The Concert 4 Autism is a unique live music events program designed to raise awareness and funds to help those families and individuals with Autism. A conversation with the Concert 4 Autism co-founder one Concert and Two Heart attacks later. As I found out some things change and some things never will.
Q: After two heart attacks separated by only seven weeks the obvious question is how are you feeling?
A: I’m feeling better some days compared to others, but that is to be expected I’m told. I’d say at this point I am cautiously optimistic, but realize my life certainly has changed on many levels…It’s coming to grips with and accepting it that I could do a better job with.
Q: What has been the hardest part of the heart attack ordeal for you?
A: Other than the physical heart attacks, getting shocked with a defibrillator and the uncertainty the situation brings, it has to be the lowering of expectations. I’m not even 40 yet and I’ve been to the place you don’t want to be…twice. I had to face a reality of what if today was my last day? What about my wife, my son and so many things left unfinished. What if these are my final moments? It is a frightening and life altering experience, and at the time you can only hope to survive. I consider myself lucky to be alive… and I don’t plan on wasting whatever time I have ahead of me by looking backwards. I’ve been told I came back because of “Unfinished Business” but I don’t take things for granted anymore that’s for sure.
Q: What did you learn from the first concert and how will that impact events moving forward?
A: The initial concert was both an amazing performance and an equally amazing learning experience at the same time. We had some great people involved and the venue, sound and bands were awesome. We could not have been more pleased with that aspect. The live stream was something we did not know what to expect. It turned out to be the most exciting and unexpected aspect of the concert. It was obvious just from the numbers we were on to something…but what was the question. Letters and emails poured in from all around across the country from California to New York and points in between thanking us for the experience of a live music event for Autism online for the first time. We came to realize we had scratched the surface of something more than just another concert. We agreed a few changes needed to be made in order to begin tapping into this enormous potential moving forward.
Q: How does the Concert 4 Autism differ from other charity concerts?
A: The Concert 4 Autism Distinguishes itself in three fundamental ways.
1. We are real people not some faceless corporation or heartless promoters. I have heart disease, my wife is a type I diabetic and our son has Autism. We are inspired by our real life events that changed our lives and continue to drive us to want to help as many others experience the power of music. Who we are is what enables us to work more closely with our artists, bands and sponsors while we connect with our audiences and our cause in ways that other events, promoters and for profit agencies simply cannot.
2. Online and On Demand deliveries enable us to reach audiences around the world and those isolated by the impacts of Autism at the same time. Many of these individuals otherwise would never get to experience a live music event. It also gives us the opportunity to create intimate events in great locations to further enhance the over-all experience for both onsite and online audiences. It's an opportunity for the bands to make a difference and reach audiences while they do it too. We continue to enhance our video packages and awareness components and combine them with reach of the Internet to educate the largest numbers and connect them with our cause. We are talking about a plethora of untapped interactive opportunities for those isolated by autism... what we are doing is probably just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the influence of online communities like facebook and twitter. What's better than opening the doors of a place someone thought they would never get to go and helping them experience some things they never before thought they would.
3. The Concert4Autism events giveback to local, regional and other charitable organizations that provide direct and immediate assistance to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Our approach is certainly different. We believe everyone counts. No one is right, No one is wrong, each of us is an individual with different needs. We celebrate individuality. Significant progress has been made in fundraising for research, yet very little is being done to help those struggling to live with ASDs. As the parents of a child on the Spectrum we have first hand experience with the desperate need for increasing awareness, resources and accessibility to create the most positive outcomes for people with Autism. That's what we will change with your help.
Q: What challenges do the concert events face moving forward?
A: There are always challenges, good thing we have a lot of experience improvising, adapting and overcoming all kinds of them. Weather, Band Schedules, Venues, Travel, Gear…almost anything can become a challenge. All you can do is prepare as best you can. The key is cooperation…getting everyone onboard to get behind the cause. It sounds simple enough, but in reality there are always those who are more interested in making a profit off of charity events than being charitable. We do our best to work with those businesses and individuals whose hearts are in the right place to ensure the maximum benefit to our charitable partners and cause.
Q: Do you have a preference to one style of music or destination?
A: Not really. Every show is different. It comes down to who wants to get involved and putting the logistics together to make a concert happen. If it’s a country band, rapper, rock bands, classical ensembles or other type of performer really is about their willingness to participate in an individual event. Exploring different types of events including online and on demand creates a variety of opportunities for the artists to contribute to our cause its efforts on terms more accommodating to their schedules, management, etc. The internet really gives us a wealth of opportunities to reach music fans and isolated populations while we give bands and performers of all types and sizes the ability to contribute in ways they find comfortable and appropriate. It’s really a win…win situation for those looking to make a difference in the lives of children and families living with Autism.
Q: Is it true that your seven year-old son with Autism has some influence over the music selections?
A: Yes it is. As you know it was music in the car that started it all on a ride home from The Children’s Hospital in Denver. Since then we have exposed little buddy to all kinds of music. He is not shy about telling you what he likes. He’s honesty is pure. No political correctness at all… we love it. If he likes a song he’ll tell you and put it on repeat. And if he doesn’t like it he’ll tell you that and ask you to change it. I’ll never forget the look on his face when saw The Freddy Jones Band…he still bangs on the trash cans over a year later saying “I’m want to be a drummer like Simon”. Music is certainly magical and can be nothing short of a miracle.
Q: What bands and kinds of music does he like?
A: He has quite a diverse taste…but really likes rock n roll the best. Sometimes it can be a song in a movie or tv show that he connects with too. So we have really become much more in tune with all the music around us. He really enjoys a lot of rock bands including Jupiter Coyote, Freddy Jones Band, Big Head Todd, Nickelback, Bon Jovi, Bad Company and the Scorpions among others. He does like a variety of country artists including John Rich, Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Leanne Rimes and others. It really is cool when he enjoys some of the same music and artists that we do as parents. It gives us something to share in common which can be difficult for those with ASDs.
Q: What’s next for the Concert 4 Autism?
A: We look forward to coming events and further integrating online deliveries to reach the largest and most diverse audiences. At the same time we are excited about bringing some great live music experiences to our audiences from intimate venues, while elevating Autism Awareness and raising funds to make a real difference doing it. We are already exploring new artists, sponsors, locations, charities and venues. One of the greatest things is the dedicated and compassionate people we meet along the way. The one thing that will never change is our desire to continue connecting people and professionals with information and one another empowering them through the power of music.