Pidgie (Patti Panzarino) is a Renaissance woman on wheels. With the release of her new CD, Just Breathe, this former Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts has made her platform, "Creative Perseverance," the theme of her entire life. "Creative Perseverance empowers you to reach beyond what you ever thought possible. It encompasses every facet of your existence: your home, job, education, health, relationships and your passions," she says. “Being able to tell my stories and feelings through my music is something I am forever grateful for.”
Born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), she learned to self-advocate from her now-deceased older sister, who had the same disability and mentored Pidgie at a very young age. "The more that people with disabilities push through obstacles and participate in life, the more people will really see us,” says Pidgie, “and our acceptance and encouragement to participate increases. It becomes an upward spiral.”
Joining on Just Breathe are a host of friends including Liberty Devitto (drums-Billy Joel): Scott Spray (bass-Johnny & Edgar Winter), Christine Ohlman (vocals, The Saturday Night Live Band), Bobby T Torello (drums, Johnny Winter/Grace Slick), Cliff Goodwin (guitar, Joe Cocker), Al Ferrante (guitar, Edgar Winter/ Cyndi Lauper), Ron Rifkin (keys, Charlie Karp), and Bill Holloman, (horns, Nile Rogers & Chic). The CD is produced by multi-award-winning New England record man Vic Steffens at his studio Horizon Music Group.
All In, a 2011 CD with her first band OLYPSYS, was a collaboration with her husband Vinny Rinaldi, who joins on guitar for multiple tracks on Just Breathe.
“Many people think that obstacles can be just physical,” she says. “Physical obstacles can be changed by laws and creativity. I believe the biggest obstacles toward people with disabilities are attitudes from others. I have always been one to look people in the eye and smile and say hello. This way they don’t see just the wheelchair--they see the person in it. I love to engage people in conversation and ask them how their day is going. I use my sense of humor to put people more at ease.”
It is obvious that Pidgie has pushed through obstacles throughout her entire life. Raised in the Sixties and mainstreamed, she has lived on both sides of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Hofstra University, where she participated in many activities, becoming president of the organization for students with disabilities and taking two First Place trophies in wheelchair karate. She worked in both the corporate world and in the performing arts world.
Pidgie was a founding member of the Coalition for Disabled Musicians (CDM) and currently serves as its vice-president. She was co-host of a popular cable TV program and hosted her own live Christian radio show on disability and empowerment for two years. She competed and won Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2012 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Ms. Wheelchair America Leadership and Advocacy Competition.
She continues to advocate, mentor, and push through social and relational barriers to redefine the representation of people with disabilities in a more positive light. She finds that some relationship myths that can be confusing for women in general can weigh even heavier on women with disabilities.
You will find Pidgie right in the middle of most activities—not as a spectator with limitations, but as a participant overcoming obstacles. And now, with the release of Just Breathe, she joins the mainstream of American popular music—for real.