The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is presenting its annual Jam for Justice fundraiser on Sept. 8 at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland. The musical extravaganza will feature legal professionals from across Northeast Ohio showingcasing their talents through song. Several bands made up of justice system professionals will perform to raise money for the society, which provides legal services to those who can not afford them.
Justice Michael Donnelly of the Supreme Court of Ohio and Stephen Zashin, co-managing partner of Zashin & Rich in Cleveland, are members of Faith and Whiskey, one of the bands scheduled to perform.
Both Donnelly and Zashin play guitar and sing, and the band has played most venues in the Cleveland area, Zashin said. In addition to Donnelly and Zashin are members Joe Barone, Richard Kline, Dan Krueger, Keith Merritt, Jim Reesing, Vincente Velez and Rich Wesorick.
“We primarily cover classic rock songs from the ’70s and one-hit-wonders from the ’80s,” Donnelly said. “We have a few ’90s and some other modern stuff; generally upbeat, danceable music that everybody recognizes.”
Zashin and Donnelly said the group performs songs by artists such as Bryan Adams, Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac, INXS, Loverboy, Modern English, Rick Springfield, Simple Minds, The Cars, The Cure, The Rolling Stones and The Steve Miller Band.
Faith and Whiskey has been participating in Jam for Justice since its inception, which was over 10 years ago, Donnelly said.
“It’s something that every single member of our band looks forward to each year because we love working, No. 1, for Legal Aid, which I think is one of Northeast Ohio’s most important institutions,” Donnelly said.
He said that there is a justice gap that exists throughout the state and country, and there are people who do not have access to necessary legal representation.
“The fact that they’re able to raise funds and provide that vital resource is something that we all believe deeply in,” Donnelly said. “It’s fun. We get to interact with other lawyers who play music and hang out like rock stars for the day.”
Donnelly said the bands have the opportunity to spend time in the green room at the House of Blues, where they share stories and collaborate.
“When we started the band, we could not have dreamed that we would one day be playing on the stage at the House of Blues,” Donnelly said.
He said that one of his favorite parts about the event is interacting with other musicians in the legal field, enjoying their music and seeing them engage with Faith and Whiskey’s performances.
Zashin recalled that, while trying to come up with a band name, bass player Dan Krueger remembered an old bar in Chicago called Faith and Whiskey. The band adopted the name and added the tagline, “If you don’t have one, you better have the other.”
“I always look forward to raising money for a good cause and I look forward to an energetic crowd that wants to sing and dance along with us,” Zashin said. “For me, my job as a lead singer is to make sure that everybody’s involved and that they’re there having a good time.”
Zashin said he admires front men and women who are able to engage crowds, namely David Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury.
“I love it because it’s a release, it’s the greatest opportunity to let loose,” Zashin said, noting that it is the band’s job to make sure the audience has a good time.
Donnelly said that the society is doing a few new things this year, including two hour sessions in advance of the event.
The first jam session will be at 7 pm Aug. 24 at Bottlehouse Brewery on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The second will be at 7 pm Aug. 31 at The Brothers Lounge on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland.
At the Sept. 8 event, the General Counsel Glee Club will make its debut on stage with Faith and Whiskey playing backing music. The groups will perform “Hey Jude” by the Beatles and “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, Donnelly said.
“We are bringing together a group of Cleveland in-house lawyers to sing together as a group for the first time,” Leiken said. “Cleveland has an amazing corporate community and, inside that community, is an amazing group of in-house lawyers and we thought it would be fun to bring all those lawyers together on stage to sing for Legal Aid.”
Leiken is also a member of Rule 11 and the Sanctions, another band performing at Jam for Justice, that covers classic rock from the ’50s through present. Other members of the band include Andrew Fiorella, Deanna Reish, Bob Walker and Daryl Williams.
“We’ve been involved with Jam for the last probably six or seven years, maybe longer,” Leiken said, adding that his favorite memories include bringing members of the legal community up on stage to sing with them.
He said that there is a lot of hidden talent within the community and, even where there is not a lot of talent, there is a lot of artistic and creative passion.
“Jam is a tremendous way to bring that out,” Leiken said.
Melanie Shakarian, director of development and communications at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, and coordinator of Jam for Justice, said there is an abundance of musically-inclined legal professionals in the area.
“Jam for Justice is a fundraiser for Legal Aid that’s at raising support for the great work that Legal Aid does to ensure shelter, safety and economic security for people with low income in Northeast Ohio,” Shakarian said.
She said that six bands are participating across the two hour sessions and the event at the House of Blues.
“All the bands, and actually, even the emcees and the DJ’s who are providing extra support, are all attorneys, law students or judges in Northeast Ohio,” Shakarian said.
She noted that the event raises in excess of $100,000 for Legal Aid each year.
One of Shakarian’s favorite parts of Jam for Justice is the wall near the green room at the House of Blues. The wall has been signed by many famous performers who have played there and the participants in Jam for Justice are given the opportunity to add their signatures.
“We have a lot of talent here in Northeast Ohio, talent that’s, I think, comparable to some bands that will grace the stage at the House of Blues,” she said.
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