Upfront

Mar
2009

Inside EyeRock

It all started with a casual conversation about nine years ago. Steve Santinelli of Santinelli International, 20/20 editor-in-chief James Spina and I were killing time in an airport lounge, waiting to catch a plane home from Expo West. James was telling me about a new CD he had bought when Steve chimed in and asked us if we had ever played in a band. Both of us nodded. James had played guitar in New York rock bands in the ’70s and ’80s, and had been the rock music critic for Women’s Wear Daily. I’ve also been playing guitar in New York bands for years, and am still a “weekend warrior” who picks up occasional gigs.

After discovering Steve was a fellow musician, we began wondering how many other rockers had optical careers, but still pursued their rock ‘n’ roll dreams on the side. Then Steve said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a bunch of us together for an informal jam one night at the next Expo.”

And so seeds for EyeRock were planted. Steve called me a few months later and said he had booked a rehearsal studio in New York the day before Expo East and wondered if I knew any drummers. I suggested Bill Gerber of Global Impact Group. Steve said he could bring in a couple of other musicians. We convened one night in a Midtown studio and spent a few hours trying out different songs—an Elvis Costello cover, a Stones tune, a blues number—to see if we could find common ground. We had some hits and some misses. A tentative start, but a start nonetheless.

Steve kept the jams going in New York and Las Vegas, and we began attracting more musicians, including Peter Grimes of Luxottica on guitar. Robert Schanbaum on keyboards and vocals. Calvin Howell of Polylens was recruited to play bass. Jonathan Schwartz took over the percussion chair and David Salk of eClips added his guitar and vocals. The OffAxis band was taking shape.

As we began building our repertoire, we started to think about performing before an audience. Maybe we’d rent a small club and invite a few friends. Then Steve had a brainstorm: let’s do a benefit show to support a visioncare foundation.

Fast forward to April 10, 2008. Twenty-two optical industry musicians, enough to make up five different OffAxis groups (plus Bad Habits, the Eye Docs of Rock), blew the roof off New York’s China Club at EyeRock, a benefit concert for Luxottica’s Give the Gift of Sight Foundation. All the rehearsals and months of preparation involving a file sharing system that allows band members to download and practice songs at home, paid off big time. The crowd loved the music, the musicians loved the crowd, and with the help of ticket buyers and generous corporate sponsors, we raised a lot of money for a good cause. Everyone agreed it was worth doing again.

With the EyeRock juggernaut gathering steam, OffAxis—now 25 strong—rolled into The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas last October and played a benefit for the Essilor Vision Foundation.

Which brings us to EyeRock New York. OffAxis will be performing a benefit for Luxottica’s OneSight Foundation on Saturday, March 28 at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill near Times Square. OneSight is dedicated to restoring and preserving clear vision through hand-delivered eyewear and eyecare, and by granting funds for research and education on eye conditions.

“To reach our ultimate goal of providing vision care to those in need, it will take the support of the entire optical industry,” says Greg Hare, executive director of OneSight. “One simple and fun way to get involved is by sponsoring and attending EyeRock. You’ll have a great time while helping to financially support OneSight outreach programs including the hand-delivery of eyewear and vision care to those in need around the world and here at home.”

In addition to attracting corporate sponsors, show organizers hope to draw a wide range of optical vendors and eyecare professionals who will be in New York attending Expo East.

“EyeRock is a unique forum where competitors and people from all parts of the optical industry gather together to listen to great music and have a wonderful time, all while benefiting a good cause,” says EyeRock producer and director Steve Santinelli.

“The buzz that is generated at just the mention of EyeRock demonstrates the excitement of the concert amongst the industry.”
I’d like to invite 20/20 readers to join me and the other members of OffAxis at EyeRock New York. Let’s rock it one time for OneSight.

For tickets and information, visit www.onesight.org.

—Andrew Karp

 

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