Sometimes these contrasting ways of operating can mesh. And for Gina Kazanicka and Matt Farragame, that’s exactly what happened at Brittingham’s Irish pub in Lafayette Hill.
It is commonly assumed that shedding one’s ego, a yogi’s perspective, contradicts a money-making, business-like mind. Usually, businesspeople tend towards valuing material wealth over inner growth.
But sometimes these contrasting ways of operating can mesh. And for Gina Kazanicka and Matt Farragame, that’s what happened at Brittingham’s Irish pub in Lafayette Hill.
Gina Kazanicka, a musician, music therapist, yoga teacher and founder of “Music with Gina,” a cherished children’s music program in Northwest Philadelphia, was once a waitress at the pub who aspired to explore life outside the Philly area.
During a shift one day in 1998, she got up on stage and sang an Irish love song directly into the eyes of Matt Ferragame, who was posted up at the bar. She wasn’t a flirt and she “was always awkward,” she said, describing the exchange.
At the time, Matt was starting out in business and finance.
Kazanicka found him to be down to earth. “He was immediately warm,” she remembered. Later that day, her parents came into Brittingham’s. Her father noticed Matt and told his wife, “That man likes Gina.”
Gina had recently graduated from Elizabethtown College with a degree in music therapy. Her plan was to move to Asheville, N.C., to pursue a performing career. And she went - despite the fact that a romance had begun.
“We fell in love, but I had to go, for me…I was very romantic and decided… if it was meant to be, it will be,” Kazanicka said.
Not long after arriving in Asheville, Kazanicka interned as a music therapist at a hospice. This position led her to understand that she “doesn’t want any regrets when it’s my last day here.”
One day, while writing in her journal, she recognized that Matt was a “gift from the universe,” she said, and that she “didn’t need to put limits on her story.”
Soon after Matt moved to Asheville.
Matt and Gina were engaged in 1999 and returned to Philadelphia to be near their families. In 2001, they returned to North Carolina for their wedding, which they held on Black Mountain.
Now, more than 20 years later, the Ferragame home is far more complex than their initial romance would suggest. Its magic relies on organization and logistics.
The couple have three children, Theo, 15, Phoenix, 13, and Ruby Mae, 9. The family lives in Wyndmoor. The days are nonstop with school, work and extracurriculars.
Matt described the difference in their parenting styles this way: As the kids get older, “the growing independence is hard…each child is different in how they like to be parented…this results in being more strict for one… less for another.” No matter what their passions are, Matt wants to “lead [the children] by example.” So he shows them self-discipline.
Gina and Matt say their approach to parenting is specific, didactic yet improvisational, themes which also show up in Gina’s music.
In her practice of tuning into her children, Gina said, she guides them to turn inward to intuition rather than ego. She tells them “the details can be wobbly…but keep your eyes on the prize…love.”
“Music with Gina” is founded on love. It began when Theo was a newborn in a baby carrier. A friend in Chestnut Hill invited Gina to come play music in her living room. Some of the moms would pay Gina $5, while others would barter with homemade earrings. Soon, the living room sessions became packed. Gina realized she “didn’t know a lot of the mommies,” and that her classes needed their own space.
That was fifteen years ago. “Music with Gina” gained its popularity the old fashioned way. Now she plays four classes per week in various neighborhoods in the area including East Falls, Chestnut Hill and the Main Line. Her music is all original.
COVID, of course, changed the trajectory of indoor musical gatherings, but Gina kept it going by holding classes in her backyard, in parks, and on Zoom.
Although music is a mathematical and technical art, Gina keeps the big picture of the life lesson in the center of each session.
In “Nobody’s Perfect,” on Gina’s album “Cardinal Cardinal,” the refrain is a mantra for children at any age, who become frustrated with their own struggles. “Nobody’s perfect, everybody’s learning,” Gina reminds listeners. “You’re not supposed to be perfect, not in any way.”
“Music With Gina” is successful in part because parents can be desperate for activities with their very young children, and parenting can be isolating.
Now that her own children are in early adolescence, Gina’s lyrics respond to issues that are relevant to them. In her song “Wondering,” she asks “Who you gonna love? Whatcha gonna learn about you?” Gina says witnessing her children grow is joyous and hard.
Matt says he’s learned that you can’t prepare for what it takes to be a parent, although some people think they “know it all beforehand.”
But “once it happens, all you can do is laugh,” he said.
And, after a long day, if Gina and Matt get tired of talking schedules and negotiating worldviews, there is always music.