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A decade of rocking for a good cause

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BANGOR This year's AS4MS, which is shorthand for the Acoustic Showcase to Benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, will be held at the Gracie Theatre on April 5 at 8 p.m. This year's talent includes The Other Bones, The Box Tiger, Beach the Whale and Dustin Saucier.

But this show, which taps not only the deep musical talent that is in Maine and New England, but the technical skills of the Students at the New England School of Communication (NESCom).


Mark Nason, program director at NESCom has been involved with AS4MS since its inception in 2003. And despite bringing incredible shows to the area, he says that he avoids hooking headliners and giving the other musicians the back seat and tries to give everyone equal billing.

'There's so much great music being made in the state that it's never a challenge to find people worth bringing,' he said. He noted there have been only a couple of exceptions to the 'no headliners' rule, such as when Rustic Overtones played in 2010.

The Cause

The first year there was an incarnation of AS4MS was in 2003. Nason recalled that two students who were on-air personalities on WHSN 89.3, and they had already done the MS Walk (now called Walk MS).

'They thought it would be nice to raise more money as a walk team. They organized an on-campus open mic night,' said Nason. And it was held again the next year. And eventually it got big enough that they moved the event off-campus in 2006, and it's bounced on- and off- campus  several times since then. But now it's the cornerstone event for WHSN every year.

All of the proceeds from the concert benefit the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. 

'It's also a tie-in with their annual Walk MS event. We always try to do it a few weeks before the walk to generate interest and involvement. This event happens because we just get everyone together to do something for a cause they believe in,' said Nason. 'Everyone knows someone with MS, and over the years, even if you're not interested in any particular performer, you can come and support the cause.' 

He said that that the performers donate their sets to further the MS Society.

'The show has always operated with virtually no budget. When it started, friends asked friends for favors and a lot of what we do is still that. WHSN is a huge supporter of Maine artists and when we do the show every year we ask our friends to help us out,' said Nason. 'Over the years we have had guest speakers join us on stage - people who live with MS. So that not only can the audience, but the bands and students that produce the event can put a face to the cause. Because MS is one of those conditions where there are no visible signs. There is nothing that makes you look at someone and say, Oh, you have MS.' To have someone take the stage for a few minutes and talk about how they've lived with MS, it helps put a face to the condition. It's this person. I'm helping this person and their family.'

How the show goes on

AS4MS has evolved from an open mic night to something bigger and grander, and it hasn't done so alone.  Since 2009, NESCom students have produced the audio, video, lighting, set design and more.

'A variety of classes and departments work on the production aspect of AS4MS. The multi-camera video shoot is now done in HD (high definition), since we rebuilt the trailer. Digital photography, production stage lights and all that fun stuff. The marketing students designed the poster,' said Nason. 'It's truly a team effort by NESCOm students, and the show wouldn't be nearly as grand if it wasn't for their hard work.'

All told, around 50 students take part in the production of AS4MS. And once the doors open, Nason's job is done.

'The hard part for me is trying to figure out where to sit. I have nothing to do with it [once the show starts]. It's in the students' hands as far as the show goes,' he said.

Nason said he usually takes about six months of planning to get the show off the ground, typically giving him a six-month break to attend to his other duties at NESCom, but these past two years have been a little different.

'2012 and 2013 posed a challenge for us. Walk MS has always been in April. In 2012, the MS Society wanted to move the walk to the end of September. We did some very fast meetings, picked up our entire show and moved it to the middle of September and the show went off without a hitch,' said Nason with a smile. 'Then the MS Society decided to move the walk back to April, and we're doing another show in the spring.'

In the past decade, Nason figures he's brought 37 bands to the stage and raised thousands of dollars for the National MS Society.

Tickets for the AS4MS show are $10 and available at all Bullmoose locations. You can also purchase tickets online at or buy them at the door.

Band Bios

The Other Bones

The Other Bones are a Portland, Maine-based electronic soul trio comprising Andrew Mead (synth, production), Eric Bruce (gutar), and Loretta Allen (vocals). The group embraces contemporary electronic production while featuring effects-enhanced vocals and powerful rock guitars to create a unique blend of sounds. While finding it difficult to draw comparisons to the band's sound, one reviewer commented that the band is 'Adele meets The XX' while others have made comparisons to MGMT, Kimbra and Passion Pit.

The Box Tiger

Formed in late 2009, The Box Tiger is an indie rock band from the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario founded by singer/songwriter Sonia Sturino. Although young, the sound comes off as mature and well organized, while still maintaining heart, intensity, honesty and a sense of fun. The sound is often referred to as being caught somewhere in between Broken Social Scene and Florence & The Machine. The Box Tiger manages to keep a D.I.Y. indie aura, while simultaneously creating pop sensible hooks that make the music accessible to the masses.

Beach the Whale

The perfect mix of groovy, aggressive, ambient jams. Beach the Whale's diverse style is one that will strike interest in the ears of all age groups. Stay tuned!

Dustin Saucier

Maine native Dustin saucier, former front man for dramatic rock group Arms Against A Sea, recently parted ways with the group to pursue a promising solo career. Dustin brings his powerful vocals, now toned down to display the quality of his self-written lyrics, which demonstrate a maturity most people might not achieve in a lifetime. While the term Emo conjures images of tragic youngsters, the poetic, perceptive and introspective lyrics delivered with heartfelt and vocals that are somehow both sad and sexy. 

Although he's frequented the Portland scene for years, Dustin's taking his solo act national, offering performances that convey his promise and potential.

Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I am an adjunct instructor at the New England School of Communication.

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 11:30


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