Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
They are from Lexington, New York. They play at about 70 events per year and have performed in 16 states in the US and in Europe. They are a ten-piece band with four CDs, a tour bus and a manager. And by the way, they are all disabled.
In 2003, the Lexington Center, Fulton County Chapter of ARC, offered a recreational program for music. The intent was to gather a band that could play at ARC events and in the local community. Before they knew it, the band had become so popular that requests were coming in from outside their area and FLAME was born.
Michelle King sings lead and plays guitar and harmonica. She was diagnosed with autism and intellectual disability. She was not expected to speak, but by age 3, she was speaking as well as singing. Her voice has a beautiful bluesy, rock sound. She has a talent for musical instruments and gives guitar lessons when she is not performing with the band.
David LaGrange learned to play drums at the New York School for the Blind. He also sings harmony and was a founder of the band with Michelle King. David considers his talent a gift that he wants to share with everyone. His dream is to play in Japan.
Falon McBride was diagnosed with Athrogryposis and ADHD. She would much rather focus on her abilities and those include singing backup vocals and playing percussion. Scott Stuart has Cerebral Palsy and is blind. He loves country music, has a big voice and writes his own songs.
Nick Robinson is the seasoned veteran of FLAME, having played in bands in the Los Angeles area. He was a paramedic in Lexington before a disease left his legs paralyzed. He relearned how to play the bass and also plays mandolin, banjo and guitar. Adrienne Phillips is a talented singer and plays keyboard for the band. She doesn’t let the fact that she is blind keep her from her love for performing music.
Shawn Lehr has Down’s Syndrome. He plays percussion and dances on stage. Paul Zuckerwar also plays percussion. He is diagnosed with seizure disorder and mental disability, but just wants to keep rockin’ and rollin’. Debbie Woodruff dances with enthusiasm on stage. She has Down’s Syndrome, but doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Karl Blanchard has seizure disorder and mental disability. He plays a mean conga drum and joins the other dancers on stage.
FLAME has been an inspiration to thousands of people with disabilities and their families and friends. They have been requested to play at conventions, conferences, school events and private parties. They also perform for fundraisers. But more than all of that, they prove that disabilities are no barrier to having fun and living their dreams.
The band plays country, rock and blues and has a list of over 100 popular songs along with some original material. For more information on the band or to book a performance, contact Maria Nestle, Manager at Lexington Center at 518-736-3944.