Before his untimely death in 2011, Levittown musician Danny “Rio” DeGennaro often took aspiring artists under his wing, showing them the ropes of the often cutthroat industry.
But after DeGennaro was tragically murdered in his home by two young men, it seemed the next generation of talent would lose their beloved mentorship. However, several of DeGennaro’s friends, including Ed Mero, a fellow member of the Billy Squier Band, made sure this wasn’t the case.
“We said, ‘What can we do to carry on his music and legacy?’ ” Mero reflected.
The Danny DeGennaro Foundation was established in 2014 to inspire future musicians, and, since 2015, has awarded annual music and art scholarships to students at Bucks County Community College.
In order to help raise funds for these scholarships, the foundation is hosting its first-ever Halloween Bash at The Barn at Snipes Farm on Saturday, Oct. 26.
The fundraiser is slated to feature performances from five bands, including headliner AJ Slick Band as well as Jim Mitchell and the Repeat Offenders, classic rock cover band All Lit Up, Levittown-based The Fredz, and Teddy Dugan and the Troublemakers. The foundation’s 2018 and 2019 music scholarship award winners, Bee Niranon and Kieran Corson, respectively, will each perform a set. Local musician Casey Welborn will open the concert with an acoustic performance.
For Corson, being named the 2019 recipient has been the opportunity of a lifetime. So far, he’s benefiting not only financially, but creatively.
“Right away, the people from the foundation were connecting me with other musicians from the area, with songwriters, with producers. They’ve basically been doing anything that they can to help me further myself as a songwriter and an artist,” he said.
Corson was selected among applicants by a panel of judges, for which he performed an original DeGennaro song. According to Corson, the foundation’s belief in his artistry is helping him achieve something he’s been working toward since the age of 12, when he joined the School of Rock to learn any instrument he could get his hands on. Currently, Corson is working to find his own unique sound, which he said encompasses a little bit of everything.
“It’s always been really close to my heart,” he said of music. “It’s just been really exciting, and I never thought this would be something that I’d end up doing. It’s been a treat.”
Mero, who knew DeGennaro since childhood and was instrumental in securing the life-sized statue of the artist on BCCC’s Newtown campus, said it’s a thrill to see the efforts of the foundation grow each year.
“It’s more than just a scholarship,” he stressed. “We’re taking these kids and giving them a recording experience in a first-class studio. We come out of it with a song or two, and we shoot videos of them. I always tell the kids, ‘Our goal is to give you something when you look back in 10, 20 years, that you can be very proud of, whether it’s a music video or a recording.’ They like that idea. We bring in pros, whether it’s talented studio musicians and producers or video people.”
In order to further expand the foundation’s reach, it will begin offering scholarships in the name of other late musicians. The first will be awarded in memory of Ron Bogdon, former bass player of Philadelphia-based band The Buicks. A fundraising concert is set to take place at The Barn on Saturday, April 18.
Additionally, foundation board member John Mulhern, a Bristol native and longtime friend and collaborator of DeGennaro, plans to teach a songwriting master class at BCCC.
“If you looked at Danny and knew Danny, he just had God-given talent,” Mulhern said. “You couldn’t teach Danny. He already knew it.” ••
If you go…
The Danny DeGennaro Foundation’s Halloween Bash will be held on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Barn at Snipes Farm, 890 W. Bridge St., Morrisville.
Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at dannydegennaro.ticketleap.com/danny-degennaro-halloween-bash. Sandwiches, beer, wine and mixed drinks will be available for purchase from Stadium Bar and Grille. $1 from each drink and food item benefits the foundation’s mentoring and scholarship mission. Hayrides will be available for $4. Guests can also enjoy a bonfire, raffles and a costume contest.
For more information on the foundation, visit dannydegennaro.org.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org