autism speaks through music: dave grohl reaches out

By Diana Hereld | @pathwaysinmusic


On Thursday, Autism Speaks held their Third Annual Blue Jean Ball at Boulevard3 in Hollywood. The evening began with a star-studded blue carpet, including appearances from Joshua Jackson, Diane Kruger, J.K. Simons and Dave Grohl. Hosted by TV personality Maria Menounos (Extra) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield), the ball included musical performances by Rick Springfield, Ryan Bingham and Dave Grohl, a live auction and the honoring of Chuck Saftler (FX Networks) for his dedication and work in the field of autism awareness, and testimony of Saftler’s son’s personal journey as a child on the autism spectrum.



Only a decade ago, the diagnostic percentage of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was 1 in 10,000. By 2013, this figure leapt to 1 in 88. While the cause of this alarming growth, treatment and a cure for autism continue to be a heavily debated and controversial issue, the fact remains that the disorder is growing, and attention to this circumstance is no longer optional.

During the event, a few attendees on the spectrum were graced with a photo op with Dave Grohl. One such young man, Andrew Hain, 21, had much to say on why Autism Speaks is a great organization deserving of celebrity endorsement and attention.

“It’s amazing – they do amazing things. Autism Speaks’ main focus is on four things: research, advocacy, family services and awareness. Advocacy can come in the form of insurance reform, where the government can chip in. Research can be raising money for genetic exploration, and awareness…people need to know now that Autism affects 1 in 88 families. We have to get the word out to the general public that it’s more common that in used to be. When I was first diagnosed, it was 1 in 10,000.” photo (51)

Andrew’s father, Phillip Hain, originally became involved with Autism Speaks as a volunteer. He has since served as the national director of Team Up! with Autism Speaks for 6 years.

“I was drawn to it because of its reach into the community, its ability to fund wonderful research and provide tools and resources to help families navigate a very complicated system.”

(For fascinating story Music Makes the Difference on Andrew, ASD and music, please visit the Autism Speaks Blog).

The evening concluded with a rousing and poignant acoustic performance by Dave Grohl. Interspersing hits including “Times Like These,” “My Hero” and “Everlong,” the packed nightclub fell quiet when Grohl shared words on why he was thankful to be in the position to give back to organizations like Autism Speaks. “One of the greatest things about being a musician – I write a song for one reason, and I sing it to you guys, and then you sing it back to me for eighty thousand difference reasons.”


When so many on the spectrum can be aided by therapies in music developing social skills, memory, abilities in empathy and stimulating cognitive functioning needed for elements like speech, sensory-motor and overall communication, those with the means and reach – especially musicians – should care. People universally connect to and are healed by music in thousands of different ways, and when we have the resources, we need leave no one behind.

Photo 1, 2, 3 and 5 credit – Diana C. Hereld

Photo 2 credit – Phillip Hain

Plans Within Plans – Sonic Youth, The Cure, and The San Diego Music Thing

_DSC1370Last weekend, I had the immense privilege of being invited to cover the San Diego Music Thing. Bringing together a host of noteworthy music industry professionals and accomplished songwriter veterans, SDMT was a major success. Joined by photographer James Gutierrez, I have experienced one of the coveted moments as a journalist when you realize how very fortunate you are.

The first day was composed of panels including “Music Industry 101,” “Shout It Out: PR & Promoting Your Music,” and “Secrets of Synchronization.” The latter and largest panel included speakers Brett Andersen of The Donnas, as well as various industry vets including Jeff Gray and John Anderson of Hunnypot Unlimited. Hunnypot has established itself as a leading independent music publishing/placement company representing the catalogues of Far East Movement, The Robotanists, Das Tapes, Peachcake, Teenage Bottlerocket, Bonhom, Seven Saturdays and more. The panel explained, in explicit detail, why it’s no longer taboo or “selling out” for bands to seek synchronizations.

Kim Gordon gave the keynote that afternoon, beginning with a storm of prose and wrapping with her sardonic and witty (and obviously obligatory) Q&A. Full coverage of Day One can be found here_DSC1281 (2)

Day Two of the SDMT began on the more responsible side of things. With panels like “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and Every Artist Insured, Finding Affordable Healthcare under Covered California,” aspiring and working musicians could ask advice of top experts in the field on issues of copyright, trademark and medical insurance.

Followed by the “Producers Roundtable,” “Website Demolition Derby” and panel entitled “Bands and Brands,” the conference shifted to some heavy-hitting PR. With the theme notably focusing on cross-marketing and collaboration, more than ever it seems musicians are being asked to take on roles they could never have imaged twenty years ago.

With the afternoon providing a honest and intimate talk with The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst, a very apparent thesis became a constant throughout the conference. Mike Herrera (MxPx, Tumbledown) spoke last, and proved no different. Success, failure and plans within plans proved the premise of the weekend, and each artist lent to this subject matter in their own unique and brilliant way. Check out full coverage of day two.

Talking with Mike HerreraIn summary, aspiring musicians were able to take away some very valuable and pragmatic ideals for action. In the closing talk, Herrera states the following:

“Maybe you didn’t start out executing exactly what you thought you would, and arrive at the conclusion you thought you would, but you’re always going to end up somewhere, and you need to make that your success. You can’t always dictate where life takes you. You can’t plan everything. So Plans Within Plans being my idea…the big plan shouldn’t change too often, but the little plans change every day; constantly. It’s a matter of tackling each thing, and making it happen. Defining success for yourself is so important because you can’t say that what’s good for you is good for everybody. You’ve just got to define for you what it is you’re looking for, what it is you’re going for, and that’s what you work on. How you get there is the most important thing. It’s not where you are; it’s how you’re getting there, and it’s where you’re going.”

Check out my final post and comprehensive highlights here.

Photo credit: James A. W. Gutierrez

ASCAP Spotlight: Ali Isabella

Teenage Dream – p_0115Part 1

By Diana Hereld | @christypaffgen

At the 8th annual ASCAP Expo, over 2,000 songwriters, composers and publishers gathered to take part in three days of lectures, workshops and live showcases specifically designed to promote knowledge and networking in their craft. Although all levels of accomplishment and success were represented, hallways and rooms bustled with people seeking their next break. The question at the front of everyone’s mind is constantly this: in an industry that’s progressively moving toward an age of D.I.Y. methods-how does one break through?

Throughout the Expo, many had the pleasure of meeting Ali Isabella, one of the events youngest guests-and headline artists. At just seventeen years old, Isabella has performed in many of the top clubs in New York as well as headlined two pre-Grammy parties-one honoring Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder celebrating the 54th and for St. Jude’s hospital the 55th annual Grammy awards. In 2012, she impressively became the youngest musician to ever perform in Wembley Arena in London, opening for country music superstars Reba McIntire and Lonestar. Isabella released her first album in 2012 “Say You’ll Be Mine” in the UK. In the US, her debut single, “New York City Country Girl” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was #1 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

On Thursday evening, Isabella performed at the showcase in Loews Hollywood Hotel for the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN), an organization created to bring women together in the music industry. Upon hearing Isabella sing, one’s immediate reaction may in regard to the clarity and strength of her powerful voice. She has been dubbed “the next Taylor Swift,” and her performance did not disappoint. Watching Ali sing was the most natural thing on earth – in front of leading industry specialists, executive producers and composers, she was simply at home in her music.

Possibly the most refreshing element of Isabella’s identity stems from her humility. Found on the receiving end of bullying in high school, Isabella is quick to exhibit compassion and resilience regarding her experience without an ounce of smugness at her professional success. On being the youngest ever musician to perform at Wembley Arena, she spoke of being anxious, but in tradition to the sensation many singer-songwriters experience, once she was on stage, what she was born to do took over:

“When I go back to it and think about it, I don’t even really remember it because it was all so overwhelming…I mean, the stage is like my home because before I go on, I’m really nervous but once I go up there I’m just comfortable and I’m able to forget about it.”

On the journey to where she has come from, Isabella speaks highly of everyone involved. Initially discovered as a singer-songwriter via a chance meeting via her father in a New York Starbucks, Ali has come a long way. Her powerhouse team composed of her band, publicists and management function more as a familial unit than a management force. One thing is to be sure, however-they know exactly what they are doing. Armed up-front with publicist Andrea Pagano, manager John Velasco (Direction by Appointment, Inc.) has an impressive resume, including having represented Tina Turner, and having managed and/or published Marvin Gay, Hal David and John Denver.

A bit further down the line, not only is Isabella getting publicity via multiple live performances, an app well-designed to keep fans updated with everything they need, and a sponsorship with Casio, she is also pioneering ways to keep an active presence online. Her internet broadcast series will soon be released. She states:  “We just go around and interview people in the entertainment industry-people that have helped me along the way, people that I’ve met-I just think it’s a great way to be informed about people behind the scenes because they’re the ones that make everything happen along the way.”

Ali Isabella’s fresh yet endearing catalogue will catch one’s attention from the beginning. Songs like “What If” and “Crazy Beautiful Life” written by Ali herself exhibit a fresh, raw honesty. The goal of releasing her much-anticipated new album is set for this summer. When Ali speaks of being an encouragement to those who once shared the shoes of being nothing but a singer-songwriter with a guitar and a dream, she shares a unique insight into her character.

“I think it’s really important to write your own songs and tell your own story,” she says. “I think it tells people much more about yourself than just singing songs that people wrote for you, and I think people just appreciate that when you tell your own story because that takes a lot of courage to get up there and be singing about pretty deep stuff.”

What does this say about success for singer-songwriters in the music industry today? In a world where business ventures of all kinds are turning increasingly to D.I.Y. methods for marketing and promotion, the “traditional” music business model (which many of ASCAP’s largest successes have stemmed from) is still one that continues to prevail. However, there is much to learn from young Isabella’s story-any initial break is only the beginning of the equation. An artist must possess the qualities to not only acquire but also maintain their fans-which is the precise moment the online and social media tactics of D.I.Y. come in.

Check out Ali Isabella here:


Diana Hereld (@christypaffgen) is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter and music psychology/neuroscience researcher.