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November 26, 2013

Local foundation hosts fundraiser to spotlight artists and musicians of all abilities

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

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Farmington Hills native Callaghan Belle will be the featured performer for the Axis Music Foundation fundraising concert Dec. 15 in Ferndale. Belle got interested in pursuing a music career after playing for her cousin, who has Down syndrome, and has been involved with Axis Music Academy for seven years.

SOUTHFIELD — The 11-year-old boy who is legally blind but possesses perfect pitch and an astounding grasp of music theory; the autistic child who can’t stand loud noises but fell in love with playing the drums; the boy with muscular dystrophy who beautifully expresses himself by creating beats on a computer — Andrea Antone says she’s blown away by how youth with disabilities can embrace music.

She sees it every day as executive director of Axis Music Foundation, the nonprofit started last year to give sick and disabled children a chance to express themselves through music.

“The ways are awesome and endless,” Antone said. “Whatever walk of life these kids are going through at any given time, giving them an opportunity to see a live performance, to dance, to be a part of a music program, it’s so awesome.”

Axis Music Foundation, based in Southfield, started last year after more than 17 successful years of Antone’s husband running Axis Music Academy, a music school for youth. The academy has locations in Southfield, Birmingham and Canton, and allows local music students to mentor the kids served through the foundation’s programs.

Antone said the charity has grown organically, through partnerships and fundraisers, like the musical concert coming up in Ferndale Dec. 15. Money raised supports the programs, such as vocal performance and music discovery, which are offered at no cost to the children with special needs.

Axis Music Foundation hosts concerts quarterly, Antone explained, and the upcoming event will feature eight solo artists, six bands and one featured performer. This time, the performer is Callaghan Belle, an 18-year-old Farmington Hills native and Axis Music Foundation student ambassador.

For seven years, Belle has been involved with Axis Music Academy, performing at showcases around southeast Michigan. In early 2012, Belle reached out to Ken Caillat — a Grammy Award-winning music producer who has worked with Fleetwood Mac and Billy Idol, and Caillat’s daughter, Colbie Caillat — and got her big break.

“I had been doing commercials since I was a little kid, and I looked up Ken Caillat on Facebook and got his email and sent one of my songs to him that I wrote,” Belle said. “He was driving and pulled off the side of the road and called up his secretary, and I had a flight to (Los Angeles) booked two hours later.”

Despite working in the music industry in Los Angeles and New York City, Belle still holds on to what got her interested in pursuing a music career to begin with: using her talent to reach other youth, which makes her a perfect match for Axis.

“Before I was a professional or anything big at all, I would go to my grandma’s house and play guitar for my cousin, who has Down syndrome, and he would bang on my guitar and speak in sign language to have me play more,” she said. “It is extraordinary to see the power of music, no matter who you are or how old you are.”

The fundraiser will also feature an art exhibit benefiting Paint A Miracle Art Studio in Rochester — the partner organization working with Axis for its final fundraising concert of the year. The studio has been around since 2002 and features a gallery of various mediums, spotlighting artists using hands-on creativity to overcome obstacles.

“The studio is designed to serve the needs of children and adults living with disabilities,” explained Shelly Tyshka, executive director. “We offer fine art classes and exhibition opportunities to artists of all ages and abilities.”

Paint A Miracle’s genesis began long before its doors actually opened as a community charity, when Tyshka’s dad, Dale Propson, was hit by a drunken driver in 1985 and suffered a massive brain injury, losing most of his eyesight.

“It completely devastated him and my family; he was never able to go back to work as a pediatric dentist,” she said.

As the years passed and Propson had completed his rehabilitation, he began to wonder what he would do with his days, Tyshka explained. That’s when he stumbled upon an art studio and tried his hand at it.

“He started painting, and what he did is redefined himself as an artist. We saw this total transformation in him, and he now had a reason to get up in the morning.”

Tyshka said they enjoy partnering with other art-based organizations; it expands the horizons and interest of the people they serve to get involved in various types of arts. Paint A Miracle artists paint, draw, sculpt and work with fiber arts, and their work will be on sale at the event, she added.

The Axis and Paint A Miracle fundraiser will be held 2-5:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Local Kitchen & Bar, located at 344 W. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. Tickets, which are 100 percent tax-deductible, cost $20 for adults and $10 for youth 18 and younger.

Tickets can be purchased at a local Axis Music Academy or at the door. For more information about the host organizations, visit www.axismusicfoundation.org or www.paintamiracle.org.

Staff Writer Josh Gordon contributed to this report.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.