Parents Who Rock

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

of The Montclair Times

Alma Schneider was certain she was right. She knew there were plenty of local parents similar to her — adults with children and jobs and plenty of household tasks. But these middle-aged folks still retained the love of rock music, occasionally playing riffs and rollicking to rhythms in their basements, in their dens or in their memories.

Schneider grew up in a musical family whose members sang together. She attended school for voice in New York City. In 1997, she wrote and recorded “UPS Man,” a melodic paean to parcel deliverers that, similar to delivery-truck routes, made the rounds.

A Montclair resident, Schneider decided in 2005 to corral a group of parents who had once been professional or semi-pro musicians and have them perform at a now-defunct coffeehouse on Valley Road. As an incentive for attendees, she announced the proceeds would be given to a charity. “The first show we charged $5, and we donated it for tsunami relief.”

Naming her organization “Parents Who Rock,” Schneider began organizing musical shows at the Diva Lounge on Bloomfield Avenue. “We typically charge $10 and we do it at the Diva Lounge every four months,” she noted. “They’ve been very good to us. The Diva Lounge has been very accommodating.”

Schneider has been the catalyst for eight Parents Who Rock shows, with a ninth slated for Saturday, June 2.

“For better or worse, I am relentless,” Schneider gleefully acknowledged to The Times. “When I first stated, the bulk of my work was finding people. Now, I find myself in the awkward position of having a serious waiting list.”

One of the Montclair musicians who is on the “play” list is vocalist Janet Donofrio. She and her guitarist/singer husband, David Reith, front The Blooming Fields, which includes lead guitarist Andy Day and drummer John Packel, both of Montclair, and bassist Brendan Mee of South Orange. Mee has long played with the couple, going back to their East Village days when they led a band “that was so many name-changes ago.”

“When we were young, we didn’t fall into an easy niche,” said Donofrio, a Montclair resident. “Now that we’re middle-aged suburbanites, we seem to go over better. It’s nice to have a venue — and we didn’t even have to try hard to get it!”

Schneider’s requisite for all bandleaders in Parents Who Rock is to be parents. She and her husband, Brian Saltzman, have four young children. “My husband has been very supportive. He always comes to the shows. He actually has a very good voice that he didn’t know about.”

Saltzman — with a “little bitty extra part” for Schneider and one child — was slated last night to be featured in a segment of “The Colbert Report,” a satirical show on the Comedy Channel starring Montclair resident Steven Col-bert. “It’s a reenactment of a barbecue we had in our backyard,” Schneider said, in which her husband arrives late to find only veggie burgers remain for the eating. It’s a parody of survivor shows and, she proclaimed, “It’s very funny.”

Good humor pervades Parents Who Rock. As Schneider notes, the group fosters good will toward charitable endeavors. “The other service we’re providing is a night out for parents.”

“This provides a great outlet for parents to dig back into their pasts,” said Lee Haberman, who has been the performer longest associated with Schneider. Haberman is the emcee, introducing the performers and entertaining the audience between sets.

“The talent pool in town is just ridiculous,” he said. “These people are really talented. That’s what makes these shows: The Dylan covers, rock’n’roll, folk singing.”

Recipients of donations raised by Parents Who Rock include the Mountainside Hospital Foundation, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the Essex County Rape Crisis Center, the Montclair State University Child Center, relief for tsunami victims and a young boy in Montclair afflicted with a serious illness — “The most emotional show for me,” Schneider said. “It showed me how much people wanted to help.”

Parents Who Rock’s upcoming show will its biggest yet. Occurring Saturday, June 2, in the Commonwealth Club on Northview Avenue, the evening event will benefit the Developmental Learning Center, a special-needs pre-school program operated by the Montclair School District in the Montclair Community Pre-K facility located be-tween Valley and Orange roads.

The donations raised will help fund a therapeutic listening program for the young students enrolled in the Developmental Learning Center.

“It’s a great place that has given our children a good running start to going through the school system,” said Debbie Santiago, president of the Developmental Learning Center Parent Organization. “There are more children with special needs than anyone really knows about. A lot of people are moving to this town because it’s a special program.”

Along with the minimum $50 donation for admission to the show, there will be a silent auction and raffles to generate revenue. The flier for the “Kick Off To Summer” DLC fundraiser promises “amazing hors d’oeuvres,” deserts and, Santiago noted, an open bar.

“Parents are cooking the food. Volunteers will be serving the food. It’s a whole grassroots effort. This is not your mother’s fundraising event,” Santiago vowed. “It should be fun!”

“I wanted this to be more about the music than the fundraising,” Schneider said. “But now we realize we can raise a lot of money for causes. People want to donate.

“It’s the catalyst for good deeds.”

Contact Mark S. Porter at

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