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‘Rock Autism’ plays on…

Max Anthony Muscato is a young man with a mission. While many millennials are still searching for their purpose in life, Max is already on his own road. Born into a family of music lovers, Max plays guitar and writes songs, his brother Sonny is a drummer, and dad, Marc Muscato, has been a musician for more than 45 years. Marc is a percussionist who, as an emerging artist, held an apprenticeship with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and went on to enjoy years as a leader in a popular society band that performed in upscale events around the country, including the President’s tent at the annual Preakness in Baltimore, one of the prestigious triple crown Derby races. As the boys got older they formed a band, and father and sons played various gigs together.

However, no matter how hard they tried, those were not smooth sailing happy days for the Muscato family. Max’s older brother, Sonny, was born with autism during a time when the condition was often misdiagnosed, subjected to ill-informed treatments, and a host of other misguided recommendations that lead to Sonny being tossed from one failed experiment to another. The end result for Sonny, regardless of his talent as a musician, was a life stricken with drug addiction, scrapes with the law and ultimately imprisonment and no effective treatment for his condition. Max suffered alongside his older brother on this rocky road, watching him struggle through years of being victimized by an inadequate system that did not provide support, direction, or hope.

Max became desperate to do something, and through that desperation came his “Aha!” moment – a realization of what he believes his purpose to be. Through his music he would be an advocate, a champion, and a voice for those living with autism, which led to the founding and creation of Rock Autism of which Max is the founder and President. Although his mission is inspired and driven by the plight of his brother, Sonny, its cause is in support of all those on the autism spectrum who seek to make a contribution through the arts.

“We are dedicated to creating a brighter future for the autism community,” states Max. “Rock Autism’s goal is to support high-quality creative arts programs that maximize the potential of people on the autism spectrum; the goal is to reduce the misinformation surrounding autism. One of our goals is for autistic individuals to develop a craft and carve out a career path to gain employment, ultimately integrating them back into society, staying free of crime and substance abuse.”

Max is one of the emerging stars on Buffalo’s horizon, seeking to make a difference in our community and creating a pathway to help individuals living with autism find their own way towards developing a productive life. Max has written and produced an album named “Act One” which features a single titled “Sonnyboi” dedicated to his brother. He performs this number at all Rock Autism concerts. The tune is also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Max is working to hold as many fundraisers as possible leading up to the 2018 Rock Autism Music Festival in partnership with Sensu Music, that will launch this August (made possible with a sponsorship by the owners of Thin Man Brewery). “When Max approached me about Rock Autism after a gig at Thin Man, it only took a few seconds for me to see how passionate he was about both music and the opportunity to use it as a platform to raise awareness for autism. I was hooked instantly; beer and music for a cause is a no brainer,” remarked Michael Thompsett, a bar manager for the Thin Man Brewery. “Supporting the Rock Autism Festival and utilizing my passion for beer, is humbling and super rad at the same time!” Thompsett believes that Rock Autism looks like it will be “one killer benefit” stating that “A portion of all sales will go towards this cause.” Laughing, he adds, “I promise to drink my fair share; I hope I’m not doing this all alone!”

Max, with Jack (living with autism), and Jack’s father, Frank

On March 31, Thin Man Brewery and Rock Autism will have a Sonnyboi IPA launch party at Buffalo Iron Works. All of Shatzel Group bars and restaurants will be distributing Sonnyboi IPA, as well as, other local establishments to raise valuable funds for the festival.

On January 5, Max and his band played a concert at Buffalo Iron Works to raise money, and again on January 19 to support Boxing for Autism at the Renaissance Brewing Company. On February 20, Rock Autism will perform at the New York Beer Project, an event that also includes four local comedians doing standup.

April is Autism Awareness Month. On April 21, another exciting Rock Autism benefit will be held featuring Handsome Jack, Freight Train, and Max. The Edge 103.3 and the Helium Comedy Club have partnered with Rock Autism to hold “Laughs for Autism” on April 25. Stay tuned for Max to share even more news and events. For more information or to make a donation, visit Rock Autism.

Written by Mark Lazzara

Mark Lazzara

I have a passion for helping my fellow Western New Yorkers and advance the great things that are going on in this region. Buffalo Rising is a great booster and it’s a blast writing and contributing to BR about positive happenings in our neck of the woods. I appreciate the help I’ve received over the years from organizations and people who share my passion and supported me in efforts that put thousands of people to work and resulted in a community give back of more than $115M to Buffalo’s neediest during my days at the helm of AmeriCorps.

I’m especially grateful for the opportunities that enabled me to help cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and rebuild more than 700 family homes that were destroyed. Back at home, I was able to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience as a coordinator for ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition where we were able to repair, beautify and upgrade homes for an entire neighborhood on Buffalo’s Westside. Other projects close to my heart include a collaboration with Sail Buffalo to build the Cazenovia Boating Center at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and my annual Christmas season time is spent at Buffalo’s treasure, the Broadway Market, playing Santa Clause.

In my other life, I am a workforce development, business, marketing, public relations and fundraising professional. Earned a M.S. Human Service Management from Buffalo State, and enjoy my family life that includes four amazing grandchildren!

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