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Westfield Rockers Band Together for Sandy Victims

Proceeds from the benefit concert will go toward WHS Helping Hands fund and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts at the Jersey shore.

Westfield High School's auditorium will be transformed into a rock-n-roll venue on Friday, Jan. 25 as local musicians, spanning multiple generations, come together for a concert starting at 7 p.m. to aid victims of Superstorm Sandy. 

Four bands, HammondThe Flying Dogs of JupiterThe Static Jacks, and Transit Radio, all with ties to Westfield, are donating their time and talent to benefit Westfield High School's Helping Hands Fund and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts at the Jersey Shore. Specifically, proceeds will go toward assisting St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Bay Head, NJ, which is currently feeding approximately 600 people three times a day. 

The event has been organized by a committee comprised of the high school's faculty, staff and students and will be largely run by student volunteers. 

WHS television production teacher and concert committee member Jay Ruggiero, said as a New Jersey resident who spent most of his summers at the shore, he felt strongly about participating. Also a vocalist and guitarist in the band Hammond, Ruggiero is thrilled to be playing for a worthy cause. 

"Some of the staff and students know I have a band so they asked us to play, which makes the night even more special for me," he said. 

Keeping it all close to home, Hammond's lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Kaiser will enjoy a rare moment when his father, Frank, a member of WHS's 1970 graduating class, who plays pedal steel guitar in The Flying Dogs of Jupiter, joins Hammond on stage.

The Flying Dogs have deep roots in Westfield. The current lineup includes two other WHS grads, Al Grigg, class of 1971 and Jeff Taylor, class of 1972, who are still recording original tunes together. 

Flying Dogs' bass player, Taylor, said he was inspired by the national 12-12-12 benefit concert and decided to reach out to offer the band's services to raise money those in need and was referred to WHS's Parent Teacher Student Organization.

"For us, the reward of playing again on the same stage where we played many gigs years ago, including the Senior Class Talent show of 1972, while at the same time helping those in need, is more than we could ask for," Taylor said.  

Grigg echoed his bandmate's sentiments. "We are very happy to be a part of this community event supporting those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. For our part of the concert, we will have a number of WHS students from band, orchestra, and choir perform with us. (This is) Our way of expanding the community for this event."

Taylor said he suggested that the event include some "local-area, young bands." 

"We thought, 'What could be cooler than that? To have generations of rock musicians who got their start playing at the same local school dances more than 40 years apart playing together.'

"I remember our first paying gig ever was at the Roosevelt Junior High School, as it was called at the time, 7th Grade Party in the Cafeteria. From there we went on to play all the local church dances in town and currently play regularly at the popular 16 Prospect St. Bistro in town, some 40 years later," Taylor said.

Alex Palatucci, a junior at WHS who has been serving on the organizing committee, said not only is she looking forward to a fun evening, she is also grateful to have the opportunity to help her fellow New Jerseyans. 

"I think the overall vibe from the beginning has been really positive," added Ruggiero. "I think everyone involved is very happy to be doing this and excited for a great night of music for a great cause."

For more information, visit http://whsbenefit.weebly.com/index.html Tickets, available for purchase in the main office of WHS, are $20 for adults and $10 for middle and high school students.

For those who cannot attend but would still like to make a donation, checks can be made out to WHS, and please include "Relief Efforts" on the memo line. Mailed donations can be addressed to Westfield High School, c/o Lori Scicolone, 550 Dorian Rd. Westfield, NJ, 07090 

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