Teen band donating proceeds from first album to charity

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 2:33 p.m.

A group of high-school students decided their band's first album was going to help make a difference in someone's life.

With CD sales topping 200, the students are well on their way to doing just that.

Proceeds from The Options' first album “Alright” are going toward funding a scholarship for a student to attend Pittsburgh's Joey Travolta's Film Camp — a summer camp for students on the autism spectrum.

“It would be really awesome to get that one scholarship,” said Zack Leya, 15, who plays guitar in the band, “to know, as a band, we could make that difference.”

Last year, 36 students between the ages of 13 and 25 participated in Pittsburgh's first Joey Travolta Film Camp, which supports participants' social, communication, transition and vocational goals while teaching participants to produce their own films.

Pittsburgh camp director Carolyn Hare said the cost is the primary barrier for attendance.

The two-week camp is priced at about $1,800 per participant.

The organization attempts to provide scholarship funding to make the camp accessible to everyone, and Hare calls The Options' efforts to provide a scholarship “very generous.”

“The Options happen to be a very philanthropic group of high-school musicians,” she said. “It's humbling to be supported by a band and more importantly by a band comprised of students in high school who are already thinking in terms of community service.”

This is not the first time Zack and his brother, Jake, 17, both of Hampton, have used their musical talents to support autism awareness.

When the Leya brothers were in elementary school, they started a family band with their cousin and put together a CD to raise money for Autism Speaks, a nonprofit organization promoting research of the spectrum disorders and advocacy for people with autism.

The brothers continued to grow musically, and, in 2011, they formed The Options along with Shannon Drew, 15, of Cranberry and Matt Bauman, 17, of Hampton.

When the band members decided to create their first album, the brothers proposed a return to benefitting those with autism.

One of Drew's family friends participated in the Joey Travolta Film Camp last year with great social success, so she suggested supporting the camp.

“You know it's going for a good cause,” said Drew, the band's vocalist.

The Options are making the donation to the film camp in honor of the Leya brothers' cousin, Tony Michaca, 15, of Hampton, who has autism.

Michaca's artwork is featured on the inside cover of the album and in the video for their song, “Here.”

“Right now, we're still kids,” said Jake Leya, the band's drummer, about why the band wanted to donate the album proceeds. “We don't need to make a living. Why do we need the money to spend on stuff we don't need?”

The Options are gaining local attention and have performed at Hartwood Acres, the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, Jergel's Rhythm Grille, The Mattress Factory art museum, the Strand Theater, the Hard Rock Café and the Mario Lemieux Foundation Benefit Hockey Game.

With each band member bringing a different musical background and preference to the stage, Bauman said he thinks The Options are creating their own identity.

“The diversity brings it a whole new sound,” said Bauman, bass guitarist.

“There's a thousand high-school bands, but they don't put the time in to write songs the way we do.”

The teens recorded the eight songs on the album over seven months, mostly between midnight and 3 a.m., when they could get recording studio time. Their song “Breakthrough” recently was featured on WDVE, 102.5-FM.

Chris Leya, Jake and Zack's father, and acting band manager, said he has watched the band members grow as they worked to put in the long hours to write, rehearse and record the album and raise funds for the scholarship to Pittsburgh's Joey Travolta Film Camp.

“I'm really proud of them,” Chris Leya said.

“It's an amazing accomplishment to put an album out, and if it can fund a scholarship, I think that's a great thing.”

The album is available for $7.99 at www.cdbaby.com or by emailing the band directly at theoptionsband@gmail.com. For more information about The Options, visit www.facebook.com/TheOptionsBand.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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