School of Rock LGBT+ star Brian Falduto turning his trauma into inspiration and empowerment

Named as one of the “20 most influential, outspoken, and optimistic individuals on the planet” by PrideLife Magazine in their 20th Anniversary #20intheir20s issue, Brian Falduto has evolved from his “fancy pants” role in the iconic Richard Linklater-directed musical comedy “School of Rock.” The film broke box-office records by becoming the highest-grossing music-themed comedy at the time of release and lived on with the 2015 Andrew Lloyd Webber-composed Broadway musical adaptation as well as Nickelodeon series.

Since the hit film, Falduto garnered headlines in March 2018 through a commentary piece he wrote for Advocate regarding the struggle he had in coming out as gay for 20 years immediately following the release of “School of Rock” and has since then added singer songwriter and I.C.F. certified life coach to his roster.

Since college, Brian has immersed himself back into the industry, working with renowned theatre organizations such as the Broadway PR firm DKC/O&M, the Broadway producing company Jujamcyn Theatres, the regional Paper Mill Playhouse, the Off-Broadway show Fuerza Bruta, the Venus / Adonis Theatre Festival, and the New York International Fringe Festival. He has also taken a dive into the world of radio and is especially proud of the role he had in helping bring country music back to NYC with NASH FM 94.7, the flagship station of the now national and influential NASH brand. Bit by the music industry bug, Brian is now a singer-songwriter himself, delivering heartfelt lyrics through infectious melodies. His debut, acoustic EP, “Love One Another” was released on June 13, 2017 and within 24 hours hit #94 on the US iTunes Singer-Songwriter charts.

By the end of the week, it was #64 on this same chart in the UK and #31 for overall album sales on iTunes in Norway. Prior to releasing his 2018 Live Performance Session series on YouTube, Brian spent the majority of 2017 sharing his music live in concert throughout the tri-state area and also devoted some time partnering with various non-profits including The Trevor Project, H.D.S.A. (Huntington’s Disease Society of America), S.A.G.E. (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders), and H.E.A.R.T. (Help Educate At Risk Teens Foundation), all causes dear to his heart. Pride Month 2018 also brought more opportunities for Brian to continue his advocacy for the LGBTQ community with Broadway Sings for Pride at their 8th annual star-studded benefit concert and through his own efforts organizing the 1st ever NYC Pride Week LGBT Songwriter’s Night in support of The Trevor Project. Most recently, Brian has had some amazing opportunities to share his life story openly and honestly through both a self-written piece in The Advocate and a heartfelt interview with Now This News, both of which have since gone viral. Brian is the founder of his own life coaching business in compliance with the International Coach Federation standards and is part of the marketing committee for the Gay Coaches Alliance.

Brian’s 1st studio album “Stage Two” is out now featuring the lead single, “Rainy Day.” He and his band recently performed at the East Coast Music Conference in Norfolk, VA just prior to heading out on a Pride month tour with a set list full of gay country tunes. Brian is currently in the process of putting together his first ever music video for an upcoming single. He also looks forward to the release of the wrapped web series, Fishing, in which he stars as Benji.

How do you feel that you have been named as one of the “20 most influential, outspoken, and optimistic individuals on the planet” by PrideLife Magazine in their 20th Anniversary?

Oh that was a cool day! I didn’t believe it for a second. I was like, there must be some mistake. It’s a ridiculous title but I do appreciate the recognition for what I’m trying to do as an artist and an advocate.

Actor, singer, songwriter, coach. What else is Brian?

Ha, just a human doing his best. I’m trying to say yes to things that interest me and no to things that don’t serve me so I’m not sure what final destination that will lead to.

Do you feel you have evolved from your “fancy pants” role in the iconic Richard Linklater-directed musical comedy “School of Rock”?

Gosh, I hope so! Though that kid was way more “influential, outspoken, and optimistic” than I consider myself to be, mainly because he was so unfiltered. I feel a rather strong disconnect to that experience as a whole. It was so long ago and I don’t think any of who I currently am is anything like I was .. two years ago, never mind as a child. Which is awesome because I’m very content with who I currently am but I also feel like I’m constantly reintroducing myself to the world.

Did you expect the huge success of the movie and how did it change your life?

It’s so awesome. I really lucked out! A lot of movies flop! It’s a cool feeling to know that something that delivered so much meaning into my life continues to impact people on a variety of levels. The fact that it was so big makes me feel less embarrassment for talking about it as much as I do.

How easy or difficult was it to come out and, according to you, how important is coming out nowadays?

It was definitely not easy to come out; despite the metaphorical red carpet that seemed set out for me to do so. I think it’s a really personal thing and it has to do with what’s going on in your head more than anything else. I’d say it’s important to love yourself and share yourself authentically but not everyone is ready to do that so I don’t think my opinions on it matter that much. We should not rush anyone into anything they’re not ready to do. Instead, let’s just create space for them so that when they do want to take those first steps, they’re not so scary.

What is your trauma and how did you manage to turn it into empowerment?

My trauma in a word is shame. My shame was a result of people projecting the label of gay onto me at a young age combined with the understanding that being gay was not a good thing and that it would make me less acceptable. Then my trauma became overcompensating behaviour for that shame – trying to prove myself – followed by the area of my life that I refer to as rock bottom. That time was filled with toxic relationships and a lot of self-sabotaging motives that kept me in this cyclical pattern of letting other people decide my worth. Music helped me pick myself up off the floor and put into words what I was feeling and that was the start of my empowerment journey, particularly the connection to others that came from sharing that music. My story then became about authenticity and discovering how much I can really know myself and how much of that I can genuinely put into my work and my interactions. Those chapters of my story have been so fulfilling that they became my passion and now I use my work as a coach to help other people develop that relationship with themselves and the people in their life.

How do you feel as one of the most recognisable out actors?

Well there’s a lot of out actors these days. But I love being able to represent the less represented. The messages I receive from people who identified with me when I was younger really warm my heart .. especially considering how long I ran from that opportunity for connection.

What advice would you give to people who see you as a role model and are still in the closet?

One step at a time. Get rid of the words “coming out” and try to view it as less of a giant wall that needs to be knocked down. Because I’m 27 and I’m still coming out. There’s going to be a part of you that you’re always discovering and sharing. So what do you want to do today? And if it’s scary, what are you going to make sure you feel better after? Don’t let the experience dictate how you feel that day. Do the scary thing and have a back-up plan for self-care in your pocket. And ask for help. Life coaches, therapists, hot lines – it is 2020 and we are not alone in this anymore.

How easier or more difficult are things for the new generaion of LGBTQ+ people?

I mean it’s definitely helpful that there’s a dialogue and a language for it all now .. and that there are growing amounts of representation and storytelling. But we still have a long way to go towards normalizing it all and creating the space for it in society that it deserves. And there are still plenty of obstacles in the way of that progress. I say that just because we cannot view our work as finished in any regard. We must keep going.

What has been the most important moment in your career?

Oh gosh. I warmed up for Lizzo this past summer at Sacramento Pride? That was a highlight. But most of my highlights have just been me discovering that I can do this and that I’m good at it. Now I’m just like – let me at ‘em!

What are you working on at the moment?

I have a music video coming out next month that contains my most important message to date. I’ve had some awesome support behind it including GLAAD & The Trevor Project, as well as some of the SOR team back together (Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Scott Rudin). I’m a #gaycountry singer .. which is rare in that genre unfortunately. But songs about church are plentiful in country music so I decided to write a song about my experience growing up in church .. as a gay man. It’s called “God Loves Me Too” and I am so excited to share it.

How did coaching enter your life?

I talked about this briefly but mainly I just became so passionate about how one develops a good relationship with themselves. After doing that for myself, I eventually decided I wanted to go back and help others do the same.

Do you feel that people suffer more from mental problems nowadays?

I feel like people suffer the same amount nowadays as they did in “olden” days but now we just have more psychology and vocabulary for it? But I wouldn’t know because I’m not a mental health professional.

What advice would you give to people with mental problems?

Own it. And accept it. And do what you need for it.

Have you been in love?

Ha, a few times, yes! I’m quick to fall.

What are your plans and dreams for the future?

I’m not used to answering this! I usually make my clients answer it! Um, I would love more freedom in my pursuits. Right now, I’m still in the early stages of building a career for myself and every step feels like a huge muscle exertion .. and I still have so much to say .. so I’d love some additional ease and support in getting my stories out. That’s a humble way of me asking for a record deal, haha.

*all images are courtesy of Mark Ostow

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