Pyrotechnics and physical therapy spark Souza’s career
Physical therapy plays an important role in the professional life of Gary Souza MS ’00. The same can be said for his creation of star-spangled spectacles.
Souza is an assistant professor of clinical physical therapy in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. He also is an American Physical Therapy Association board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and owner of a Diamond Bar-based clinic where he and wife Liz Souza DPT ’97 practice.
As for his other career, Souza is vice president of Pyro Spectaculars Inc., a family business founded in the early 1900s by his great-grandfather.
Earlier this summer, he was interviewed by several media outlets, including CNBC, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal, about 27 years of developing shows for Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show. Because of his long involvement with the event, Souza was seen ringing the closing bell on Wall Street on July 3 with Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012, and Amy Kule, a vice president with Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group.
Fourth of July is “the one time where they all sit there in America and say wow,” Souza told MSNBC. “My motivation,” he said, “is the memory of the faces of the people looking at the show.”
Forty thousand pyrotechnic shells were fired during the 25-minute “Ignite the Night” show. Eight computers ensured that the four 300-foot-long barges on the Hudson River fired their shells in unison with the musical score of patriotic and pop favorites that Souza developed in collaboration with Macy’s staff.
The process of creating each show takes an entire year, Souza said, beginning with a study of which effects and colors were most effective the previous year — both for the live audience and the telecast. The next steps involve the production of working drawings and a global sourcing of the world’s best fireworks.
Souza told The Wall Street Journal that his work is like making paintings on a vast scale or “doing a motion picture where the actors are the fireworks.” But unlike a painting or a movie, it all has to come together on one day.
The big challenge, Souza said, is dealing with regulatory issues and numerous local agencies, as well as assembling the crew “and pulling this off all within the course of about 10 days, given weather issues and humidity and wind and rain and whatever comes your way.”
Souza has also created fireworks displays marking the 125th anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty and the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as shows in other cities and countries.
In his physical therapy practice, he works with athletes recovering from back injuries and with sports-specific training programs. He also performs functional capacity evaluations for workers returning to their jobs after treatment for an injury. His wife, a former adjunct faculty member in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, recently served as a guest lecturer in the “Basics of Patient Management” course.