Music festival to benefit Autism Society

Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - Updated: 11:05 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Ron Esser doesn’t consider those afflicted with autism to have a disability. They are just differently abled. “They’re much more gifted in a lot of ways,” he said.

Esser, owner of Moondogs Pub in Blawnox, is an organizer of the Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival July 27-28 at the Syria Shrine Center in Cheswick. Proceeds will benefit Band Together Pittsburgh and the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.

The featured performers will include Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band, Gary Hoey, Dana Fuchs, Vanessa Collier, and Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. Special performances will be given by musicians on the autism spectrum.

Esser, a member of Holy Family Parish (Creighton) in the Upper Allegheny Valley grouping, co-founded Band Together Pittsburgh with musician John Vento. The group strives to highlight the real success that music has in the lives of those on the autism spectrum and their families.

Musicians understand the importance of supporting causes like the festival because they tend to be more creative and sensitive, Esser said. He noted that Grushecky worked with disabled children, and many of the performers have children or relatives on the autism spectrum.

“They need to know where we’re coming from, or they need to play somewhere else,” Esser said of those selected to play.

Esser’s son, James, is on the autism spectrum, and while his son is highly functional, Esser knows the frustration that families can experience. They need the support of fellow parishioners and community members.

Members of Band Together Pittsburgh are on the autism spectrum, he said, and they work as disc jockeys, play in bands and play piano at events.

“You need to witness it to see it,” he said. “It’s just incredible.”

Advance tickets are $25 per day or $40 for a weekend pass. Gate prices are $30 per day. No weekend passes will be sold at the gate. Those 16 and under are free. Tickets and information are available by visiting www.pghbluesrootsfest.com, or on Facebook at Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival.

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