Save the date for Saturday, August 31 for the 2nd Annual Rock Autism Music Festival, which will be held in Ellicottville, NY from 4-11pm at the Village Park.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the Founder and President of the festival, Max Muscato after he finished a day in the recording studio.
Muscato started the festival in honor of his older brother, Sonny, who is autistic and plays drums in his band on a couple songs, with their dad, Marc, as the main drummer.
“It’s a family thing,” said Muscato. “We are all together doing what we love.”
The festival had been an idea for six or seven years in the minds of Max and his dad, and then it finally came to fruition and is now an annual event done to raise awareness and money for autism.
“There’s a need to have something fun that connects people to the ones they love that are affected by autism and show them support through music,” the singer-songwriter stated.
Muscato was born in Washington DC, but was raised here in Buffalo. Dad, a professional percussionist, was the support and teacher throughout his early years as his son showed interest in the drums, until he picked up a guitar at age 12. His brother, Sonny, was partial to the drums.
Studying to be a physician at the University at Buffalo, it seemed that he always knew what his true calling was, since he thought about, wrote and played music more than school.
Muscato and I talked about the festival, his time in the recording studio and his favorite venue to play locally, along with his “dream” gig. I found Muscato very personable and easy to talk to. We shared a couple laughs … one when he talked about his brother saying, “I’m just under 6’ tall and Sonny has 2” on me and about 30 pounds … so he can kick my butt!”
If you haven’t seen the band play, you can check out their schedule at www.maxmuscato.com , and make plans to see them at the festival for a great cause and great music.
A CONVERSATION WITH MAX MUSCATO
HULICK: You were in the recording studio today. Were you working on an album?
MUSCATO: Actually, I was re-recording “Sonnyboi”, which is the Rock Autism anthem. It’s a song I wrote about my brother. The way it works is when you first get into the music industry, big record labels want to hear a demo, not necessarily the finished product. So you send them the demo and if they like what they hear they say … ok, let’s hear the real thing. So a couple people liked what they heard and so I am re-recording it and this will be the first song I’ll do on the professional level.
HULICK: That’s exciting! Having the first one being about your brother must really be special to you.
MUSCATO: Yes! The song is my perspective of what I grew up with him and seeing him struggle with some pretty heavy personal and emotional issues, but all the while loving music and film and just kind of being himself.
HULICK: Your brother plays drums for you, doesn't he?
MUSCATO: Well he plays on “Sonnyboi”, and he’ll do a couple other songs, but my dad is really my main drummer.
HULICK: You were the one who started the Rock Autism Music Festival for your brother who has autism, right?
MUSCATO: My dad and I had the vision but it was a collaborative effort of the Rock Autism team.
HULICK: Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
MUSCATO: Absolutely! This will be our second year, but it has been an idea between my dad and me for probably six or seven years and it finally came to the point after seeing my brother continue to struggle that I said … you know what … we got to do something for this cause.
HULICK: And the music festival is held in Ellicottville, correct?
MASCATO: Yes. It is held in the Ellicottville Village Park. It will be on August 31 from 4-11pm. There will be five or six bands throughout the day/night, and we are going to have a ton of vendors, paintings for the children, a Rock Autism merchandise area and much more! We like to create a different atmosphere from what you typically see at events for organizations, because at the end of the day when you’re dealing with autism, which is considered a disability, they just want to have fun too … and so do the parents. So what better time than at a music festival where you can hang out, listen to music, have some good food and drink.
HULICK: This must be quite a lot to put together …
MUSCATO: (laughs) Last year we did 12 hours of music! (laughs) It was the most intense day of my life! They found me one time sleeping in the beer cooler.
HULICK: (laughs) Oh no! So that explains why it is six or seven hours this year.
MUSCATO: (laughs) That’s right! The great thing is we raised over $15,000 for our first year, which other organizations have told me is terrific. So that feels good and makes it all worth it. It is quite an undertaking but I truly enjoyed it and I am looking forward to this year’s festival and future festivals.
HULICK: Where can people find out more about the festival and purchase tickets?
MUSCATO: Tickets are $25 for pre-sale general admission and VIP tickets are $75 for the day. They can be purchased at rockautism.org.
HULICK: You play a lot of different venues in the western New York area. What’s your favorite place to play?
MUSCATO: My favorite venue is Town Ballroom, which is downtown Buffalo next to Shea’s. The owners of Town Ballroom are on the committee for Rock Autism and they’ve been extremely helpful with everything and have been very supportive. Without their guidance I don’t think we would have been as successful as we were last year. Actually, everyone that has been involved in the festival has been wonderful.
HULICK: You also play gigs in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
MUSCATO: I do. I play Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other places in the two states.
HULICK: Any plans for the future?
MUSCATO: Well I just did my first real tour a couple months ago for three weeks and it was awesome! So I would like to get more into touring. My dream locally would be to play Shea’s. That is my dream venue … I would love to play my music there!