Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Youngster Outshines Stars at Benefit

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Youngster Outshines Stars at Benefit

Article excerpt


It's not easy to upstage Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a Carly Rae Jepsen duet with Harvey Keitel, but an 11-year-old autistic girl from Rochelle Park did just that at Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars."

At the autism benefit, musical prodigy Jodi DiPiazza gave the performance of the night in a duet of "Firework" with Katy Perry, one of her favorite singers. The Oct. 13 edition of the biennial, bicoastal fundraiser, which airs tonight on Comedy Central, boasted not only Stewart, Colbert and Jepsen but also Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ben Stiller, Sting, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Al Pacino, among many other A-listers. But it was Jodi and Perry who brought the Beacon Theatre crowd to its feet.

Stewart was visibly moved by the performance. Perry tweeted the next day, "I will never forget last night. It was the most important moment thus far of what I do."

The producers of "Night of Too Many Stars" met Jodi six years ago while filming her at Alpine Learning Group in Paramus, which provides educational and behavioral services for those with autism. The producers wanted to show how far she'd come, so they asked her parents to send them footage of Jodi performing "Firework," then sent it on to Perry, who agreed to the duet.

Jodi's parents, Tom and Michelle DiPiazza, say she has benefited from her years at Alpine. She splits her weekdays between Alpine Learning Group and a mainstream fourth grade class in a public school. Saturdays are spent at the Preparatory School at Mannes College The New School for Music in Manhattan, where she studies piano, voice and musical composition.

"She's phenomenal," says Kate Sheeran, director of the prep division at Mannes. "She does things, especially in her music theory class and the way she composes ... forget the autism, she does things well beyond her years."

Hours after Comedy Central posted the video clip of Jodi and Perry to YouTube on Thursday, Tom DiPiazza had heard from three media outlets, including "Good Morning America," the top-rated morning news show in the country. …

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