Top Beatport Weekly Releases for two weeks on a row and #15 on Beatport Progressive House Charts worldwide.
She continues to perform live around the LA area and she is working on writing her new album and upcoming film and TV projects.
CATHERINE SHAINBERG, PH.D.
Catherine Shainberg, Ph.D, is an internationally renowned transpersonal psychologist, lecturer, visionary, teacher, and award-winning author. She is the founder of The School of Images® – a New York-based institute and global network of study centers that use the power of dream images and imagination for transformational purposes. Grounded in the Kabbalah, her work integrates ancient wisdom and teachings with modern Western knowledge and techniques to catalyze creative manifestation at all levels, in all areas of life, including personal, professional, communal, and global.
Drawing on more than a decade studying the Kabbalah of Light in Jerusalem with renowned kabbalist, mystic and teacher Colette Aboulker-Muscat and her own lifelong scholarship, she has developed proprietary techniques such as Saphire® Imagery, DreamOpening® and other unique, powerful methods for communicating with one’s subconscious. This work has helped thousands of students and private clients over the years in the US and at SOI’s eight international locations.
The bestselling author of Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming: Awakening the Visionary Life and DreamBirth: Transforming the Journey of Childbirth Through Imagery, her upcoming book, The Kabbalah of Light: Ancient Practices to Ignite the Imagination and Illuminate the Soul will be published in June, 2022 by Inner Traditions.
An in-demand speaker, guest lecturer, and teacher, she has been a highly acclaimed presenter about her own groundbreaking work with The School of Images® as well as Kabbalah, dreaming, imagery, and the subconscious at such leading organizations as Esalen, The Open Center, the NYC Jewish Community Center, New York’s 92nd Street Y, The Kitchen, Bodhi Tree, the Rubin Museum, the Deepak Chopra Center, the Wellfleet Library Lecture Series, and the American Institute of Mental Imagery.
Internationally, she has spoken extensively in cultural and academic institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and South East Asia, including the Guggenheim (Venice, Italy), the Waitah’a Air Gathering (New Zealand), the Transpersonal Psychology Institute (Melbourne, Australia), the London YPO, and the American Institute of Mental Imagery (Jerusalem, Israel), and she has been.
REV. ESTHER MIRIAM JENKINS
Reverend Esther Miriam Jenkins is founder of the School for the Shamanic Arts in Glendora, CA. A former high school teacher, she began her journey in the late 1950’s studying with the late Dr. Wm. V. King. He was a teacher of Eastern and Western Mysteries and a channel for St.Michael.
Her work continued when she joined the Healing Light Center Church in 1985. Here she learned Hands-On-Healing with the profound healer and psychic, Reverend Rosalyn Bruyere. She also began studying with Alberto Villoldo, a psychologist and medical anthropologist who studied with the Q’ero Indians of Peru.
She traveled to Peru and received sacred Inka initiations with Juan Nunez del Prado and Americo Yabar. Esther has also worked with Jose Luis Herrera, Ruben Orellana,and Jorge Luis Delgado.
Her mission is to share the knowledge and wisdom she has received from these great teachers as well as the information and enlightenment she receives from her own Guidence.
michéal CASTALDO is the living embodiment of authentic Italian culture for modern North Americans. A native of Calabria in the “tip of the toe” of Italy, michéal is an accomplished pop-classical crossover singer of his native songs and a purveyor of his family-made, heirloom Italian luxury products in North America.
michéal’s music is a life-long passion. His businesses began as gifts for friends from his family’s pursuits in Calabria. Today, in addition to performing his heart-warming Italian songs to adoring audiences, michéal CASTALDO rents his refurbished childhood home (Villetta Mimma Vittoria) in the heart of Calabria and imports his family’s high-quality true extra virgin olive oil, Aceto balsamic vinegar and Musica perfume fragrances, as well as the planning and staging of full-service, high-end Italian-themed events through his Tuscan Weddings and Events division.
michéal CASTALDO’s name has become synonymous with authentic Italian experiences and products for North Americans in love with Italian culture.
As a young child when his parents immigrated from Calabria to Canada in the 1960s, michéal was exposed at an early age to both American rock & roll and Italian pop music as well as the various Italian languages. His father, who originally crafted wooden barrels (a “Cooper”) for wine and balsamic vinegar in Calabria in the 1950s, became a general purpose carpenter when the family moved to a lively Italian community in Toronto, Canada.
At nine years old, young michéal—a member of his Catholic church’s choir—was chosen by a priest to sing a solo. After the mass, parishioners came up to the young man and praised his voice. At that moment, the music bug bit michéal and a singing career was born.michéal CASTALDO.
He began studying guitar, piano, trumpet and songwriting. He studied voice with the renowned Maestro Pisapia, a protégé of the great Italian operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso, and songwriting with the legendary Doc Pomus.
michéal practiced Bel canto, the cousin of opera, while at same time soaking up the Italian performances of Andrea Bocelli along with Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. This meshing of global musical interests would form his crossover future.
After an education at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, michéal moved to New York City to pursue a professional music career. He developed his skills as a songwriter—at first writing in English—and producer working with, among others, singer-guitarist José Feliciano, trumpeter Chris Botto, jazz saxophonist Teo Macero and dancer Martha Wash.
“Goin’ Krazy,” a 1994 song written by michéal for Feliciano, entered the Billboard dance chart; the first CD for michéal’s pop band, Lives of a Cell, charted on the Gavin Report; and a dance remix for Martha Wash ascended Billboard’s dance charts. michéal’s last three CD releases—Olive You, Extravergine and Bergamot, went to number one on Amazon.com’s music charts.
Though he began singing in English, michéal switched to Italian when audiences responded to his unique hometown repertoire. Though he mostly sings in Italy’s “official” Florentine language, he is equally adept at the Neapolitan and Calabrian languages and has recorded songs in each language.
A lifetime of Italian living has brought a smooth texture, rich flavor and romantic hue to michéal’s Italian crossover music. As a vocalist, he has toured North America and Europe, including performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Rainbow Room, Citifield and Shea Stadium. His passionate singing consistently transports audiences to his native Italian world of beauty and sweeping romanticism.
In 2012, michéal was chosen third among “Europe’s Best Crossover Performers,” and in 2011, named “Indie Artist of the Year” by Classical-Crossover UK. He was also awarded a prestigious Abe Olman Scholarship by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In addition to his music, there are michéal’s culture-bending “family” businesses, which came almost by accident. On a visit to his native Calabria for a wedding in 2000, he and his fiancé (now his wife) visited his old home, which had been abandoned by his family and had fallen into disrepair. Having just read the book, Under the Tuscan Sun, she had the idea that he fix up the house and offer it as a rental villa.
The idea took hold and michéal, with the help of skeptical family members, began a three-year project to rebuild and refurbish the building, which is centrally located in Gioia Tauro in Calabria. The work was completed in 2003. By the second year, the villa was rented 48 out of 52 weeks in a year. His family suddenly gained new respect for michéal’s budding entrepreneurship.
Calabria, unlike the rest of Italy, is still old world natural and undeveloped. The people are warm and friendly, and costs remain low. The location has grown as an ideal vacation spot for those seeking to visit the “real” Italy.
Near the villa are the family’s olive groves. There are 20,000 olive trees, many from 20 to over 300 years old. Because michéal’s family is large, they use only family members to work in the groves. This assures a higher level of quality because the people who do the work also consume the olive oil for their personal use.
The certified organic oil made by michéal’s family with traditional farming methods has a brilliant dark green hue, the scent of green olive and a wonderful buttery texture with subtle peppery finish. During trips to Calabria supervising the remodeling of the villa, michéal brought small bottles of his family-made olive oil home to give to friends as gifts.
The bottles were so popular that michéal was asked to if he could import and sell larger quantities of the olive oil in the states. In response, he formed the New York Olive Oil Cooperative, a group modeled after a farmer’s market, to import his family’s olive oil to the United States.
The olive oil was an instant hit and the small business took off. Then, michéal was asked by friends to import another Calabrian staple—authentic balsamic vinegar. This one was more difficult and took michéal on a journey to learn the vinegar-making process and, along the way, some more family history.
Made from the “must” of freshly pressed juice from the Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, the must is cooked down in open copper kettles to half its original volume, then put into wooden casks to age for a dozen years. After that, it’s tested and returned to the wood for another five, ten, twenty or a hundred years or more.
During the aging process, the balsamic vinegar is shifted (topped off) from one type of wood to the next. Cherry, chestnut, oak and mulberry all leave their imprint on the flavor of the vinegar. michéal learned that some woods are trade secrets.
The result of this age-old process is an almost unbelievable concentration of sweet-sour flavor in a dense, intense, brown-black vinegar that hints of berries, grapes and vanilla. Tasting a well-aged balsamic vinegar is an experience that can last a lifetime.
michéal learned that a family member, who owns a gourmet restaurant in Italy, buys his balsamic vinegar from a Modena family who processes its vinegar through ten successively smaller barrels. They sell only to other families, not to businesses.
michéal was told he must buy a minimum of a single barrel to purchase vinegar from the family. “How much could a single barrel cost?” he asked himself. “Well, I learned it can cost thousands of dollars.”
michéal remembered that his own father had once been a Cooper, making wooden barrels for a family of balsamic vinegar makers of Modena. To give the process his own family’s touch, he contacted his father to see if he still had an old barrel—the older the wood the better. His father found one of his hand-crafted barrels for vinegar and cleaned it for use with michéal’s new balsamic vinegar enterprise.
Today, michéal’s balsamic vinegar is prized by connoisseurs throughout North America. It is sold in two ounce bottles through the same co-op that sells his olive oil.
Finally, michéal added a perfume fragrance to his line of family products from Calabria. Eighty-percent of the world’s Bergamot, the primary essence for many perfumes, comes from Southern Italy’s Ionian coast. The essence originates from an un-editable citrus plant about the size of a grapefruit. By combining Bergamot with other essential oils, michéal has produced Musica, a new perfume fragrance to add to his co-op products.
“Musica means music in Italian,” michéal said. “The terminology in the fragrance world is extremely similar to that of the music world. You have your top notes, your mid notes and your bass notes. You compose a fragrance.”
michéal began by giving perfume samples to buyers of his olive oil and even sprayed some of his CDs—appropriately named “Bergamot”—with his unique fragrance. Since much of the cost of perfume is in its packaging, he sells the initial order of the perfume in a beautiful refillable bottle. The refills cut the cost of the perfume dramatically.
As he performed at high-end events at venues including the Waldorf Astoria, The Pierre, the Rainbow Room, Cipriani, The St. Regis Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton, michéal took his Italian entrepreneurship even further by creating a high-end event planning service, Tuscan Weddings and Events.
The new service celebrates the glamor of Italy in the 1950s and 60s. michéal has combined carefully selected caterers, musicians, photographers and videographers, florists and even a mozzarella maker to produce weddings and other events with an authentic Italian theme. He keeps the events exclusive for quality control—doing only two or three events a year. So far, the company has successfully done more than ten such events.
What began for michéal CASTALDO as a passion for music, has transformed into his family’s personal story through a series of family-made products that brings his authentic Italian culture to North Americans.
“I’m telling my story through these products,” said michéal. “I’m sharing my love for my family and what I treasure with anyone willing to try and experience it.”