He “doesn’t have the numbers yet,” but Steve Santinelli, who produced last Saturday night’s EyeRock New York benefit show starring Lisa Loeb at the Hard Rock Café, hopes to equal or surpass last year’s record total of $185,000 in corporate donations, from over 700 attendees, to OneSight, the non-profit group that provides eyecare and eyewear for needy people around the world.
The event was an adjunct of the annual Vision Expo East eyecare trade show at the nearby Javits Center.
Santinelli is the technical communications manager for his family’s Hauppauge, N.Y. lens finishing equipment distributor Santinelli International. But he also has a production company, Rock-For-Charity, which produces the EyeRock shows in New York and in Las Vegas–home of Vision Expo West.
The EyeRock concept, Santinelli feels, is perfectly suited for other trade groups.
“Most of them have golf outings and benefit dinners,” says Santinelli, “But there are a lot of untapped musicians out there who would do an event like EyeRock once–and then want to do it over and over on an annual or semi-annual basis.”
One of them, it turns out, is Santinelli himself.
“We sell machines that cut lenses for frames, and we were at an optical business trade show in Nashville,” he recalls. “I was sitting down with a guy who turned out to be a vice president at LensCrafters, and he was telling me about all his guitars, and I was telling him about all my guitars and amps. He said he knows this bass player, I said I know this drummer. He’s based in the corporate headquarters near Cincinnati, I’m in New York–and the bass player’s in South Dakota. The next trade show, we all decide to get together in a rehearsal studio and jam.”
They also decided on repertoire.
“We thought it would be great to do classic rock songs that we all know and wouldn’t have to practice,” says Santinelli. “We agreed on the same 10 songs–the Rolling Stones’ ‘Happy,’ Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Born On The Bayou’ and some more current ones that weren’t hard to cover like Carrie Underwood’s ‘Last Name’–and it was very exciting. After six or seven years it grew to 12 people and we thought we really should get out and play for an industry association, who would get a kick out of seeing us.”
Deciding to approach an industry charity, Santinelli reached out to Susan Knobler at OneSight. The two collaborated in staging the first EyeRock show in 2008 at the China Club, with 17 musicians.
“They made $90,000, and it’s been going up from there,” says Santinelli, who now seeks to spread the EyeRock model to other industries.
“I saw all the excitement on people’s faces, and realized that people everywhere go to guitar centers and music centers and play on Saturdays and love to get up and perform classic rock,” he notes. “Everyone relates to the same type of music, and there’s an unlimited source of talent that is definitely organizable and presentable for an unlimited number of charities.”
Obviously, “big charities are going to do big shows with big names like Paul McCartney,” says Santinelli, and sure enough, McCartney was the recent Person of the Year at The Recording Academy’s annual MusiCares charity fundraiser gala.
“But little or medium-size charities don’t have that option,” he adds. “I’m now looking at those that are associated with different industries, and every industry has its own charity.”
The trick is to link up with a big name who does a lot of charity work–like a McCartney–and seek support in producing Rock-For-Charity events and pitching them to charities.
“It’s all scalable,” he says. “A small bar for a small charity for a small fee or a larger project like EyeRock in Times Square in New York City. We just have to figure how to get there from here.”
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