August 29, 2003 at 1:51 PM CDT - Updated June 23 at 2:20 PM
MDA National Youth Chairman
Birthdate: May 24, 1988
Home and Family: Billy divides his time between Rhode Island, where he lives with his parents, Bill and Fran Gilman, and his younger brother, Colin, and his “second home” in Nashville, Tenn.
School: Gilman receives private tutoring to accommodate his hectic schedule of recording and public appearances. He describes himself as a pretty good student, though he admits he doesn’t like algebra much.
Musical History: Gilman discovered his love of singing at age 3 when he heard Pam Tillis’ hit song, “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.” When he turned 8, Gilman’s mother and grandmother arranged for him to meet Angela Bacari, a veteran singer, performer, recording artist and voice coach.
“He sang, and I nearly fell over,” recalls Bacari, who continues to coach Gilman and serves as his co-manager. Ray Benson, guitarist for the country band Asleep at the Wheel, helped Gilman record a professional-quality demo CD in 1997, and introduced him to agent Scott Siman who, along with Bacari, continues to manage Gilman’s career.
Accomplishments: Gilman’s first album, the certified double-platinum (2 million sold) “One Voice,” was released a week after his 12th birthday in the summer of 2000. Less than four months later, Gilman followed with “Classic Christmas,” and his third album, “Dare to Dream,” hit record stores before his 13th birthday.
By the end of 2001, Gilman had garnered four Billboard Music Video Awards, including Best New Artist in three categories (Country, Jazz/Adult Contemporary and Contemporary Christian) and Best Video in the Contemporary Christian category. He’d won the prestigious American Music Award for Favorite New Country Artist, become the youngest artist ever to be nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award and starred in his own television special.
And as a harbinger of things to come, Gilman also appeared on the 2001 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.
MDA Activities: As MDA National Youth Chairman, Gilman will spearhead the efforts of thousands of teen-agers and young adults who help the Association’s lifesaving mission. He’ll support MDA through appearances at sponsor and volunteer events and through media interviews. Gilman succeeds Mandy Van Benthuysen of San Diego, who relinquished the post after six years to pursue a career in broadcasting. Others who have served MDA in this capacity include performers Gary Lewis and Patty Duke, and radio personality Mike Kasem.
“Music Through Heartsongs”: On April 15, 2003, Gilman released his fourth album, “Music Through Heartsongs: Songs Based on the Poems of Mattie J.T. Stepanek.” The CD, the result of a year-long collaboration between Gilman and Stepanek, the best-selling poet who serves as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador, debuted at number 15 in the Billboard country music charts.
“I have always felt that music has a healing power, and I was very excited about the opportunity to put Mattie’s words to music and share them with the world,” Gilman says.