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Music With a Mission: Second Annual Roots, Rock & Research Benefit Concert to Support A.J. Drexel Autism Institute

Jeremiah Tall performing at last year's Roots, Rock and Research.

Oct 05, 2018

The concept for the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s annual fundraiser is simple: utilize music to bring attention to a common cause.

What’s emerged is Roots, Rock & Research, a benefit concert now in its second year to be held at 5:30 on Oct. 13 at World Café Live in support of the Institute’s endeavors in autism research from a public health perspective.

The idea to focus the event around roots music was that of the Institute’s Director, Craig Newschaffer, PhD.

“It’s a style of music that he loves, and we thought it would transfer well to audiences because it’s general enough for everyone to enjoy,” said Meredith Bloom, project manager of philanthropic initiatives for the Institute.

Craig Newschaffer at last year's Roots, Rock and Research.“Here in the U.S., we’re usually talking about a fabulous stew of folk, blues, country and rock and roll,” added Newschaffer of his love for roots music. “For the concert this year, in addition to folk rockers and country blues artists playing good old American roots music, we’re adding a little international flavor to that musical stew.”

That “international flavor” will be brought by Philadelphia-local brass ensemble the West Philadelphia Orchestra, new to the benefit line-up this year. The ensemble brings a range of influences to its performance, from Sun Ra to Bulgarian brass bands to Macedonian folk-dance music.

“We love that they’re local,” Bloom said. “They have a great local following and we know people just love them because they’re super fun.”

Headlining the evening’s show will be The California Honeydrops, who are already proving to be a big draw for the event.

“They’re an energetic, fun band and a good fit for the audience and the vibe we’re going for,” Bloom said.

A returning act from last year’s inaugural event will round out this year’s bill. Bloom called Jeremiah Tall — a solo folk rock musician and vocalist with a commanding stage presence — a “friend of the Institute” due to his personal desire to support the cause.

Tall said he usually tries to perform at any fundraiser he’s asked to do in order to pay it forward, and called autism “a cause I can get behind.”

“I’ve always believed in trying to help out when you can, not only when it benefits yourself,” he said.

Tall will bring some new songs to his set this year that he plans to release on a new record some time before the spring. Those in attendance last year may also recognize tracks from his 2015 album, “Where the Lore Began.”

Tall said he’s excited to play in this venue, in front of this high-spirited crowd, once again.

“It’s a beautiful room and it’s a great diversity of music,” he said of the event. “It’s good to see everyone’s energy in that way.”

Attendees at last year's Roots, Rock and Research.Aside from new acts, there will also be some new opportunities at this year’s event. A new ticket option allows for an open beer and wine bar, whereas ticketholders in the lower-priced option can access the cash bar. There will also be a wine raffle in which guests can pay $20 to receive a mystery bottle of wine — some of which will be worth far more than the price of donation.

All donations made through the fundraiser will go toward funding Institute endeavors that are hard to do through traditional funding, Newschaffer said, including pilot studies, student research assistantships and equipment updating.

“Events like this not only raise awareness for the important research we do every day to try to improve the quality of life for persons with autism and their families, but they also provide a chance for our Drexel friends to get to know us and our friends, family and supporters a little better,” Newschaffer said.

Whether it’s the music or the research that may draw you to this event, many would agree it’s all-in-all a night not to be missed.

“Autism affects so many people. By coming out and joining us, it helps support what we do and spread our mission,” Bloom said.

“You won’t find a more interesting mix of top-quality roots music on the bill at any venue in the city this year – if you come on out, you won’t be disappointed,” Newschaffer added.

For more information about Roots, Rock & Research, including ticket options, click here.