Justin Gigliello recalls what it was like to be a kid growing up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. He remembers what it was like to be bullied, made fun of, teased by other kids at his school every day.
“Growing up like a kid,” Justin explained. “I was overweight and teased and bullied every day at school.”
Justin remembers it very well. But that’s where Justin’s parents, the art of music, and a little Disney magic came into play and changed his life forever.
“Every year my parents would take me to Disney World to get away from all the school stuff,” Justin said. “Disney World was my safe place.”
The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida was so magical to Justin that as a child he believed for years that it was actually located in heaven. After all, that plane ride from Massachusetts to Florida could be deceiving, especially for a little boy.
“As a kid, I thought Disney World was in the clouds. When we got on the plane, I had no idea we had actually landed,” he said.
Whenever Justin and his parents visited Walt Disney World, they stayed at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort near Magic Kingdom. But in the evening, they could always be found at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
“We would go to [Grand] Floridian to listen to music, and it was one of my fondest memories. I think that’s partly why I got into music. Justin said.
You might recognize the name “Justin Gigliello.” That’s because in 2019, he almost single-handedly shut down operations at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort when he stood in the lobby of the Disney Resort hotel next to the pianist at the grand piano and sang “Ave Maria” as one of the three tenors.
Justin says he and his daughter Lyla were having lunch at Narcoossee when he started sharing his memories of the Greater Floridian with her as a child.
“I wanted her to have the same love for Disney that I do and I wanted her to have amazing memories like me,” Justin said. “Every year we went to Disney, and it became his special place.”
So when Lyla learned of her father’s memories with her parents at the Grand Floridian, she wanted to experience that too.
“She asked if we could go,” Justin explained. “After we finished having lunch, we walked over and Wes was playing the piano. I didn’t realize Lyla had gone to talk to Wes. I approached, and she was telling him how I sang opera and asked me if I could sing. He asked her which song was her favorite and she said “Ave Maria”.
The pianist started playing “Ave Maria” by Schubert, while Justin sang. It was second nature to him.
Along with the magic of the beautiful sounds of Justin’s voice, there’s an undeniable magic in the eyes of Justin’s daughter, Lyla, as she watches her father sing in the video. If that isn’t a picture of wonder in a child’s eyes. . .
Justin and Lyla instantly became familiar faces – Justin for his voice and Lyla for her beloved doe eyes as she stood next to her daddy and listened to the melodious sounds of his voice. But Justin had no idea that the video taken by his wife would become so popular.
“I think what caught everyone off guard was that I was singing opera in a football shirt,” Justin said. “When we got home I put the video on my Facebook because I wanted my friends and my old teachers to see that I was still singing, and then it blew up and it went viral!”
According to FOX News“The internet couldn’t get enough” of the young dad singing as his baby girl looks on, touting Gigliello as “an overnight internet sensation”.
Justin has been invited to appear on programs like hello america and The Steve Harvey Showand his lungs also earned him media coverage from outlets like FOX 35 and Orlando’s WPTV. people magazine also featured Justin, as did ABC7 in Chicago, FOX News, Upworthy, Billboardand other outlets.
When DisneyDining heard about Justin, this writer just had to find out more — like where on earth did Justin get his singing abilities, and what exactly was his backstory? Justin says he was bullied at school and the experiences that came with it are ultimately what led him to learn to sing.
“I was bullied a lot at school, so my mum tried to find me an exit to get away from everything that was going on. [in addition to the family’s getaways to Disney World]”, said Justin. “When I was 15, she found a music teacher who taught opera and wanted me to try it.
But that’s not quite what Justin had in mind.
“I told her I had no interest in opera and didn’t want to do it, and she kept pushing me to try it. fell in love,” Justin said. “That’s when I first got accepted. I had friends in the opera company and I loved doing plays. I ended up go to Boston Conservatory School of Music and got my Bachelor of Music.
Justin is still a little puzzled by the popularity he’s gained as “that dad who sang ‘Ave Maria’ at the Grand Floridian.”
“Everyone always tells me I don’t look like an opera singer,” Justin explained. “And I’m that regular guy. and I will do anything to put a smile on my daughter’s face!
But Justin goes one step further: while he puts a smile on little Lyla’s face, he simultaneously puts a smile on the faces of Disney fans across the country and around the world too. That’s because when he and his daughter Lyla make videos of themselves singing duets of Disney songs or dancing to Disney tunes, Justin smiles, Lyla smiles, and Disney fans with internet access smile too. .
Since his impromptu performance at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort went viral, Justin used his incredible vocal talents, as well as his love for sharing Disney magic with his daughter, Lyla, to bring the magic to other fans, wherever they are. Smiles abound.
As some of you know, I am the father who sang Ave Maria to GF. I just wanted to share a magical Disney moment. With everything going on right now, we just wanted to put a smile on someone’s face. This is what we need the most. @GMA @TheTodayShow @WaltDisneyWorld @RobertIger pic.twitter.com/yfJoytQuvY
— Justin Gigliello (@JGigliello) September 5, 2021
“With everything going on right now, we just wanted to put a smile on someone’s face,” Justin tweeted in one of his videos. “That’s what we need the most.”
Videos like this of Justin and Lyla dancing to Disney’s “Ma Belle Evangeline” The princess and the Frog having smiling fans the whole time they watch.
When Justin and Lyla aren’t dancing, you can find them singing Disney duets, like Disney’s “Part of Your World.” The little Mermaid.
The Gigliellos even have the old classics down. In this video, Justin and Lyla sing a duet from Disney’s Mary Poppins“Let’s fly a kite.”
If this isn’t an actual story of the power of Disney magic to bring hope, restoration, and joy, this writer has yet to read one. Justin’s story is all the more impressive when you realize that many in his childhood place become bitter, resentful and angry individuals.
Bullying and teasing are painful experiences that often leave deep emotional scars. But Justin used his uncomfortable experiences to propel him into a talent and ability he loves, and he continues to use his talents to elicit feelings of joy and acceptance in others.
At first glance, Justin’s story may sound like a talented musician who was in the right place at the right time. But this writer chooses to see Justin’s story as a story of having his heart in the right place at all times.