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Hamburg musicians give gift of music

Several Hamburg-area rockers are putting their collective talents together to give kids in the Buffalo area the gift of music.

The “A Hamburg Rockin’ Xmas” benefit concert will be held on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. at VFW Post 1419, located at 2895 Lakeview Road. The concert will benefit “Guitars for Kids,” the brainchild of Mark Wierzbicki, aka Johnny Rock, a local promoter and musician who’s deeply interested in getting younger generations into music.

“It’s important to spur the next generation of musicians,” he said.

Kids under the age of 18 are encouraged to send in entries to win a guitar, with their name, age, address and phone number, and an answer to the question, “what does music mean to you?”

Entries can still be submitted, as long as they’re postmarked by Dec. 22. Entries should be sent to "Guitars for Kids," 50 Lake St., Hamburg, N.Y. 14075. Winners will be chosen on Dec. 25., with three winners picked. Wierzbicki, along with local musicians Alison Pipitone, Mike Skowronski, Randy Milligan and Amanda Ashley will choose the winners.

Several guitars and an amplifier will be given away, including a handmade guitar made by Village of Hamburg resident Greg Snook. Snook, originally from San Diego, Ca., has been making guitars for the last 12 years or so, after deciding that buying a decent one was too expensive.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I live, eat and breathe guitars right now.”

Giving a guitar away to a child looking to get into music is a perfect way for him to give back and get involved in the community.

“I like to see kids have an opportunity,” he said. “Some kids can’t afford a guitar. The other thing is that I want to immerse myself in the community. I’m happy to be a part of everything.”

The concert will feature several live bands and performers, including the Alison Pipitone Band, Half a Heard of Buffalo, Amanda Ashley, Winston James and Peter Sorkin.

“It’s Johnny Rock’s idea,” said Alison Pipitone, referring to the benefit concert, “so of course I said yes. I think it’s a really cool idea. Just the reason for having the party and the gifts involved.”

A lot of the entries received so far have shown just how much music means to kids, said lead singer of Winston James, Erik Vickerd.

“It’s going to be very hard to choose a winner,” he said. “They’re very heartfelt.”

While this is the first time Wierzbicki has done anything official to give guitars away, it’s something he’d like to see continue. He’d also like to give more guitars away, as the response from kids has been great so far.

“We’ve had dozens of entries,” he said, “and have promises for a lot more. A sixth grade class is committed.”

The concert has already moved to a larger venue, after the event outgrew the smaller venue, Wierzbicki said.

Overall, it should be a fun night for everyone involved, said singer and songwriter Amanda Ashley. And it’s for a great cause.

“To inspire kids and to create a pathway for them to continue to be creative and to grow creatively is something really special,” she said.

For tickets, call 698-5044.

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