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Whiplash Drummer Helps Problem Kids by Day, Rocks by Night

If Whiplash drummer Joe Cangelosi ever feels stressed out by uncooperative promoters, dishonest industry folk or hostile crowds, he can put things in far better perspective than he used to. When he’s not thrashing out with bandmates, Tony Portaro (vocals, guitar) and Rich Day (bass, vocals), he’s dealing with some serious hard luck cases — kids from the hood, many of whom are struggling not to succeed, but just to survive.

“I work as a para-professional in a Coney Island, Brooklyn school with special ed gang members from the Crips and Bloods who are from an age of 15 to 21,” Cangelosi tells Noisecreep. “My school is the last stop for these kids. Either they get their s— together or they’re going to jail or they’re probably going to wind up dead.”

Over the years, Cangelosi has helped many problem kids change their ways by encouraging them to value live and especially education. He gets through to them, not by lecturing them, but by treating them as equals.

“It’s great,” he says. “I show them respect and they respect me back. I’ve actually helped get a lot of these kids into real high schools, which is just incredible, man. You can actually see you’re saving lives.”

Sadly, not everyone Cangelosi teaches makes it to the next level and some meet with an early demise. “It’s not all fun and games,” he says. “One morning you could come in and say, ‘Where’s Derrick?’ It turns out Derrick was found shot on the roof 12 times. They couldn’t find his body for two weeks because there was a snowstorm and the snow covered his body. Things like that happen too frequently.”

Still, in the end, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. And in the near future, Cangelosi is planning on becoming even more involved. This year he finished his college studies and he’ll soon be able to work in the school as a substitute teacher. His goal is to eventually work his way up to being a full-time teacher.

“The kids that I can reach, I try everything in my power to let them know they have somebody they can talk to,” he says. “They don’t have to be afraid about learning. A lot of these kids didn’t get a good start, so they can’t be blamed for what they’re going through. So if I can help them get to the next level, I’ve done my job.”

There’s one more advantage to working in the school system. “I get my summer vacations off,” Cangelosi says. “So I’m planning on touring and doing Whiplash stuff every summer, God willing.”

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