33 – Tony Spinosa: Career Evolution & Singing Revolution

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0:00 Tony Spinosa
Can we change the world by holding hands and singing? Yes, we can. Not everything has to be done through violence. And I think that's a major theme in the show: that an act of kindness can change the world
0:20 Tony Howell
Hello, it's Tony Howell. And thank you for joining us for this month's Conversations with Changemakers. In this episode, we speak with Tony Spinosa, an American Writer, Composer, Director, Choreographer, and Producer, Tony is a multi-hyphenate. He was born in New York and mentored by theatre legend Michael Bennett. Starting his career as an actor, he made his Broadway debut in Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby.
Fast-forward and Tony has written, directed, choreographed, and produced (all the different hats) many, many shows. But underneath all of that is a man who is interested in preserving and innovating the Broadway musical.
In this episode, we'll take you behind the scenes of how to create a musical. You'll hear about the new show, Singing Revolution. We will also take you behind the scenes of creating two websites, SingingRevolutionMusical.com and TonySpinosa.com.
Beyond being super proud of those co-creations, I wanted to have Tony on to discuss this continuing theme of combining entertainment and education. He is truly a multi hyphenate with an evolving career. And I feel like that you may identify with this man's journey.
So along the way, we're going to talk about past, present, and future, including creating a world of belonging, and pairing some historical events that happened in Estonia to what's happening today in Ukraine, Russia, and the United States of America. We’ll compare the AIDS epidemic with the COVID pandemic… this conversation does not shy away from top topics. So I cannot wait to hear your thoughts after the episode. Enjoy.
Tony Spinosa, welcome to the show! It's great to see you again. We just finished, what was it, like six months worth of collaboration together?
2:20 Tony Spinosa
Yes, yes. Thanks for having me on your show. I really appreciate it.
2:24 Tony Howell
Oh, I'm excited. So to start us off: Singing Revolution, this show that you are known for. Give us a quick nod about the show, but I'm particularly wanting people to know about the actual events because it was news to me. I had never heard of the Singing Revolution. So what is Singing Revolution?
2:43 Tony Spinosa
Great. Before I started on this project in 2014, I had never heard of the Singing Revolution.
I was on a Baltic cruise. And we unexpectedly stopped in Tallinn, Estonia, which I knew very little about at the time. But through our tour guide, and going through the various parts of Old Town Tallinn, and then to the festival grounds, the tour guide started to talk about this Singing Revolution that went on from 1987 to 1991, which was in my lifetime. And I was like, “How did I not hear about this? It's an amazing event!”
It was actually a series of events that Estonians got together en masse — huge masses of people and used singing as a shield against the Soviets to regain their independence. There were events that inspired me such as the Baltic Chain, which was a chain that was 200 miles long that went from the capital of Estonia, through the capital of Latvia, into the capital of Lithuania. Two million people holding hands, singing for their freedom to be released from the Soviet Union. There's video footage of this that is just outstanding. You know, another event was their attack on their government Castle, which is Toompea Castle, and the Soviets invaded it trying to capture the leader of the Estonian revolution. And the leader went on radio and said, “Toompea is under attack! Come help!”
And the people flooded the streets of Tallinn, surrounded the castle, and sang until the Soviets retreated. It's events like this that inspired me to create a musical that illuminated not only these events, but gave us a little taste of the culture of Estonia.
4:17 Tony Howell
So conveying that into modern events, in the United States of America and something that just recently happened with the January 6th insurrection. Why do you feel that this show is important for audiences to see now?
4:31 Tony Spinosa
Well, what you just brought up is part of it. You know, things like the Black Lives Matter movement, the peaceful protests, the attack on the Capitol on January 6, this is all history repeating itself. And I think the musical illuminates that and really drives home the fact that peaceful resistance can make a difference. Peaceful revolution can make a change.
4:52 Tony Howell
I love it. Tell me about the process before we go into where things are headed. But what was it like to create this? How did you put this musical together?
5:03 Tony Spinosa
Well, I've been looking for a project for a long time, but an original project, you know? We see in theatre the monopoly of movies being turned into musicals. And of course, that's a wonderful business tactic to follow; business model to follow. However, I wanted to have an original idea. I really respect things like Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton. I think, you know, these original ideas are the backbone of the American Musical Theatre. So I was looking for this for a project. And when this event came across my awareness, I started to figure out how to put together a musical with the Singing Revolution as a backdrop. And I basically used a star crossed lovers story where you have the leader of the Estonian movement, falling in love with the Soviet commander's daughter. And you see what ensues through the events of the Singing Revolution as we drive to the end of the story. It's very character driven, and draped with the events of the Singing Revolution.
5:56 Tony Howell
So let's go a little bit into the past. Where did this come from this ability to say “I want to overlay this with star crossed lovers”? Tell us about your career, your path in theatre.
6:07 Tony Spinosa
It goes back a really long time. I started in professional theatre at the age of 18. As an actor, singer, dancer, I worked with so many wonderful, wonderful directors and creators in my career. And throughout the process, I sort of climbed up the ladder. I started to choreograph at one point in my career, and then I started to direct and choreograph and, and then I started to produce. And then I started to write, and then I started to write music. And it layered. It was really like climbing the ladder. And at this point, I wear so many different hats. I'm very proud of what I've accomplished in my career in musical theatre.
6:41 Tony Howell
I'm proud of what you've accomplished, too. And I want to tell you, and this is the first time maybe you're hearing this, that people don't know, we created two websites together, we're going to zoom in on those. But one of the things that I loved Tony, about our process together was like, I felt like the architect and Mack was the contractor or the builder, and you're our client.
But the moment to me that it really landed was when the house was fully staged: once like it was all built, and you started moving things. And it's such a beautiful representation of the life and the career that you have. And so I applaud you, and I thank you for allowing us to be a part of that.
7:17 Tony Spinosa
Well, Tony, I have to say, working with you has been an amazing experience, because you not only gave me a wonderful internet presence, but you also became a coach, a guide, on what I'm seeing for my future. And that really helped to determine how we were going to proceed on building the online presence for Tony Spinosa and for SingingRevolutionTheMusical.com. It was really an invaluable experience. And I rave about collaborating with you and Mack all the time.
7:45 Tony Howell
Well, I will rave about collaborating with you for all time as well. Let's talk about collaboration. So tell us about putting up Singing Revolution, the world premiere that happened in Los Angeles, and particularly what I'm interested in is how did audiences respond in LA?
8:03 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, we put up Singing Revolution in January 2022, just as Omicron decided to rear her ugly head, which was… it was a hurdle to jump through. However, we did jump through it. And we followed all protocols, and we were very safe.
The reaction to Singing Revolution in Los Angeles was quite amazing. We, by the last weekend of the run, there were sold out houses, you couldn't get a ticket to the show. We were getting such good buzz about it. People were very impressed on learning about Estonia, because most people in America had never even heard of the country of Estonia. It is new to us. A lot of my friends never knew about it. And Estonians who came to see it were also very proud to see their history represented on stage in such a beautiful way.
I think the biggest accolade to the LA production, not only the production values itself, but the music was a standout to most audiences. It's a Euro pop score, a very strong choice of mine to go with a Euro pop score because the folk music in Estonia is not quite musical theatre oriented. And the score is quite memorable to the show. There's quite a few hooks and good tunes in there that people were walking away from. And the biggest comment was, “Tony, I hate your music because I can't get it out of my head!”
It was the biggest compliment I could get.
9:21 Tony Howell
Absolutely. I mean, I found myself singing all the songs as we built the site. So I'm excited to see and… can you tell us what's happening now? So what's happening in the world of Singing Revolution?
9:32 Tony Spinosa
Sure. We've actually got a concert of some of the music at the Bourbon Room in Los Angeles on November 7th. That's through the Foundation for New American Musicals. It's at the Bourbon Room at 7:30pm on November 7th, and we're going to be presenting with a bunch of other musicals, but it's going to be a great representation.
We're also working on an internal read of the revised version of the script here in Los Angeles, and then we plan on taking it for an industry reading this spring in New York City.
10:02 Tony Howell
Love it. Well, I think one of the things from this season of interviews, conversations, particularly with Tegan Summer, who's a mutual friend of ours, and then also with Eryn LeCroy, who's in this revival of 1776, I really see this idea of using theatre as a method of creating change. That's why I call my audience Changemakers.
Was there anything for you in your journey in theatre — from being an actor to now being a writer — any insights about layering? Because, like you said, this is a story you didn't know about, and even a country that you were… so I'm seeing this with Allegiance going, you know, over to London and this part of American history that I never heard of. What would you pass on to other people that feel the desire to be Changemakers of how they can combine entertainment and education?
10:53 Tony Spinosa
You know, it's a fine line, because in writing any form of entertainment, you don't want it to feel like it's an education. The education sort of has to be the aftermath of what the entertainment is. It's tricky. It's a fine line, because the very first version that I wrote of Singing Revolution came out like a history lesson. And I was like, “No! This is bad. This is just bad.” And that's when I brought on my co-writer, James Bearhart to come help me write the book, make it a character driven story, you use all the nuts and bolts of an American musical to turn it into the entertainment that it is.
11:24 Tony Howell
Yeah, one of the two lines that really stood out to me. One is that, “Teaching others is a form of love.” And then the other is that, I'm going to misquote it, maybe you can correct me, but it's something about, “Can you really change the world by everyone holding hands and singing songs?” But I mean, those were two lessons for me from watching the story as a larger piece. And I'm like, “Yes! Teaching is love. And we can change the world through songs or love—as preposterous as that sounds.”
11:52 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, no, I'm gonna dissect that just a little bit. Because the “teaching others is a form of love” is actually… it has a double meaning to it. Because the Estonians are teaching their people about the love of country, helping out each other, acting out of kindness. And the Russians are teaching their children more about anti imperialism, anti revisionism and communism. And I keep saying: history repeating itself.
You know, just a month ago, Putin put out a decree that starting in the first grade, they need to be taught about geopolitical situations, Crimea, traditional values of the Soviet Union, and the rebirth of Russia under Vladimir Putin. Again, its history repeating itself. So that line in particular has taken on a double meaning for me.
“Can we change the world by holding hands and singing?” Yes, we can. Not everything has to be done through violence. And I think that's a major theme in the show—that an act of kindness can change the world.
12:51 Tony Howell
Acts of kindness: we have definitely seen some violence in our country. And I think that there is a reckoning happening within the industry. And so I know that this is a sensitive topic, and that you and I, as white gay men have a limited experience, but from the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-Asian and just this idea, to me, the discovery, the light bulb, is creating a world of belonging. That it’s not about diversity, equity… those are the tools.
So anything from the past couple of years that you have now said, “I'm taking this forward into the future, so that I can create a world of belonging as a Theatremaker”?
13:35 Tony Spinosa
Yes, I will start this off by saying I am still learning. And I think a lot of us are still learning on a daily basis. And you know, I catch myself saying things that I need to retract, because I do not want to exclude anyone in what I say or what I do. And I do my best to be as inclusive as possible, as respectful as possible. However, the lines keep shifting and changing. And just staying abreast of that, and being aware of that, I think is the best that we can all do as people to make sure we are being respectful and being inclusive of everyone.
Because as you were saying, you know, we gay men have been fighting for years. And now I feel like we've made our stake and we are now onto other groups of people that need the attention, that need to be brought up to the table as well.
And we need to pay attention to that and be very open minded to the inclusivity of everything that we do.
14:35 Tony Howell
Yeah, I heard from one DEI consultant, only to pass on something to our listeners, like, “Stay humble, and ready to fumble.” Like, I'm gonna mess up, but I'm gonna keep doing the work and trying to change. And that's history—that's like us rewriting stories that we’ve been programmed in certain ways.
Heavy stuff! Well, let's shift gears.
We've created not one but two gorgeous websites. And it's co-creation. Like you did just as much work as Mack and myself. So my question for you is how were creating these two giant websites (they're not tiny homes, these are beautiful, big, big houses), how is that similar or different than putting on a big Broadway musical?
15:21 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, the similarities are the planning that we did. So many months of planning with this, as you do with a Broadway musical. The collaboration is also a big part of it. And patience is also a huge part of the process, because just when you think you're done, there’s just a little further to go until we get to launch the site. So those are the, those are the similarities with it.
The differences between the two is that the websites, they're never finished! They're never in stone. With a Broadway show, you've got an opening night and the show is frozen. With the websites, and that's the beauty of a website is that, they're constantly growing. You're constantly adding more content: more reviews, more photos, more videos. And that's the major difference between a Broadway show and then the websites.
16:06 Tony Howell
I love that delineation. And, you know, I always joke with my clients, I will lean into that light and say, “The website will NEVER be finished or perfect!”
We’ve got to keep it… keep it growing. So with that, you know, we've all heard about the horrors of tech week, and like, “Ugh! We're in tech.”
And so what was the hardest part of the process for you? I'm just curious.
16:28 Tony Spinosa
Hardest part of the process? It started with having to assemble all of the content. And I'll speak directly to the TonySpinosa.com site, because digital has changed so much over the years that there was just so much that was on my computer and on the internet. But to really go far back in my career, we're talking about scans of photographs (remember, photographs?!), scans of playbills. I mean, collecting all of that was a challenge.
And I thought some of the challenge was going to be learning how to edit the site. But the way that you and Mack have built it and created it, it was so seamless and easy to get in there. And the day after it launched, I started to revise the site, make corrections and tweak it. And I had never experienced that before: that ease in that learning curve.
17:19 Tony Howell
I just want to, for again, for our listeners, to take away fear, because there's often a lot of fear with websites. It like… it doesn't have to be like Tony. Now at this stage in your life and career, you have a beautiful portfolio. But I think for people getting started, they don't have to like have everything gathered. They can start small, much like we did with a smaller site, and then moving into the larger house. So I just wanted to make sure I say that for the people that are on the fence and are scared of saying yes.
17:46 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, good point. Good point.
17:48 Tony Howell
So now on the flip side, now that both sites are finished, can you let me know? And this is again, news to me. I'm just curious: What are your favorite elements or parts of both of those sites? So let's start with SingingRevolutionMusical.com.
18:03 Tony Spinosa
Just to throw back at you, “Websites are NEVER finished anyway.”
18:08 Tony Howell
I love it. Oh, yes!
18:10 Tony Spinosa
My favorite part of the Singing Revolution is the video content, the photo content and the music content that goes on to the site. And it's so cleverly constructed for mobile use, for tablet use, for laptop use. It translates onto all platforms beautifully, like I've seen very few sites do. So that's my favorite part of Singing Revolution.
With TonySpinosa.com, I'm so proud of the project section that you have created for me, the way the menu pops up for the projects, and the way it takes you to every project with videos and photos and commentary on my thoughts on the project. It really is a fully fleshed out part of the site. And it's just, to me, so exciting that I'm able to share that with people.

18:55 Tony Howell
Well, I hope our listeners will experience both of these websites, and they're going to be linked below this podcast.
So you alluded to it a little bit, but one of my favorite parts, and I'll reflect that back. One of my favorite things about Singing Revolution is the drawer of music that Mack created where people can just listen to the music while they're there. And then on TonySpinosa.com, I love your about page. It's something that I teach my clients and students that there needs to be the third-person Wikipedia bio so that people can trust you. But what I found most fascinating, where I really got to know Tony Spinosa, is the photo gallery there.
It's almost like a personal scrapbook, if you will. (Yeah, yeah). So one of the things that I didn't know, just from building your website, until I saw these elements come together. It's like you had a long run with like a couple of shows. So as an actor, like tell me a little bit more about your acting career? I just want people to identify with your path and see what's possible for them as well.
19:57 Tony Spinosa
Sure, sure. I did a lot of regional work, especially on the West Coast. And then finally got my Broadway debut with Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby, which I toured the country several times with, I did national and international tours of A Chorus Line for many years, I did many productions of South Pacific, including a West Coast mini-tour and the Hollywood Bowl with Reba and Stokes. Leader of the Pack, which was, I was the headliner with Sha Na Na as our band. That toured as well. And then Evita. Those were my main shows. I mean, I've done many, many shows, I'm not going to spend our time. (Let me get out my full résumé.) Right! The big shows that I did for a long time or long periods of time, I should say.

20:37 Tony Howell
I'm curious with A Chorus Line. I think I know, but which character were you?
20:40 Tony Spinosa
Al DeLuca. Always. (Of course!) And it's actually my favorite show to perform, because there's nothing but your line of Chorines on there to do the entire show. There's no chandeliers coming in, or helicopters coming in. It's just the performance. It's about the lives of these people on stage. And for me, it's one of the most gratifying shows to perform, especially once you get to the end and they say, “What do you do and you can't dance anymore?” And that one line would truly affect me every night because of my love of theatre. And so to this day, that is still my most favorite role to perform.
21:16 Tony Howell
Let me play Michael Bennett here for a moment and ask you, Tony Spinosa, not like, “What do you do when you can't perform anymore?” But I want to ask you this: why did you get started? What was it about the theatre that you decided “This is what I'm giving my life to.”
21:31 Tony Spinosa
Wow. Well, when I was 10 years old, I'm from New York, from Long Island. Don't tell anyone! But anyway, at the age of 10, my folks took me in to see Two by Two with Danny Kaye and Madeline Kahn. And I was blown away to the point where when I was in eighth grade, I went to my Monsignor at the church in Long Island, and I said, “I want to put on the play Two by Two and I'm gonna be Noah.” And I did! And I must have been 12 years old, 14 years old at the time. And that's when I knew the bug had bitten and I couldn't wait to start studying.
And it wasn't until I actually met Michael Bennett through a mutual friend when I was 18 years old, and I was supposed to go do Busch Gardens. I was supposed to open Busch Gardens as the Master of Ceremonies in the Italian section. And Michael said, “Nope! Call Busch Gardens, tell them you're not going. Just call them and thell them you’re not going. And I'm going to take you around and have you meet Phil Black and Chuck Kelly and all the dance teachers you need to study with. And then you come back and audition for me in a year.” And that was… that's really what kicked off my career, was getting that information, that guidance at such a young age.
22:45 Tony Howell
So cool! I worked at Busch Gardens: one of my first summer jobs in college, but did not know that part of your story.
Any other teachers or mentors along the way that you would really credit for your success?
22:59 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, there's quite a few. Sam Viverito, who taught me everything I know about A Chorus Line. Glenn Casale, who is a mentor for me on directing, taught me so much. Getting to work with Harvey Firestein on La Cage. I don't know if you know this, I was the person to put Harvey into the show as Zaza when Douglas Hodge left the 2010 Revival — such an honor to put the author into his own show, 25 years after he wrote it, that was an experience I'll never forget it. Just a wonderful loving, giving man. Just great. And Terry Johnson, who directed. Because, as well, I learned so much from him.
You know, and being in the industry and working on many of the events with the Entertainment Community Fund, I got to meet so many other people. And you know, there are mentors in the industry like Lin Manuel, and Thomas Kail, and Hal Prince, and people that I've studied and learned from throughout the years.
23:51 Tony Howell
Combining all of that into the vessel of change that is Tony Spinosa: what are lessons that you try to pass on to your companies? Whether it's the collaborators, or the ensemble, or your leading actors… what are lessons that you pass on?
24:07 Tony Spinosa
The lessons I pass on? I'm not sure if I got this from watching my father run a business or from a combination of these people, but it's always acting from a place of kindness. And I've always believed that you don't get the best work out of people if there's a tense environment. And I tend to always bring the best out of people because of the wonderfully open, communicative, friendly, kind environment that I like to set up in a rehearsal room or in a theatre. It always proves to bring out the best results.
24:40 Tony Howell
And we kind of talked about this, but tell me a little bit more about the Entertainment Community Fund—how you got involved, the work that you continue to do with them. What's your relationship with them?
24:52 Tony Spinosa
I adore the Entertainment Community Fund, formerly known as The Actors Fund. And quite a few years ago now, I guess it's about eight years ago, they had announced that they were doing Bombshell—a one-night only concert of Bombshell. And once they announced it, the phones went off the hook at The Actors Fund and they couldn't pick up the phone fast enough.
And Tim Pinckney, who is the producer on the event, turned to Tom Viola at Broadway Cares and said, “I need help, please! Who would you refer?” and Tom said, “Tony Spinosa is the person to call.”
And that started my long relationship with the Entertainment Community Fund, doing things like the Thoroughly Modern Millie reunion concert with the original cast, [Title of Show] original cast reunion, They're Playing Our Song original cast reunion, and sneak peek: we're getting ready to do Chess, the new rewritten version in December - date yet to be announced. But I know it is December. That's the next project up on the gate.
25:44 Tony Howell
I can't wait. And hopefully by the time that this podcast gets released, we'll know who's starring, who's working on it. Because I know that is closely held.
Tony, give me a timeline. At what point did you make these expansions? So you were acting: you’re travelling internationally and nationally doing all these shows. What's the timeline of like when you started directing, and choreographing, and producing? So how did that all roll out?
26:13 Tony Spinosa
I started to choreograph very early on in my career, it was one of the first things that I started to do early on in my 20s. And I started to work as a choreographer in regional theatres, smaller regional theatres, and not necessarily professional theatres, community theatres.
Then once I started to work professionally, then I started to get some professional choreography jobs. And then I was asked to direct a production of The Music Man, that was the first production that I directed. And I wasn't sure I was ready for it. But I turned to Glenn Casale, and said, “Teach me what you know about Music Man,” and he guided me through it.
And that was the first first time I directed. Leading into producing started with, I was producing things for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. I was doing Solo Strips for about four years for Jerry Mitchell and a lot of charity events while I was on tour with Peter Pan, I would produce those. So that's when the producing hat started to come on board.
And then I've always been a very avid reader. So I started to eventually write, and then write music on top of that. It just sort of started to evolve. I don't know how else to describe that part of it.
27:19 Tony Howell
I agree that like our lives and our careers evolve, and we just keep saying yes, and follow the journey, the yellow brick road.
27:26 Tony Spinosa
27:28 Tony Howell
Maybe this is heavy, and this could be edited out. But you mentioned working with Michael Bennett, and we're… you're a gay man. So we had the AIDS epidemic. And now we have the COVID pandemic. So is there anything parallel that you've seen with these two different phases of life that could be passed onto future issues that we come up against as humans?
27:50 Tony Spinosa
(Sigh.) Well, I'm glad we got through the AIDS epidemic. That was a scary time in our lives for all of us. I was in New York at the top of the COVID pandemic. And a lot of us in Hell's Kitchen felt like this was AIDS happening all over again, very different, but was a topic of conversation at the time.
I know that during COVID, it really gave me the time to look inside, and focus and redefine my life and redefine who I would like to be and what is important in my life moving forward.
Because we often don't take the time to do that. And if I have one thing to thank the pandemic for, it's that it gave me the room to really, really make those decisions and concentrate on that.
28:29 Tony Howell
Agree. I think like anytime we experience loss, it's like how we, how we move forward, and there's always lessons to carry forward.
Speaking of lessons, so you are an avid reader, and I would love to know, what are your favorite books? What books do you recommend or gift? Like, what are some of your favorite reads?
28:49 Tony Spinosa
One of the most life changing books that I've read years ago, and I pass it on to, to a lot of the youth that I work with, I should say, at least once every four years, I get to work with a youth group, somewhere either in Phoenix, or in New York, or somewhere around the country. I like to give back and teach youth about professional theatre. And there was a production of Cats where I used this book. It's called What to Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter. And I believe I found the book through Oprah, believe it or not. It was on her talk show one day, and it's all about what your thoughts are saying to yourself. You know, we're in a world where we're hit with “no” so often. It's what you say when you talk to yourself. It's an easy read. It's a paperback and I highly recommended it—life changing for me. And the other book that I highly recommend is The Secret of the American Musical Theatre - Or How a Musical is Built by Jack Viertel. You know Jack started City Center Encores 25 years ago and I respect the man so much for his insights, his integrity, his knowledge of musical theatre, and he really breaks it down in this book.
That book sort of became a bible on how I was going to approach Singing Revolution in writing it. It's a fantastic resource. I highly recommend that for anyone who's going to write a musical.
30:09 Tony Howell
Brilliant, we will link to both of those alongside lots of fun goodies that you'll send me after we record this episode. So we've got these books, we've got the people that you've been lucky and fortunate, and vice-versa. They've been lucky and fortunate to work with you along the way.
So now with where you are, reflecting back, you are a Director, Choreographer, Producer. You are helming large projects. So what have you learned that we could pass on to our listener about leadership? What are qualities? You spoke about kindness? Is there anything else?
30:42 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, you know, whenever I'm putting together projects and putting together teams, I always like to hire people who know more than me in their expertise, in their craft. And I think that's really important, because I'll speak as a director: I know how to speak to a sound designer, but I don't know how to run a soundboard. They know more than me. And I want somebody who knows how to do it. Same thing with the lights. Same thing with the costumes. Same thing with the entire team, I like to surround myself with people who know more than me, I consider that a humble trait. But I'm very proud of that trait as well, because I think it's very effective, especially when you're trying to put up something like a piece of musical theatre with so many moving parts, and treating the team with kindness. Be respectful, be you know, there's no no need for yelling and craziness, save that for the stage. And you know, just keep it a nice, even keel.
31:33 Tony Howell
I want to dig a little deeper—only because it happens. How do you handle conflict? What happens when someone is upset? What is your advice for handling a conflict?
31:44 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, those are always challenging, and they do arise. However, I make sure that the person who has the issue feels heard very often, that is most of the solution to solving the problem that the person is heard, that they know that you will do whatever you can to help remedy the situation, if it's going to talk to someone else in the same manner and hear them out. Letting people feel heard is really important in settling conflicts. I find.
32:11 Tony Howell
Tony, one of the reasons I wanted you on the show A) because you're incredible, and we created two incredible sites together. But I particularly love your path. And I see a little bit of myself in this other Tony of like, you know, expanding into other directions.
So the mission of my company is to teach the artist how to be a healthy CEO. And the way that I look at that is like taking agency of your career, of your life. And using your gifts in the way that whoever has ordained that this is what you should do with your time on the planet.
That being said, you know, the world and this business are a little chaotic, a little crazy. So anything that you can pass on about taking care of yourself so that you can best serve others, like any things that you do weekly, monthly, annually.
How do you take care of Tony?
33:01 Tony Spinosa
Yeah, I thought about this a little bit. And, you know, I'm very much into my physical health. Exercising every day, I think is very important with keeping your instrument in tune. And the other thing that I do often is connect with nature. I find nature to be you know, whether it's a hike, or whether it's a walk by the beach, or anything that connects me with nature really helps my brain to open up and spark new ideas and come up with new ideas. It's a very grounding exercise for me.
33:31 Tony Howell
You are among many people who have said nature, so I'm just putting neon lights around that Y'all… get outside! Let's go.
Well, I think we are running out of time. But I would love to know, looking back, if young Tony, let's say 20 year old Tony Spinosa was listening. What advice would you pass on to him from this point in the journey.
33:55 Tony Spinosa
I would tell young Tony to live his life through passion. Do what you love to do. Life is too short to not live out your passions and live out your dreams. Like I said, we're always handed “No, you can't do this.” And yes, you can do this. And I wish that the youth were instilled with that more often because you can have your dreams you can manifest your dreams.
And just this past year on the Tony Awards, I saw so many people, encouraging people to live their dreams. Go after it, because you will succeed. You will succeed with the passion, drive, and determination. Don't hold back. And that's what I would tell young Tony never give up live your dreams.
34:53 Tony Howell
Thank you, Tony Spinosa and thank you for listening. Now I shared quite a few things that stood out to me Within the episode, but I want to highlight, put neon lights around two things.
When he mentioned that the COVID pandemic gave him time to pause and reflect, I want you to know the reason this podcast comes out at the end of every month is to help remind you to do the same. To take a moment to pause. And if you know my mantra, “Honor your past. Present your present. Design our future!”
The second thing I wanted to remind you of, and you heard it at least twice, “A website is NEVER finished or perfect.”
If you want to see websites that are pretty close, make sure that you check out the link that goes alongside this episode. I worked with Tony to gather some fun throwback photos.
We'll take you through the historical timeline of Estonia. You can listen to Singing Revolution, you can see the featured projects, all the books, and all the things mentioned. All you need to do is click on the link that is right below this episode.
Now I need to ask one favor. If you loved this conversation, let us know! Take a screenshot: make sure that you tag Tony Spinosa and Tony Howell.
And if you want to go even further, I wouldn't be greatly honored if you would leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Thank you again so much for listening. But more importantly, thank you for using your work to change the world.
I hope you and I get to have a conversation very soon.

On this episode of Conversations with Changemakers, we speak with Tony Spinosa.

As an American Writer, Composer, Director, Choreographer, and Producer, Tony is interested in preserving and innovating the Broadway musical. Born in New York, he was mentored by theatre legend Michael Bennett, and made his Broadway debut (as an actor) in Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby.

I wanted to have Tony on to continue the exploration of entertainment and education, especially through the lens of an evolving theatre career as a multi-hyphenate. In this episode, we go behind-the-scenes of Tony’s new musical, Singing Revolution, as well as his two new websites: SingingRevolutionMusical.com and TonySpinosa.com.

We don’t shy away from some tough topics. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after the episode!

Click here to access bonus resources from this episode.

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If you enjoyed this episode, please visit RateThisPodcast.com/tonyhowell. Be sure to check out our past conversations and subscribe for next month’s special guest!

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