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Musically gifted Plum grad receives recognition for work with children

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Josh Verbanets sings a comedic anti-bullying song set 'Behind the Jack Rabbit' at Kennywood Park.

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Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Laura Kelly returned home from last year's Pittsburgh Magazine's 40 Under 40 awards ceremony with a mission in mind.

Kelly, 26, of Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood, was inspired by the accomplishments of the awardees, and she sought to nominate her friend, Josh Verbanets, 30, a 2001 graduate of Plum High School.

“When I got home, I sent Josh a message asking him if it was OK for me to nominate him,” said Kelly, who works in marketing. “He fits it perfectly. They are people who are doing great things for the Pittsburgh region.”

Verbanets, 30, of Shaler Township gave Kelly the go-ahead, and Verbanets was selected for this year's 40 Under 40 in the 15th year of the program, which recognizes 40 individuals under the age of 40 whose creativity, vision and passion enrich the Pittsburgh region, according to the Pittsburgh Magazine website.

“It is such an honor,” Verbanets said last week. “There are some heavy hitters on the list.”

Verbanets and his partner, Gab Bonesso of the Montour area, developed the “Josh & Gab Show,” a live anti-bullying musical-comedy program they perform in local schools.

Verbanets is an award-winning songwriter, singer and musician. Bonesso is a comedienne, performer and comedic writer.

In addition to comedy, music and dancing, Verbanets and Bonesso encourage a continued dialogue with children who might have concerns about bullying in their respective schools.

“(The program) has grown so much,” Verbanets said. “The business has tripled this fall. We have done 75 shows this fall.”

Verbanets said he and Bonesso combine the anti-bullying program with the message of positive behavior.

“It is the second year we are doing the programs,” Verbanets said. “We are seeing incredible results.”

Verbanets said students remember the messages when he and Bonesso return to the schools to conduct follow-up programs.

Kelly credits Verbanets and Bonesso with providing good behavior examples to students.

“So much of who we become as people is based upon what we learn as children,” Kelly said. “They try to make sure the children learn how to be good people.”

Verbanets aims to expand the “Josh & Gab Show.”

“We are hoping to develop the Josh & Gab project into a national outlet with live performances and web/television media,” Verbanets said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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