Giving to kids continues with Rusted Root at Allegheny County Music Festival

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The tribes gather again to celebrate life, music and the premise that “little things” really do mean a lot.

The 14th Allegheny County Music Festival features headliners Rusted Root in the annual summer's end homecoming concert at Hartwood Acres, Hampton Township, on Sept. 1.

It all gets under way with what musician Bill Deasy, the county's special-events manager, calls the traditional “fun mix of styles and genres.”

This year, Deasy says, the mix offers Liz Berlin's “We Rock Workshop”; adult contemporary artist Carla Bianco, who performed on Broadway in “Rent”; the “exuberant youthful energy of rising national stars” of the Louisiana-based Royal Teeth; and “the fun, local and folksy” Corned Beef and Curry.

“And it really still comes down to the enduring magic that Rusted Root has been churning out for the past 20 years or so,” Deasy says. “I am amazed by how vibrant and connected to their muse they remain through the years.”

The “added ingredient” of helping those in need deepens, Deasy says.

The suggested donation of $20 per car benefits the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund, which finances special requests from children and youth served through the Department of Human Services and/or Juvenile Probation.

Tickets for a 50-50 raffle will be sold throughout the evening.

“There is nothing nicer than a Sunday early evening sitting in the grass at Hartwood, listening to music,” says Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, who founded the event in 2000. “How often do you get to participate in making the world better for kids, while also having a wonderful evening on a hillside listening to great music?”

The evening makes it possible to buy items which are important to children, but are otherwise unavailable. “In 12 years, no child in Allegheny County's child welfare system has gone without these little items that children born to more fortunate parents take for granted,” Baer says.

Those items include bus passes, music lessons, prom attire, bicycles to be able to pedal to a first job or an art class, school supplies, graduation expenses and starter wardrobes for jobs.

Baer continues to believe that when children don't have much more than the basic necessities, those things mean a lot.

‘We want to provide those little things for children caught in these sad situations in foster care, being in group homes and families where there just is no money to provide them, and we've been fortunate to do that,” Baer says.

As of Sept. 1, 2012, the music festival fund has raised nearly $559,000 and assisted 2,300 children and youth.

“Our relationship with Rusted Root has been a godsend and has allowed the festival to continue for as long as it has,” Baer says. “I am pleased by that and hope it continues forever.”

It is “extremely fulfilling” says Liz Berlin, Rusted Root vocalist and percussionist. “We are so excited to play this concert and help these kids with these activities.”

In 2009, Berlin, a solo artist in her own right performing Aug. 30 at Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe, approached Baer offering to give free music lessons. That makes a significant difference to the kids, Baer says, having someone like her volunteer.

Berlin says it is important to take the spotlight and “use it for something beyond myself. ... It is a gift I feel a responsibility to use.”

While musicians may receive the most attention, “a lot of other people step out and help people in need,” she says.

Berlin believes the festival is an example of the healing power of music.

“Every Rusted Root show is like that,” she says. “Fans sticking with us all these years say they feel something special about our music, especially when we do something to really help and support other people. That really kind of magnifies the healing aspect.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or

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