When Jill was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago, it was out of the blue. She knew that she had to educate herself, and started with the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“My neurologist suggested that that’s a good place to start… to sort of figure out how to manage and navigate life moving forward,” she recalled.
Last year, during her first year as an instructor at the New England School of Communications at Husson University, she heard something about a benefit concert managed by the school’s radio station, WHSN 89.3 FM. This year, she learned a lot more about it.
“I happened to listen to WHSN,” she said. “I heard some promos about it and I thought, ‘Hmm, that’s going to be interesting,’” she said.
The event is the ninth annual AS4MS — the Acoustic Showcase to Benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This benefit concert happens Friday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gracie Theatre at Husson University.
The AS4MS began in 2004 when WHSN Station Manager Mark Nason, seeking a team-building exercise for the station, helped students establish an open-mike night as a fundraiser for the station team’s annual MS charity walk. It’s grown from there.
“Every year it gets a little bit bigger, and every year it becomes more of a cornerstone of what we do,” Nason said.
Students from all NESCom departments handle everything for the event’s production: audio, video, live remote, graphic design, set design, and more.
The event has seen many venues, including the Union Street Brick Church and the Bangor Opera House. The biggest year so far was 2009, when the Opera House nearly sold out. Nason hopes to top that this year by filling the Gracie Theatre’s 500 seats.
“I want this show to beat all of our records,” he said. “I want to see 500 faces enjoying the music, and I want to know that the check that we… write the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society is going to have that much more impact.”
Dozens of Maine bands have appeared at the benefit, including nationally renowned Maine band Rustic Overtones in 2010. This year’s lineup will include the first non-Maine band, Boston-based A Loss for Words, a pop/punk band known for its previous appearances at the annual Skate Against Drugs benefit in Bangor.
Portland indie/pop/punk band Worried Well, which recently played the West Market Festival in Bangor, will also appear. And opening this year is Hampden pop/punk group Beyond Goodbye. Originally a high-school band, its members will make whirlwind trips back from college to unite on stage to support the cause.
Nason said the concert raises more money thanks to its sponsors, who offset production costs and ensure a larger check goes to the MS Society every year. Last year, Verizon Wireless became a sponsor. And The Maine Edge, which Nason says is “a fantastic publication that really connects with the youth of Bangor,” has been a sponsor since 2009.
Jill said that the benefit helps fund the MS Society’s research and programs, which is vital.
“The MS Society sponsors research in trying to find cures and treatments for MS, but they also sponsor a lot of educational avenues for not only for patients with MS but also the community at large, and for the medical community that may be treating MS,” she said.
But just as important is the awareness it raises — particularly in young people who might still be in “I’m invincible” mode.
“It’s important to make sure that you’re supporting maybe some of those people that have unfortunate diagnoses — not just MS, but other… issues that, through no fault of their own, all of a sudden they’re saddled with really a life-changing issue,” she said. “Does that mean that life is over? No. It just means that you have to… take a look and say, ‘I can do that, but maybe I can’t do that anymore.’”
“It seems like everyone knows someone with MS,” said Nason. “A lot of young people don’t realize how MS affects other young people. It’s not just something that your grandmother or your grandfather gets. It really affects all different ages. It’s a great opportunity to bring that information to these young people so that they can contribute and help in whatever way.”
Tickets are available for $10 at all Bull Moose locations, and will be available at the door. The concert precedes the annual Walk MS event, which takes place at the Brewer Auditorium Sept. 29. For more information about the AS4MS, contact WHSN 89.3FM at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.whsn-fm.com.