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Singer Dominic James Leads Anti-Bullying Tour

  One out of every four students is bullied. That's according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. One country singer is traveling the United States trying to change that - by not only telling his story about being bullied as a child, but singing it - to anyone who will listen.

Dominic James is a 23-year-old country singer and songwriter who travels the nation on his anti-bullying tour. He speaks to thousands of kids each year about the harmful effects of bullying; something James experienced first-hand in his hometown, Oakland, Maine.

"I mean I grew up like every other kid," James says. "I got to high school and my focus was sports, and popularity, and girls. And then when I broke my knee cap and my ribs my freshman year, everything changed. I went from playing running back on the football team to auditioning for a school musical, which really started a lot of the bullying. My popularity just immediately went down from there."

But the tormenting didn’t stop once the school play was over. It went on for four years, plaguing James’ day-to-day life.

"I grew up tongue-tied, which is a speech impediment where it limits the mobility of your tongue so I just, I couldn’t talk like everybody else and a lot of the kids used that against me or to attack me because they knew it would get to me," says James. "In the span of about four years or so, I was pushed against lockers, embarrassed pretty much anywhere we had any sort of social public event. I never had dates to dances or proms or homecoming or anything like that really. And around the age of 15, 16 or so is when I really started to develop a depression and anxiety for going through all of that."

The school musical, My Fair Lady, lit the fire that began James’ career in the music industry. He continued to take part in plays throughout high school and even landed a role as Sebastian in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

"Even though I was dealing with the impediment and I couldn’t really play the piano or guitar too well at the time, music gave me a rush that I couldn’t really find anywhere else," James says. "I noticed that the music really helped me say everything that I physically couldn’t at the time. But when I was 19 I had the cord under my tongue cut and I re-learned how to talk and form words, and I don’t know, after that I had a freeing feeling that I suddenly had a whole new shot. All I wanted was to run away from my hometown and run towards something bigger than, I don’t know even, even I thought I could be at the time, which is really why I decided to move to Nashville and pursue the dream."

James moved from Maine to Nashville, Tennessee nearly 2 years ago. Playing the piano, the guitar, and singing became a release for James and a way to distance himself from his past; but he couldn’t escape it for long.

"Eventually it was my manager recommended that we create the anti-bullying tour where we just go around the country and I just tell my story," says James. "He believed that the way that I interact with people could really help the kids who were going through exactly what I went through. At first I was pretty hesitant on it, because I wasn’t really sure how people would react to it, but then I just thought back to when I was bullied and nobody noticed me, I was just hidden from the world. And all I wanted was somebody to just see me, for me. So that became my new goal with this tour, to be the guy that saw them."

The Dominic James Somebody’s Hero tour began two years ago, and since then, James has touched the lives of not only thousands of kids, but adults as well.

"After hearing my story the majority of the kids are, they’re in tears, they’ve never met someone that could relate to them on such a deep level. There was even a time when a girl had planned her suicide for the same day that I just happened to be booked at that school. At the end of the assembly she came up to me, and she just held onto me. She thanked me, and she, she turned her life around that day. I saw her a year later and she said that after hearing my story, it changed her mind about taking her own life, and that was definitely one of the most impactful moments I’ve had on tour."

Actor Zane Stephens from the hit TV show The Vampire Diaries approached James and pitched an idea to direct and star in a movie that was about James’ story. What was once an idea became reality, and the short film was released last fall. Along with the film debut, James’ single, also titled “Somebody’s Hero,” was released on iTunes.

"I’m just a small town kid with a big city dream. And the whole goal was that even if we could just get to one kid, one kid that’s going through a really tough time, and let them know that they’re not alone and that everything will be OK, then that was important to me."

Through the awkward stages, isolation and deep depression, James was able to find himself through music, and make a name for himself at the same time. There’s a link to more information about the tour at wamc.org.

Payton North is a student at Western New England University.

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