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The Dawgs: Rochester’s best friends

The Dawgs prove that community service pairs perfectly with great music and a good time.
The Dawgs playing at Tim Horton’s Iceplex in May

It’s a Friday night in Rochester and the ice has been covered at the Tim Hortons iceplex. The rink is packed with local vendors like Jon’tae Eats, JonJohns Bakery, and the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Food and wine samples are being given out to the ticket holders who have donated to the Holy Childhood school.  

The Dawgs are on stage, playing “What I Like About You,” as an interpreter signs the lyrics. Dressed in matching hockey jerseys with their band nicknames on their backs, these musicians put the fun in fundraising. A crowd gathers, and people can’t help but dance as the band plays “Let’s Go Crazy” while Prince’s music video is projected up on the big screen.  

As Rochester’s premier fundraising party band, these bandmates don’t take themselves too seriously, except when it comes to the causes in their community. This is their third year performing at the Wegmans Wine at Center Ice event, and, just like every other concert they play, they do not accept any form of payment for their performance. 

Band leader Steve Ball loves listening to people’s stories. “We had the opportunity to go into Holy Childhood and tour the classrooms and see the difference they are making. Arc of Monroe, too. They have done more for us than we will ever do for them.” Ball goes on to say, “The best part of this is meeting new partners, seeing the impact they are making on the community, and then reminding myself that they are willing to partner with us.” 

The Dawgs were honored to be recognized by ESL and WHEC News10 by winning the 2022 Jefferson Award for Public Service. They believe the award is a reflection of the individuals and agencies doing tireless work in our community. They have performed more than seventy shows with approximately thirty-five different community partners, raising more than $175,000 for causes in the greater Rochester area.  

Steve “Captain” Ball has been playing bass, on and off, for forty years. Music has been part of his life for as long as he can remember, and he looks up to musical legends like Sir Paul McCartney. Ball started the Dawgs in 2014 with his coworkers at the Wegmans corporate offices who wanted to do something to raise money for a United Way fundraiser. They created an event in the supply chain division and were known as the “distribution dawgs.” A few years later, they shortened the name and began playing for public fundraisers.  

“Sweet Lou” Germano was one of those coworkers and is still with the band today. He has been playing guitar since the third grade. He loves playing, writing, and recording and feels fortunate to be able to do something he loves while giving back. Germano says, “One gig that really had an impact on me was our first time at Russell Station playing for Suicide Prevention.” He would love to play local summer festivals and meet his idol, Eddie Van Halen. 

Chrissy “Sunshine” Ferraracchio, lead vocals, has fun singing and dancing on any stage, from locally owned bars to venues with hundreds of people.  She says it would be wild to meet George Strait or Reba McIntyre and loves learning more about each of the causes they play for. “Every single time, I find myself brought to tears by the stories and the outpouring of community. Everyone coming together to make it better. And we get to have fun!”  

Duane “DD” Draper got his first drum kit around four years old and has been playing seriously since the fifth grade. He admits he constantly has drumbeats playing in his head. “Every time we play, I have a blast.” Draper would love to meet Dave Grohl and spend some time with Snoop Dogg. Music has always been an important part of life for each of the Dawgs. Draper says, “It suits all ups and downs and everything in between.”

Matt “Professor” Roesch, keyboards and vocals, started taking piano lessons at thirteen years old and went to college for music. Roesch would love to meet Bruce Hornsby and play at Red Rocks one day. “My tenure with the Dawgs hasn’t been that long so my favorite memory is right around the corner. Dawgs up!”  

They start every gig with a “Dawgs up” toast before they go on and perform songs like “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Walking on Sunshine,” “Uptown Funk,” and “Shout.” The band gets together to practice once a week and performs around fifteen shows a year like Wine at Center Ice. Other favorite events include the Nicolas DelVecchio Benefit for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Maureen McGuire’s Family Alzheimer Benefit, and anything with the Arc of Monroe.

The Dawgs have several formats for fundraising. They can provide no-cost entertainment to existing events like the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester’s Gala. Alternatively, they can create fundraisers from the ground up. They book the venue, create promotional materials, and hold contests and raffles and other support through social media. During the set, someone from the cause might share a message onstage.  

Behind the band is a supportive team that makes the Dawgs complete. Nick Koziol, host of the popular That Sounds Terrific podcast (see our May/June 2024 issue), handles the lighting and serves as the community liaison. Joe Waidl does video production, Marshal Scheidt is webmaster, and Gina Ford does anything and everything. The Dawgs would not be here today without the generosity of Tom Bruce at 75 Stutson Street or the guidance of John Dretto at Maestro Management.

What does the future hold for the Dawgs? The band would like to continue to build partnerships with community organizations, raise more money, and have more fun. Roesch says “I would hope that we just keep on doing what we’re doing and have an impact on people’s lives, helping them get through whatever it is they are going through.” Germano would like to get up to $500,00 raised for local causes.   

“It’s a special group of people who are willing to take this journey,” says Ball. “Giving time and talent back to the community is an amazing gesture. I am honored to play with each of them!”

The old saying is true. These Dawgs are everyone’s best friend. 

To learn more or book the Dawgs for your next event, visit dawgsforacauz.com

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