Oct. 23--For the past six years, the organizers behind Stamford Education 4 Autism have worked to create a family friendly evening where fun, music and education mingles. This year is no different.
The seventh annual Rock On 4 Autism returns to the Palace Theatre in Stamford on Saturday, Oct. 26, with the aim of presenting great music, raising funds through such activities as a silent auction and mystery bags, and getting families together, even as the word gets out about better understanding autism and the families that are affected by it.
"This is going to be an evening of great family entertainment," said Dennis Collins, a Stamford resident who is among the founders of the organization.
This year, the featured entertainers are Almost Famous, a band composed of musicians largely from the New York area who have worked with some of the top musicians in the business.
Front man Mason Swearingen has logged about 20 years in the business working and touring with such entertainers as Peter Frampton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chicago, Blues Traveler and K.C. and the Sunshine Band.
The eclectic nature of his career so far, which is mirrored by the experience of the four other members of the band, gives the group great freedom in what they are able to present on stage, Swearingen said during a recent interview. The other members, all of whom also sing, are David Koch on guitar, Alan Wayne on keyboards, Kenny K on bass and Chris Milillo on drums.
"Most of us are straight up rock and roll and we love to do that on stage. But, we have a wide taste in music and that's something we pride ourselves on," Swearingen said.
Swearingen, who lives in Kew Gardens in Queens, N.Y., said he's looking forward to tapping the crowd's energy on Saturday evening, which is something the band tries to do whether performing at small or large venues.
"We definitely like it better when everyone is enjoying themselves and getting involved in the music," he said.
It is the kind of spirit that has pervaded the event since the beginning, said Collins, who also is in the music business. A singer, he has performed with Roberta Flack, Beyonce, Jimmy Buffet, Cee-lo Green and others. This year, he backed Darlene Love during her appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman." And, he is touring as a back-up vocalist, along with his wife Sharon, with the musical show "Once Upon a Dream" that features the songs of The (Young) Rascals.
The show, which is directed by Steven Van Zandt and Marc Brickman, recently ran on Broadway for a limited engagement.
"Those guys are great," he said of Almost Famous. "They are going to play a lot of the hit songs we know. It's just a great night of music to raise money for a great cause."
It is the group's major fundraiser of the year, allowing it to provide educational opportunities and supportive services to children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. It was formed in 2007.
Guests are encouraged to dress up as rockers -- a look that can be recorded for prosperity at photo booths at the event.
"I truly believe music brings everyone together," said Collins, who is looking forward to the evening. He said it was important to keep the event something the whole family could attend.
Swearingen said those in attendance will get to hear some of their favorite songs from the past few decades, versions of hits from Journey, Bon Jovi, The Commodores, AC/DC and others.
"We definitely take time to put together a set that everyone can enjoy," he said. "These days, the people enjoying rock music can be anywhere from 5 to 75."
Swearingen said he and the others are looking forward to returning to their old haunts and seeing some old friends. Several years ago, the band regularly hit the circuit of bars and clubs in the greater Stamford area.
"We are really hoping everyone has lot of fun," he said. "It's very much a communal experience."
Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @xtinahennessy
Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. Saturday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m. doors open; 7:15 p.m. band starts. $34.50. 203-325-4466, www.scalive.org.
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