by Keith Loria — Music fans know Steve Scales as the percussionist extraordinaire from the Talking Heads and the artist has also recorded with the likes of The Psychedelic Furs, The Violent Femmes, Tina Turner and Yoko Ono. He’s putting his skills and connections together for a special show Saturday night, March 18, at the Quick Center at Fairfield University.
After more than 30 years in the music biz, Scales decided to do something a little different. The long-time Milford resident has gone back to college. As part of his studies, he’s been interning with the Kennedy Center, which is based in Trumbull.
Scales is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in human services from the University of Bridgeport and is completing a 100-hour practicum using his musical and drumming skills to connect with people with disabilities served by the Kennedy Center.
“Someone called me and asked if I would record on some of her stuff, and I found out she worked at the Kennedy Center, and I wound up going in and asking for an internship,” Scales said. “They used to have a woman come in on Fridays to do music with the clients, and I would bring my drums in and we would play, and I was asked to come back and do a drum circle.”
For the past year, Scales has been arranging drum circles with Kennedy Center consumers in Milford who participate in the rehabilitation agency’s Community Experience Programs.
“I kick all of the caretakers out, we sit around in a big circle and play drums, and they love it,” Scales said. “The president of the Kennedy Center found out about it and wanted to meet me, so he came to the site and asked if I would help with a fundraiser.”
This was in 2016, and Scales invited some of his musician friends to join him on stage and quickly threw together a show.
“It went great, and we decided this was something we needed to do every year,” Scales said. “Since I had more time to plan this one, I reached out to more of my friends and this year we are going to put on an event that’s much bigger and better.”
On March 18, Scales is bringing a number of his musician friends together for Magic Moments Live: A Benefit Concert Event for The Kennedy Center Autism Project.
Joining the former Talking Heads star on stage will be his former band mates Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, founders of the Tom Tom Club; and Grammy-nominated Nona Hendryx.
Keith Fluitt will serve as lead vocalist and other musicians include guitarist Andy Abel of Twisted Vine, drummer Benny Gramm, bass player Dave Livolsi, keyboardist Scott Beckham and saxophonist Dan Cipriano. For backup singers, Scales is using some of his classmates from school.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger and we’re trying to get a lot of people interested and people are still coming in,” Scales said.
He promises that there will be some Talking Heads music played, as well as other favorites of his from his years in the music biz.
The event kicks off with a mix and mingle, open bar and food stations at 6:30 p.m., followed by the concert in the Kelley Theatre at 8 p.m. After the music stops, the evening continues with the Black Box After Party at 10 p.m., which includes dessert and drinks plus a meet-and-greet with Scales and the other musicians. Jo Ann McMullen, vice president of development for the Kennedy Center, notes the
Magic Moments event serves as the main funding source for the Kennedy Center Autism Project, which benefits more than 500 local children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. The money raised is earmarked to help the Kennedy Center provide comprehensive programs at affordable rates for all families in the community.
“This is our 11th year for this event, and it benefits our autism project for children for those 4 to 21. It’s always been one of our largest events and we always try to do some sort of entertainment, and we’re very excited to have Steve and his friends come out this year,” she said. “There’s very little state funding for autism programs, so this is an important event for us and very beneficial to the program itself.”
In addition to taking part in the entire evening’s festivities, those who just want to see the concert will have that option as well.
The cause is an important one for Scales who is studying to be a counselor. He will graduate in May and has already begun looking at graduate schools.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and when we came home, there was no therapy for us,” he said. “Spiritually walking around church, and talking to God, I got a message to go and become a counselor and my main focus was to help those with PTSD, although now that I work with the mentally challenged, I am thinking of working there.”
Not that he’s hanging up his musical career, altogether. In fact, he believes that his music will only help him in his efforts to help.
“I’ve been to the top of the mountain musically; I’ve played with everybody and played when music was really good,” he said. “I’m not that great on music today. I knew it was time to do something else and I had this calling.”
He does admit that if there were a call for the Heads to get back together, he would do that in a heartbeat. For now, he’s excited about what lies ahead and hopes to see many of his fans out at the Magic Moments.
“This is a benefit for a great cause,” he said. “It’s a great band and it’s going to be a great show and we’re going to have lots of fun.”
Tickets for Magic Moments Live are $125. The concert only is $40. Both can be purchased by calling 203-365-8522, ext. 216; or by visiting www.thekennedycenterinc.org.