‘Hope and help’ to veterans

It’s time to remove the stigma and come together through music.

To raise awareness for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), reality television producer Steve Holtzman and general manager and owner of Cherry Hill’s School of Rock, Lou Faiola, banded together to create Bands of Brothers.

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Their slogan is, “We rock for those who serve.”

Bands of Brothers will follow a group of 12 veterans in three bands in a web show format. The roughly 20-minute long videos will be posted on the non-profit organization’s website each Thursday through Nov. 15.

The first episode, filmed at the School of Rock, was set to go live the night of Sept. 13, said Holtzman.

At World Café Live in Philadelphia on Veteran’s Day, the bands will perform a major benefit concert.

“School of Rock is a music education performance program for kids (ages) 7 through 17,” said Faiola. “We teach them an instrument and then we try to get them on stage to perform immediately.”

There is no lag-time. No boredom.

“Our focus is to get them up on stage,” he added, to help build their confidence and self-esteem.

Faiola met Holtzman when he brought his two children to the school.

The school, said Faiola, holds opportunity for veterans as well, through hope, help and awareness.

In members of the armed forces who come back from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD occurs in approximately 18 percent of veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and can include flashbacks, angry outbursts and substance abuse.

Bands of Brothers will help to connect vets with treatment, said Holtzman.

“We have an amazing cast of men and women,” he said.

Some have stage experience and others have absolutely none.

“It’s really a nice mix,” he added.

Plus, the cast members will have some guidance from the professionals themselves.

According to a release, Mark Rivera, who has played with the Billy Joel Band for more than 20 years and is music director of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, will be on hand.

Kasim Sulton, of Utopia, has toured with a variety of bands, such as Cheap Trick.

Mike Visceglia has played with Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler and Dar Williams. He is also the music director for Suzanne Vega.

The idea originated in January through conversations between Holtzman and Faiola and has grown considerably.

The nonprofit has partnered with Give An Hour, which is a network of 6,300 therapists that gives free and confidential sessions to veterans.

“In addition to direct counseling, Give An Hour endeavors to raise awareness and reduce the stigma so often associated with mental health care,” said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give An Hour in a release. “Projects like Bands of Brothers are wonderful opportunities to engage and educate our communities.”

Money raised through Bands of Brothers will be donated to Give An Hour, the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, and to in-house programs.

The nonprofit is doing more than the web shows and concert.

Outreach concerts will also be performed, and the founders are looking to create a second season with a new cast.

“I think it becomes more than just us doing this,” said Faiola. “It’s not just the show that we’re doing.”

According to Holtzman, there will be surprises along the way for the veterans in the cast and challenges in every episode as they learn songs.

Bands of Brothers’ online impact will be strong, from the web casts to a future how-to guide for a support group to raising funds.

“It’s very important for us that we keep this message going in between shooting seasons,” said Holtzman.

The episodes will be available consistently on the website, unlike a cable program.

Faiola hopes that viewers watch the season all the way through.

“They’re going to be hooked from the get-go,” he said.

Additional information

Visit www.BandsofBrothers.org to watch the first episode, donate or learn more about the organization.

Follow them on Twitter at @Bands_Brothers and find them on Facebook at Facebook.com/ptsd.org.

Tickets for the benefit performance on Veteran’s Day at World Class Live in Philadelphia will soon be available, according to their website.

General admission will cost $45, VIP will be $150 and an exclusive pre-show meet and greet cocktail party will be $100.

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