By Dave Zuchowski, for the Greene County Messenger Nov. 18, 2016
WAYNESBURG – Veterans Day may now be over, but Warriors Rock featuring Gary Racan and the studio e band of Pittsburgh has a unique way of remembering all year round those men and women who served in our nation’s armed forces.
Three years ago, Gary Racan, the former lead singer with the Vogues, and his wife, Kim, decided to launch a series of concerts titled “Warrior’s Rock!” with Racan’s 15 member studio e band that would make veterans the focus of the event.
“We wanted to produce a show that’s really unique,” said Kim, a resident of Greensburg. “Sometimes a concept works; sometimes it doesn’t. But ‘Warriors Rock!’ really does.” The Veteran focused concerts have been averaging six to eight venues a year, and at 7 pm on Saturday, Nov. 19, Greene County will get its first taste of a ‘Warriors Rock!’ concert when the Gary Racan and the studio e band comes to the Waynesburg Central High School Auditorium.
The way the concert works is for a video crew to go out beforehand into the surrounding area and interview ten veterans about their stories, then show the videos at the concerts. Each interview ends with the question “What song was important to you during deployment that reminded you of home.” Following a screening of the 2 ½ minute video interview, the band plays the veteran’s song.
“Studio e is totally variety and plays everything from Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra to Motown and Country,” Kim said. “We’re a living jukebox, which is why we appeal to people of all ages.”
Once the band made arrangements to perform in Waynesburg, Kim reached out to Sheila Elliott Stewart, vice-president of the First National Bank of Pennsylvania, to assist her in finding sponsors. The two women already knew one another because Steward used studio e previously to play at fundraisers for the Greene County Memorial Hospital.
“Everyone I reached out to for the (Warriors Rock) concert gave me an okay,” said Stewart, whose father and husband are both Veterans. “I consider that quite an accomplishment because the fundraiser for the hospital came just a week before.”
Advanced Masonry of Carmichaels, one of the nine sponsors of the concert, was one of the first Stewart reached out to. Owner Al Buchtan, it seems, has quite a heart for Veterans.
“My Dad was in the Navy in World War II and Korea, and I have a lot of friends in the military,” he said. “My assistant’s son joined the Air Force, and my brother, Andrew, and partner, Tim Ricco, all have someone close to them who is in the military. We can’t do enough for our veterans.”
During the annual free lunch Advanced Masonry organized for Veterans this past June, Buchtan brought in Louise Lipps, a former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, to sign autographs. The company also sponsors Wreaths Across America, a program that places Christmas wreaths on the graves of deceased Veterans.
Sponsors for the Warriors Rock concert like Advanced Masonry of Carmichaels are needed to help defray the costs for the venue, the interviewers and the video graphing team. All the proceeds from the sale of tickets, however, go to local Veterans’ organizations. In the case of the Waynesburg concerts, the proceeds will go to the Greene County’s five American Legions.
“The legions will give the money back to the community by helping local Veterans and the Boy Scouts, by providing scholarships to the children of local military, by mentoring youth, sponsoring wholesome programs and promoting patriotism,” said Mike Belding, first vice-commander of Waynesburg Post 330.
Belding, who retired from the Marine Corps in 2012 after 27 years of service, is one of the 10 featured Veterans in the concert. He served in three combat tours – in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Somalia where, in Operation Easter Exit, he helped 285 people get out of that country including American ambassador James Bishop.
“Local recognition of Veterans is important to understand that they come from all walks of life,” Belding said. “They’re everyday men and women who’ve made contributions to help preserve our freedom.”
The 2 ½ hour long concerts with intermission end by inviting all the veterans in the audience up on stage, passing out American flags to the audience and singing “God Bless America.”
“It’s something that brings tears to the Veterans’ eyes.” Kim said. While other fundraisers may bring in more money for the Veterans, our goal is to raise patriotic awareness and honor our Veterans. We’ve achieved this goal because our audiences leave the auditorium feeling very moved. During the evening, our veterans become the rock stars they deserve to be.”
“We wanted to produce a show that’s really unique,” said Kim, a resident of Greensburg. “Sometimes a concept works; sometimes it doesn’t. But ‘Warriors Rock!’ really does.”
Tickets for the “Warriors Rock!” concert are $20 for general admission and $10 for students and Veterans. They are available at all five American Legions in Greene County; at Advanced Masonry, located at 515 South Eight-Eight Road in Carmichaels; the First National Bank, located at One West High Street in Waynesburg; and by calling 724-998-0319. They can also be purchased online at www.warriorsrock.org
The Pittsburgh-based Warriors Rock featuring Gary Racan and the studio e band will perform a concert to raise money for veterans at 7 p.m. Nov. 19, 2016 at Waynesburg Central High School, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.