Proof of this can be witnessed firsthand across the faces and in the hearts of those supporting Rock Out Autism, a nonprofit and annual benefit concert aiming to transform misconceptions and fears about the neuro-developmental disorder—which some estimates project affects 1 in 100 children—into hope and awareness, through music.
Founded in 2008 by two Long Island high school students, Rafe Tangorra and Gina Cardino, the Rock Out Autism concert sold out The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale and raised more than $35,000 through just two shows in 2009 and 2010. Proceeds went to a local autism center—North Shore-LIJ’s The Fay J. Lindner Center for Autism—where Tangorra, then a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, volunteered as a peer mentor. The funds helped to finance services that young adults and children struggling with the disorder desperately needed.
What started out as a means of helping one local center, however, has blossomed into something much, much larger—a musical movement, if you will.
This year’s Rock Out Autism event, back at The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale on April 2, 2011—International Autism Awareness Day—marks its first as a national nonprofit foundation; truly a time for celebration.
Tangorra, 18, now a senior at Kellenberg Memorial and president of Rock Out Autism, tells the Press something moved him while working with the autistic children at the Center; something just tugged at his heartstrings and wouldn’t let go. He wanted to do something about it.
“When you see someone your age or a year older that is struggling with autism and they have the mentality socially of someone who’s 6 or 7 years old, it really hits you,” he says. “This kid’s my age. And they’re the smartest human beings I have ever met in my entire life. They’re so smart and so bright. It’s just socially is where they have their difficulties. Seeing them and being with them and hearing how they’re bullied in school because people just aren’t considerate—they don’t realize that these kids have a problem, they can’t help themselves. It just struck me.”
A drummer since he was 4 (Thanks, Grams!), Tangorra says music and combating autism just seemed to go hand-in-hand.
“We’re just looking to bring arts and autism together and use the arts to do something for autism,” he explains. “Especially rock music, because rock music is just music for the soul.
“Everyone can relate to music,” he continues. “Children who have autism, for some reason—it’s been proven in studies—are very, very highly drawn to music. And there’s millions of different types of music. And there’s one type for any child with autism out there—that’s their big draw.
“I felt [that] if we can use something that can impact a child with autism as much as music to help them, then we should,” he adds.
All proceeds from the April 2 gig will go to the Rock Out Autism foundation, “which gives out grants to different centers and schools throughout the nation that are big supporters of peer mentorship and autism services,” explains Tangorra. “To get them the help that they need, now.”
The Nutty Irishman Rock Out Autism Benefit Concert is All-Ages and will also serve as a showcase for some of Long Island’s most exciting unsigned bands. Rocking out this year in support of the group’s mission—improving the quality of life and maximizing individual potential for people of all ages affected by autism spectrum disorders—is:
Lindenhurst’s Con The Villain [Beware of flying mustaches!]
Farmingdale’s The Cowboy Presidents
East Meadow’s One Love
Farmingdale-based Paging Grace, in which Tangorra plays drums
Styx tribute band Rockin’ The Paradise (their third year in a row supporting the cause)
Music is a powerful force when orchestrated by true hearts creating and sharing in order to save others.
What: Rock Out Autism
When: 1 p.m., April 2, 2011 (International Autism Awareness Day)
Where: The Nutty Irishman
323 Main Street
Cost: $10 in advance/$15 at door (All proceeds go to fighting autism)