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Music therapy programs helps people struggling with substance abuse

*Click the links mid-page for video clips*

SANBORN, N.Y. (WIVB) — “The whole group starts with a song, we all introduce our names and how we’re feeling that day with a song. Some people play guitar, percussion instruments, stuff like that,” said Cory McMillan, a resident at Horizon Village.

Cory McMillan says music therapy helps him express himself.

“I hop in with a guitar in this program and I just start wailing away and getting everything out and learning about myself and stuff,” said McMillan.

Music is Art and the Blues Society of WNY have collaborated on a special music therapy program to help people who suffer from a chemical dependency.

“We have a national epidemic and certainly Western New York has felt the brunt of this and our statistics are not good, we’re averaging a loss of life of one a day,” said Anne Constantino, Horzion Corporations CEO.

The Nurs’n Blues program uses the healing power of music to help people struggling with addiction cope.

“I create and implement we call them music interventions that the group works on. These interventions have the end goals always in mind,” said Sheila Connors, Music Therapist.

Connors says the end goals include minimizing loneliness, increasing concentration, and a sense of community.

“We will point out maybe different life concepts in the lyrics of the tune like forgiveness, overcoming challenges, remorse, guilt, things like that, that will generate a group discussion,” said Connors.

“It kind of gives me that extra push to put my thoughts on paper and everything like that and I get to bring it into the group and kind of express how I’m feeling that day,” said said McMillan.

The music therapy program is offered at the Horizon Village campus in Sanborn and there are also plans to expand the program to outpatient facilities in Erie and Genesee counties as well.

Musicians draw from their own experiences when writing songs as a way to process their lives, including struggles with addition.

It’s a technique Horizon Health Services will start incorporating with its clients, with a little help from one of Buffalo’s best known bassists.

Two years ago Horizon teamed with the Nurs’ n Blues program to bring a one-of-a-kind music therapy program that uses the blues to help patients who battle addiction.

The program is led by therapist Sheila Connors who uses different music activities to help patients connect with songs and the artists who wrote them.

“I think you’d be hard pressed to find clients that don’t appreciate talking about artists who’ve overcome addiction, like ‘wow if they can do it so can I’,” she said. 

Friday the non-profit announced a new partnership with Music is Art that will help with fundraising and use its resources to expand the program.

“One of the greatest things about this concept is you can come in knowing a few chords and a few guys can sit down and have a great time together and that’s a vehicle to a whole ‘nother world,” said Robby Takac, Music is Art’s founder and bassist for the Goo Goo Dolls.

Since starting the program Connors and Nurs’ N Blues have helped more than 600 patients.

The hope is that with the help of Music is Art, they can keep the beat going. 

A lawyer, a banker, a rock star — and, hopefully, a song that's a hit

One year ago, Joey Nicastro – a curly-haired rocker-turned-neatly gelled lawyer – called his buddy Tom Lillis, a banking executive. The conversation went like this:

“It’s always been on my bucket list to have a song that’s taken off nationally,” said Nicastro, a personal-injury attorney with the Buffalo firm Ramos & Ramos.

“It was on mine, too — a long time ago,” said Lillis, who is a senior vice president with Bank of America. “But not anymore.”

“No,” Nicastro insisted to Lillis. “We can do this.”

Lillis responded, “What do you mean, ‘We?’

Nicastro was creatively connecting some dots, and he laid it out for Lillis: Both men are longtime musicians who play together in the Kensingtons, a Buffalo band. Both are board members for the local chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a duty that includes raising money.

For the last three years, they have raised thousands by holding a Rock for the Cure concert at the Tralf Music Hall, an event that features the Kensingtons and several other Buffalo acts.

But now Nicastro wanted to do something more.

“Let’s think big and try to achieve big,” he told Lillis. “I think I’ve got a great idea here: Let’s write a song.”

With the help of a cadre of Buffalo musicians and a Canadian rock star, they did. That song, “Against the Storm,” is being released Feb. 24 at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Diamond Ball. If it goes as Nicastro envisions – audacious as this plan is – the song may one day be sold and played around the country, raising money for the cause and qualifying as the hit he has always wanted.

* * *

For both Nicastro and Lillis, the idea of writing a popular song is a wild notion, but not an inconceivable one.

Nicastro, 35, had an impressive but not lucrative music career, highlighted by opening for Paul McCartney in London in 2010, when his band More Than Me won Hard Rock Cafe’s global battle of the bands. A few years later, he lightened his commitment to music and, thinking long-term, enrolled in the University at Buffalo School of Law.

Lillis, 57, also has a successful musical past. In 1978, as a student at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, he was part of a group that wrote a song which won a national award from Downbeat magazine. He played around town regularly, took time away from the stage when raising his kids and building his career, and for the last several years has been back on Buffalo’s music circuit.

The writing of “Against the Storm” happened during the first part of 2017. The two men met at Lillis’ basement studio several weekend mornings, developing the tune and writing and sharpening the lyrics. They pulled in Justin Rizzo, Nicastro’s longtime More Than Me bandmate, for writing support, and by summer they had a full song.

At that point, Dick Shaner Jr., a veteran public-relations executive with the Martin Group/Martin Davison Public Relations, entered the project. Shaner, who provides publicity support for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, reached out to his friend Ron Hawkins, frontman of the seminal Canadian rock group Lowest of the Low.

Last summer, Hawkins was at home in Toronto finishing work on the Low’s new album, “Do the Right Now.” Shaner filled Hawkins in on the “Against the Storm” project: The song would be recorded at GCR Audio, the Buffalo studio owned by Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, where manager Justin Rose donated his time.

A group of Buffalo musicians volunteered their time, too: vocalist Garrett Shea, guitarist (and Joe’s brother) Frank Nicastro of the Strictly Hip and drummer Erik Eimiller of Dirty Smile. The song would raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, with the help of chapters and radio stations around the country, they hoped.

Would Hawkins be willing to produce?

He would indeed. He’s a fan of Buffalo (the Low has played here countless times) and has a personal connection with the cause. (Hawkins’ father-in-law died of multiple myeloma.)

“I have a fondness in my heart for Buffalo,” Hawkins said. “I come down here all the time, and I’m always looking for ways to give back.”

Hawkins also said he would do it for free.

* * *

The two-day recording session last August was intensely creative and creatively productive. After working with Nicastro and Lillis to trim the song from a fat five-minute demo to a slimmer, and more radio-friendly, 3 minutes, 20 seconds, Hawkins got to work directing the musicians.

He listened by the sound board as Frank Nicastro took several runs through a guitar solo. In the control room, the musicians agreed that Nicastro nailed the first two parts.

But on the other side of the soundproof glass, Nicastro seem unimpressed with his work. He was seated, hunched over his guitar, almost cradling the instrument as he tried to perfect each piece of the solo.

“He’s making it so hard on himself,” one of the musicians said. Everyone laughed. They admired Nicastro's effort, but also knew that cutting through his intensity with some feedback would require a deft touch.

Enter Hawkins.

“Hey, Frank," he said into a microphone that fed into Nicastro's headphones. "We’re digging the vibe of the first two, and maybe, suddenly, it gets very note-y. We’re thinking that maybe just leaving that whirl to the first two, just keeping that essence of how that first two feel.”

Nicastro nodded.

“It’s really sort of sexy and swingy,” Hawkins added.

Later, as the musicians finished work on their second version of the song — a rockabilly version in which they experimented with a Johnny Cash-style take — Hawkins stepped behind the microphone and recorded vocals to mirror Shea’s. After listening, and recognizing that both he and Shea are singing several steps above Cash’s deep-digging voice, he had an idea.

“We can try this, and it may either sound awesome or absolutely ridiculous,” Hawkins said. “I’m thinking, it’s all Johnny Cash, but the timbre it’s in with our voices is way higher than Johnny would’ve sang, right? I’m wondering if we should try doing both octaves” — he meant the middle and low — “and I’m talking about mix it almost completely subliminally, so you’d only notice it if you muted it. You’d notice some weight was missing, but you’re not going to hear it, per se.”

Shea, a still-rising singer in his mid-20s, was sitting on a high counter in the studio while Hawkins sang. He brightened at the octaves suggestion. Earlier, when Hawkins was in another room, he mused that it would cool for them to have back-and-forth vocals. This wasn’t quite that, but it was indeed a chance to sing with a punk-rock star.

“I can throw out some surprises,” Shea said. In a low-Cash voice, he started singing the song’s chorus: “Take my hand | I will walk with you | Through it all …”

Soon, Shea and Hawkins took turns behind the mic, recording vocals meant only to add subtle detail to the song — details that can take a work from good to great. Or in this case, as Nicastro envisions, from local to hopefully national when it is released.

“I may be steering the ship, but everybody is throwing in ideas that serve the song,” Hawkins said. “Every step makes the thing better. You’re whittling it, sculpting it, until you have what you feel is the best iteration of it. And then you cross your fingers.”
'Against the Storm'

The song: The song, written in support of people and families facing cancer, has two versions: one sung by Lowest of the Low frontman Ron Hawkins, the other by Buffalo singer Garrett Shea. Joey Nicastro and Tom Lillis were the lead songwriters, with significant contributions from Justin Rizzo and support from a few other musicians.

The team: Several people donated time, including producer/vocalist/instrumentalist Hawkins, vocalist Shea, guitarist Frank Nicastro, drummer Erik Eimiller, engineer Justin Rose of GCR Audio, and CD designer Bill Zulewski.

The premiere: The musicians debuted the song live last fall at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Rock for the Cure, and are releasing it Feb. 24 at the society’s annual Diamond Ball.

The live performance will include Shea on vocals, Joey Nicastro on lead guitar, Rizzo on rhythm guitar, Lillis on bass and Eimiller on drums. (Hawkins will not be present, and Frank Nicastro has a show in Canada with the Strictly Hip.)  Click here or  or call 716-834-2578. Updates on the sale of the song can be found by visiting the Facebook page or website.
John Rzeznik and Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls have donated an autographed vintage edition Les Paul guitar as the prize in a special auction from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday hosted by the Auxiliary of Hamburg Post 527, American Legion, 2 Memorial Drive off Evans Street, Hamburg.

The winner needs not be present. There also will be theme baskets. All proceeds will help veterans and their families. Also from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, the Sons of the American Legion will host a Chiavetta’s chicken barbecue at the post. Dinners are $10.
Goo Goo Dolls News & Info / New Show!! Goo Goo Dolls Play Oslo, Norway on August 7th!
« Last post by Gen on February 22, 2018, 07:55 PM »

They are the rock band from Buffalo, who in 1998 got the whole world to sing with the super hit "Iris". August 7th Goo Goo Dolls finally comes to Oslo and Rockefeller!

Tickets in sale Friday 23 February at 09:00.

Goo Goo Dolls was founded in 1986 in Buffalo, New York, and got a big break with song "Iris" from the soundtrack to the movie "City of Angels". Billboard placed "Iris" in the first place on the "Top 100 Pop Songs 1992-2012" award, where the single "Slide" took a honorable ninth place. In addition to their megahits, they have also had 14 other top 10 singles on different lists around the world, and their 11 studio albums have sold over 12 million copies. August 7, Goo Goo Dolls comes to Rockefeller for the first time - we are looking forward!

Buy tickets here:
The band is set to perform on August 13th.
The Goo Goo Dolls will play in Austria at Arena Wien on August 14th!

Get tickets here!
(You can enter your email address for an alert when tickets are on sale.)

When: August 14th, at 8PM.

Where: Vienna, Austria

Die Arena ist ein Veranstaltungsort in Wien-Landstraße, der sich als alternatives Kulturzentrum, speziell für Jugendkultur, Konzerte verschiedenster Richtungen und andere Musikveranstaltungen versteht. Im Sommer wird sie auch als Freiluftkino genutzt.
Die Arena befindet sich in einem industriell geprägten Umfeld im Stadtteil Erdberg und ist aus einem früher als Schlachthof genutzten Gelände entstanden. Sie wird vom Verein Forum Arena Wien betrieben, der autonom und basisdemokratisch arbeitet.
Das Veranstaltungsgelände der Arena besteht im Wesentlichen aus einem Freigelände sowie einer kleinen und großen Halle. Es gibt mehrere Bars. Speisen und Imbisse, werden in der Regel nach Bedarf an aufgebauten Ständen im Freigelände verkauft. Die aus der früheren Industrie-Architektur stammenden kahlen Ziegelwände sind teilweise mit Graffiti versehen und machen den besonderen Charme der Arena aus. Auch ein weithin sichtbarer Schornstein ist erhalten geblieben.
Regelmäßig wiederkehrende Veranstaltungen in der Arena sind unter anderem Roadtrip To Outta Space, Therapy Sessions, Mainframe, Eyesprung und Iceberg, der Bandwettbewerb Local Heroes sowie im Sommer die Arena Bierwoche und das Arena Sommerkino. Einmal jährlich, jeweils im Winter, findet das FM4-Geburtstagsfest statt.
The arena is a venue in Vienna-Highway, which is an alternative cultural centre, especially for youth culture, concerts of various directions and other music events. In summer it is also used as an open-air cinema.
The arena is located in an industrial environment in the area of the city of Berg and originated from an area formerly used as a slaughterhouse. It is operated by the Association Forum Arena Wien, which operates autonomously and democratically.
The arena's event area consists essentially of an outdoor area and a small and large hall. There are several bars. Food and snacks are usually sold on the open-air grounds as needed. The bare brick walls, which originate from the former industrial architecture, are partly decorated with graffiti and make up the special charm of the arena. A well-visible chimney is also preserved.
Regularly recurring events in the arena include Roadtrip to outta space, therapy sessions, mainframe, Eyesprung and Iceberg, the local Heroes band competition, and in the summer the Arena week and the Arena Summer cinema. The FM4 Birthday Festival takes place once a year, in each winter.

Goo Goo Dolls News & Info / Swag for Smiles contest info :)
« Last post by Annie on February 21, 2018, 10:44 AM »
Alright, you guys are just plain evil, posting all those beautiful smiles from you, children, spouses, pets - how were we supposed to choose???

So, to thank you for your beautiful smiles, and to make YOU smile,
we've decided to send all of you that entered something :)

This is who I have so far:


Now, if you submitted one over the past 3 days, and don't see your name listed,  please post a link below to your tweet (no fair doing it after this! lol). Send me your shipping info (with your twitter name please, no cheating) at  We don't have that many keychains, so if you want one, it's first come, first served. If you want a magnet, feel free to specify which, but don't hold your breath for it - again, first come first served.

I hope this gives you guys a tiny bit of the happiness we've had seeing those smiling faces!

Goo Goo Dolls News & Info / Re: Vinyl albums
« Last post by Ben on February 20, 2018, 04:37 PM »
I have that box as well (love it). I was wondering, what is so exclusive about that box, because after that box those vinyl's were sold as singles almost immediately.

Gutterflower on vinyl would be a dream. I have Magnetic also, blue cover!
Goo Goo Dolls News & Info / Re: Important News for Inner Machine Members
« Last post by Kzgrl on February 20, 2018, 01:27 AM »
Thanks sweetie💕💕 That’s awesome news❤
Goo Goo Dolls News & Info / Video - Catching up with the Goo Goo Dolls!
« Last post by Gen on February 19, 2018, 11:23 PM »
Catching up with the Goo Goo Dolls!

by San Antonio Living

The Goo Goo Dolls were in town on Friday and Denise caught them before their big show. Watch to hear what their favorite songs are and how they feel about the rodeo!
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