Bass Players, Paying It Forward

By Jon Liebman
October 18, 2018

My interview this week with Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson was inspiring, to say the least. I’m not only talking about his (very cool!) 12-string basses, which we covered pretty well in the interview, but also the foundation he and his wife have developed.

Rock Your Speech is a music-based project, founded by Tom and Alison Petersson, inspired by their young son Liam, who suffers from autism. In an effort to help Liam confront some of his communication challenges, the Peterssons incorporated a music-based approach, yielding some very positive results. Setting key phrases, like “I’m hungry” and “What’s your name?” to music, they discovered an effective way to help Liam convey what was on his mind.

The inspiration morphed into production of music videos, with on-screen lyrics, encouraging kids to sing along, while developing reading and communication skills. The videos also feature close-ups of the singers’ mouths, highlighting the mechanics of how speech sounds are made.

It’s doubtful it would have occurred to Tom and Alison to start a foundation for autistic kids had it not been for Liam. But they’re a shining example of creating something positive out of a challenging situation. In the process, they’ve made a practical resource readily available to the more than two million autistic children in the United States, and millions more worldwide. And the music is even fun too! Visit Rock Your Speech here.

It’s always good to see people –bass players included – helping other people. Just a few other bass players I’ve interviewed that fit the bill are Verdine White, providing assistance to at-risk youth in underserved communities; Doug Wimbish, using his famed “Wimbash” as a vehicle for supporting youth music education; Mandy Harvey, who is a champion of No Barriers and American Sign LanguageChuck Rainey, with his Rhythm Intensive ProjectJerry Jemmott, with his Color Sound Project; and John Cowan, with his work with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

Want to share a thought about a bass player paying it forward to help the less fortunate? Feel free to leave a comment. In the meantime, check out my interview with Tom here.

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