Skip Martin

Former Kool & The Gang and Dazz Band lead singer Skip Martin headlines Saturday’s Spectrum of Soul concert in Snowmass. 

When Snowmass’ summer calendar came out earlier this year, astute observers might have noticed that one beloved annual event was conspicuous by its absence. Variously known as the Deaf Camp Benefit, the Deaf Camp Picnic and other names, the yearly celebration was marked by free music and other festivities, and for a half-century it served as a major fundraiser for the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Unfortunately, in November 2018, that organization suspended operations until at least 2020, leaving the camp in no position to host a benefit this summer. That meant the Town of Snowmass Village had to decide whether to cancel the bonus Saturday of free music entirely or come up with an alternative. There was talk of cancellation, but ultimately an advisory committee decided the town should host an event that honored the beneficial spirit of the Deaf Camp shindigs.

“We were kind of brainstorming whether we should keep the concert on that Saturday or eliminate it altogether for this year,” said Julie Hardman, special events manager for the Town of Snowmass Village. “It was unanimous to keep the concert happening, and a couple of the members suggested doing something on a broader scale to include more nonprofits.”

That’s the reason behind Rock for a Reason, which comes to Fanny Hill and the Snowmass Mall this Saturday, July 13, in what could be a placeholder spot or the start of a new tradition, depending upon how things go. There will be a free concert, part of the town’s Summer Concert Series, featuring something called Spectrum of Soul (more on that in a bit), and 11 local nonprofits will have booths set up on Fanny Hill or the mall to explain who they are, what they do and how you can help.

“Some of them are selling merchandise,” said Hardman. “Many are trying to recruit volunteers for their upcoming fundraising events. For example, Jazz Aspen is looking for volunteers. Also, many of them have memberships and are going to be offering special rates and signup opportunities.”

In addition to Jazz Aspen Snowmass, the other nonprofits who will have a presence at the mall include American Renewable Energy Day, Aspen Strong, Challenge Aspen, Carbondale Arts, Farm Collaborative, KDNK, Mountain Rescue Aspen and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will also be on hand and is receiving a portion of proceeds from liquor sales during all the free concerts in the series.

The idea, since there are no proceeds from ticket sales, is for the nonprofits to gain valuable exposure to a good-sized crowd of people.

“Snowmass was nice enough to open it up to us and a few others to keep the integrity of it being a benefit concert of some sort,” said Allie Welsh of Snowmass Village-based Challenge Aspen. “Our presence will be giveaways and talking about our organization and what we do. We have our big gala and golf classic coming up on the 28th and 29th, so timing-wise this is awesome for us.”

As for the Spectrum of Soul, the show’s official name is “The Greatest Hits on Earth — Live! ® presents Spectrum of Soul™ Featuring Skip Martin formerly of Kool & The Gang™ & Special Guest(s).” It will feature a repertoire of classic soul, R&B and funk hits sung by former Kool & The Gang and Dazz Band lead singer Martin backed by the four-piece Greatest Hits on Earth — Live! band. It’s an act rather deliberately aimed at those of a certain age.

“For Rock for a Reason, we definitely wanted something a little more upscale than our normal concert series,” said Kiesha Techau, group and events manager for the Town of Snowmass Village. “One of the reasons we went for a higher-caliber band is to get as much exposure as we could for the nonprofits who will be in attendance. It’s about awareness and getting them out in front of the public.”

With any luck, that exposure, along with liquor-sale proceeds, other donations and a restructuring of the business, will help the Aspen Camp get back on its feet. Should that happen, next year at this time the Deaf Camp Benefit could be back. But if it doesn’t, this could be the first of many Rocks for a Reason.

“If this goes well,” said Techau, “we think this is an opportunity for the camp to stay involved, and it benefits more than just one local nonprofit.”

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.