Singing and strumming a guitar, Corey Robinson took the stage at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr on April 30 sounding as if he had been writing songs and playing the guitar for most of his young life.
But the 17-year-old South Philadelphia resident said he first picked up a guitar a year ago, and began writing his own songs about 10 months ago. He said he previously played the piano but found it difficult to write songs to accompany that instrument.
On Saturday night, Corey played his first full show along with his dad, Scott Robinson, a professional drummer who has played and recorded an album with legendary jazz guitarist Pat Martino, as the opening act at Summer Music Programs’ second annual benefit concert for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The concert also included performances by DNR, a classic rock and blues band comprised of adults from the Main Line, and Fuse, a hard rock band made up of Main Line teenagers.
Summer Music Programs is a music summer camp, based at Harcum College, which allows kids ages 11 to 17 to be formed into bands to play music of their choosing--including rock and roll, classic rock, metal, jazz--and then rehearse with their bands, record their songs and play in concert, said Chet Makowski, who co-directs Summer Music Programs along with Greg Wright.
The program offers week-long day and overnight camps at Harcum College’s Klein Hall, Makowski said. Recordings are done at two studios in Ardmore, the MilkBoy and Range Records, Makowski said.
Wright said starting this summer, the organization will also be inviting adults who are interested in playing with a band to perform at the camp in the evenings.
Some of the past campers at Summer Music Programs were Makowski and Wright’s inspiration for holding a benefit concert for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The foundation was formed by the parents of the late Alexandra “Alex” Scott, a cancer patient who at the age of 4 decided to run a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer, according to a statement released by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“We had some kids who came to this camp who had cancer and some other health issues, so we thought it was a nice fit,” Makowski said of the benefit concert for the foundation.
Corey was asked to perform at the benefit concert by Makowski, who teaches Corey guitar at the Harcum Medley Music School in Bryn Mawr, which offers music instruction for members of the general public, ranging from young children to seniors.
In introducing Corey, and his dad Scott Robinson, on stage at Klein Hall, Makowski said, “Our first act is someone I’m really excited about. Corey Robinson is a student of mine, a singer songwriter. I really like his stuff. I think you’re going to hear him a lot in the future.”
Wearing a metallic silver shirt and black pants, Corey sang his first two original songs while strumming on a black electrical guitar, as his dad, who plays drums in the Philadelphia rock band Nomad Superhighway and once played percussion in the Philadelphia Orchestra, performed on the drums.
What type of music did he perform? Well, that’s difficult for even Corey to say.
Corey said he was still trying to define his music, but his songwriting and sound have been influenced by the Beatles, the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie, some hard rock, and whatever else he might be listening to.
After performing two songs, Corey remarked on the benefit.
“Alex’s Lemonade Stand--this is appropriate since my mother just had breast cancer,” Corey said of his mom, Kim Fisher, who is now in recovery and back to playing violin with the Philadelphia Orchestra. “And it’s really great playing for a cause. Alex’s Lemonade Stand, it’s a really great cause for kids with cancer.”
Corey switched to playing an acoustic guitar for his third song and sang a ballad he wrote himself entitled “A Shot in the Dark.”
In all, Corey sang and played guitar to six original songs that he had written, finishing with a loud round of applause from an audience of about 40 people.
Classic rock and blues band DNR (yes, it does stand for Do Not Resuscitate) took the stage next, performing cover songs such as “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
The band’s performance of the cover song “Pink Cadillac” had the audience clapping along to the music.
The band members in DNR are Richard Wells of Bala Cynwyd on bass guitar, Ric Andersen of Radnor on guitar, Chic Spatacco of Radnor on guitar, Dave Ryder of Radnor on drums, Carl Erdman of Gladwyne on keyboard, and vocalist Alyssa Fisher of Havertown. The band members are in their 40s and 50s.
Andersen said he takes guitar lessons with Makowski, who asked Andersen to perform at the benefit with his band.
“We love to play benefits…We’re not in the business to make money,” Andersen said. “We’re out here to play music.”
Teen band Fuse played the last act, performing hard rock numbers such as Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
Charlie Akerblom, 14, of Gladwyne and Tristan Maidment, 14, of Villanova, played electric guitars; Nick Tonetti, 13, of Villanova, was on the drums, and Spencer Cohen, 14, of Penn Valley, played bass. There was no vocal accompaniment.
Cohen said he has attended the Summer Music Programs camp for the past three years and was asked to play the benefit with his band.
Fuse decided to take part in the concert for “exposure and just to play for a good cause,” Cohen said.
Emma Fogt of Gladwyne attended the concert to get a glimpse of the local young talent.
“I love to see the up-and-coming talent of the kids,” Fogt said. “I love that they spend the time in the arts and not on a video game or on computers. I love to support that.”
Summer Music Programs’ second annual benefit concert for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation raised $376 in proceeds from concert tickets and lemonade sales, Makowski said. Summer Music Programs pays for the costs of putting on the concert so that all of the ticket and lemonade sales can go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Makowski said.
The first annual benefit concert raised about $1,000, Makowski said. “We packed the place last year,” he said.
Makowski said he thought unforeseen scheduling conflicts may have contributed to attendance and the proceeds of this year’s benefit being lower than last year.
Three additional teen bands had been asked to play the benefit, but two of the bands declined the invitation because their high school prom was being held on the night of the benefit, and a third band canceled when one of its band members became ill, Makowski said.