By Tricia Witkower
Local musicians Josh Heinz and Linda Lemke Heinz have been together for nine years and married for four and it’s clear to see that they connect on a deep level through their music. Indeed, that is true – the couple plays in two bands together: Blasting Echo and 5th Town. But their marriage wasn’t your typical rock ‘n’ roll love story. Josh and Linda met through their sons, who are both severely autistic. Harrison and Christopher, Josh’s and Linda’s sons respectively, were classmates in a school for children with disabilities and became fast friends. Both boys were not very verbal and (as is common in severely autistic children) don’t make many connections with others, even close family members. But Harrison and Christopher, clicked almost immediately and became great friends, much to Josh and Linda’s surprise and delight. Both parents, divorced from their first spouses, were delighted to see this. The rest, as they say, is history. In their case, it’s not only history, but the beginning of a beautiful collaboration that spans parenthood, music, and working for a cause they both believe strongly in. Join Josh and Linda on Friday and Saturday night, October 19th and 20th at the 11th Annual Concert for Autism at The Tack Room Tavern in Indio.
The Heinz family consists of Josh and his 18-year old son Harrison; Linda and her two daughters and one son, 19-year old Gillian, 15-year old Christopher, and 13-year old Katy; and their son together, 5-year old Jack. When not playing or practicing in either of their two bands, Josh works at Hohmann Fine Art and Linda has taught music privately for over twenty years. Linda, who had already begun teaching kids with special needs, received a grant to continue to do so through Lumpy’s Foundation (https://www.desertautismfoundation.org/ and now called Desert Autism Foundation) after she wrote a letter to thank its founder, Randy Corti. She wrote to him to thank him for his event, Lumpy’s Scramble, which raises funds that allows parents of special needs children to buy deeply discounted therapy. This wonderful organization negotiates rates with some of the local occupational, music, speech and social therapists. All proceeds from this event go to the Desert Autism Foundation to help fund their program of getting kids on the autism spectrum therapy at a reduced cost.
At this year’s event, 24 bands and acoustic performers will take to the stage throughout Friday and Saturday night. Of these bands, fourteen are returning and ten are new to the event. The Hellions have played every year of the event (as has Josh, however he was in a different band the first year). Another fun component new to the event this year, is a piece of music played by Linda’s autistic students (she teaches piano, flute, and voice) on Saturday at 4 pm. Attendees can see firsthand what the music therapy has done for these kids. They also added a young band, Minor Emergency, to the lineup where they will be on the acoustic stage at 4:30 pm on Saturday. One of Minor Emergency’s many fans is an autistic boy who loves to see them play. Says Josh, “The members of Minor Emergency really wanted to be a part of the event and do some good. At that young of an age they have such big hearts and want to be a part of this.”
To see the full lineup of entertainment, go to http://concertforautism.com/. Aside from the best live music this valley has to offer, concert-goers can look forward to a raffle and silent auction at this family-oriented event. For the kids, the Coachella Valley Autism Society Activities sets up a table and they are welcome to stay at the event until 10 pm. After that point, heavier bands come on and it gets more rock ‘n roll and louder.
In its 11th year, when asked what he’s learned in his years of putting on this event, Josh said, “I’ve learned that a lot people have big hearts, you just have to ask them. We had a couple people contact us about donation tiers, which showed us how much this has grown. This event started out just a grassroots thing passing around jugs at Red Barn.” Beside raising money for kids, Josh and Linda
finds the music community and the camaraderie of the event to be the most rewarding part. Says Josh, “Working together with close friends who sacrifice their time and talents to put it all together, that means a lot. A lot of musicians who play it will say it feels like a reunion every year – it’s very rare to get so much of the music community there at the same time. Everyone seems happy – to play and be part of the event. You don’t see them much during the year. Working with my staff is fun for two days. You’re busting tail setting up and it’s chaotic but it’s a lot of fun working together.” Their hard work pays off – just last year they raised nearly $12,000 for the Desert Autism Foundation.
This particular organization is dear to their hearts because Linda’s son benefitted from Desert Autism Foundation. Harrison was able to go to a summer program for speech and occupational therapy – which was supported by Desert Autism Foundation. Linda said, “When I was new to the area, I found out about a summer program that offset costs for speech and occupational therapy. It was great for us at the time because our insurance wasn’t covering those things. It’s very expensive raising a child on the autism spectrum. During the school year he had a program at school but this kept it going in the summer. All the money we raise goes to that. It was great for my son. After he was in OT for several weeks, he actually said his first sentence. There was a sign in the OT room and his therapist, Beth Aune, with Desert OT for Kids had a sign that said, ‘Please keep your shoes off the mat’. Christopher pointed to the sign one day and read it. He’d never spoken in a full sentence before and for me it was a big deal. I totally noticed the change in his overall demeanor, learning and having such a great therapist.”
For Linda and Josh, the 11th Annual Concert for Autism is their way of raising awareness to bring understanding to others, whether their family is touched by it or not. Your $10 suggested donation entrance fee, as well as the silent auction and raffles, raises critical funds for the Desert Autism Foundation. Rock out with the Heinz family on October 19th and 20th at this worthy event that promises a good time and an even better cause. For more information and to make donations: http://concertforautism.com/ The 11th Annual Concert for Autism is at the Tack Room Tavern 81800 51st Ave, Indio, CA 92201.
We reached out to a few of the artists that will be performing and asked them what doing this Autism benefit means to them.
Will Sturgeon of brightener: “This is my first year participating, and I’m happy to be supporting such a positive event. I’ve worked with a handful of young people on the autism spectrum, and understand how positive an effect that music can have on their ability to participate, communicate, and build their own identity. I work with kids and teenagers with differing needs at the Academy of Musical Performance (AMP), and have seen how music can help to bring young people together to communicate in a positive setting and push young people, on and off the spectrum, to better themselves in so many ways. I’m looking forward to a great weekend of music for a great cause!”
Matt King and the FrankEatsTheFloor boys: “This is our first year at the benefit, and we are really excited! It means the absolute world to us to be playing at this event. Not only is it basically the “Live Aid of the Desert” in terms of charity shows, but it also represents some of the greatest music in the valley, and we are ecstatic to be considered along with those musicians.
A few of my friends are on the Autism spectrum, and it hurts me every day to see how this disorder limits them. To be able to contribute to help them out in any way means a lot to me.
Josh Heinz is a tremendous guy. We’ve had the absolute pleasure of playing at the hood open mic run by him, and it’s amazing to see how hard he works for this music scene. We are honored to be participating in this star- studded benefit and extremely grateful to be a part of this wonderful music scene.”
Jamie Hargate of The Hellions: “This will be the 11th year for the autism benefit and will be the 11th year for The Hellions being a part of such a wonderful event. We’ve seen it grow and grow over the years and the support by our local community including all the band is beyond amazing. Everyone get ready for two great nights of music, great times and supporting a great cause!”
2018 11th Annual Concert for Autism Schedule:
Friday, October 19th
6:00 – Traveler (main stage)
6:35 – Honey the Witch (acoustic stage)
7:00 – Mozaiq (main stage)
7:35 – Richard Finn (acoustic stage)
8:00 – Giselle Woo & the Night Owls (main stage)
8:35 – Alpha Particles (acoustic stage)
9:00 – The Hellions (main stage)
9:35 – Hover (acoustic stage)
10:00 – Mega Sun (main stage)
10:35 – Courtney Chambers (acoustic stage)
11:00 – Slipping into Darkness (main stage)
Saturday, October 20th
4:00 – Performances from Autistic music students (acoustic stage)
4:30 – Minor Emergency (acoustic stage)
5:00 – Frank Eats the Floor (main stage)
5:35 – David Saba (acoustic stage)
6:00 – Basson (main stage)
6:35 – Charles Grace (acoustic stage)
7:00 – Right On Right On (main stage)
7:35 – Will Sturgeon (acoustic stage)
8:00 – Black Water Gospel (main stage)
8:35 – Rick Shelley (acoustic stage)
9:00 – Blasting Echo (main stage)
9:35 – Michael Anthony (acoustic stage)
10:00 – Throw the Goat (main stage)
10:35 – Michael Keeth (acoustic stage)
11:00 – 5th Town (main stage)