Teenage boys across the country meet in garages to strum guitars and pound on drum sets with girls, fame and money in mind.
But the 13 Biotechnology High School, Freehold Township, students who make up the band Beats for a Cause set a more noble and realistic goal for their group. For about two years, the nonprofit band has mostly played charitable events to jam for the greater good, said founder and director Joe Maggiore, who lives in Manalapan.
“To have about 100 people standing around and listening to the music is really a fulfilling moment,” he said. “And then to take the money out of the bucket that we received from donations and give it to charity — that’s a great feeling.”
Beats for a Cause is by no means a typical teenage band, fueled by angst and amplifiers turned up to 11.
Most members play boomwhackers, which are hollow tubes of various lengths, designed to produce different pitches and notes, Maggiore said. The musicians rhythmically whack the instruments on a desk as another bashes two trashcan drums, some play wind chimes and a singer belts out the lyrics.
The unique ensemble draws praise and awe from passersby at fundraising events, he said.
“They definitely stick around to listen to it,” he said.
Maggiore takes about 10 hours to compose each song, he said. They are usually renditions of popular tunes like Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Fun’s “We Are Young,” he said.
The penchant for pop came from a need to engage the largest number of audience members, Maggiore said.
“We knew we would be playing for all different ages at all of these different charitable events, so we decided I would write the music based on pop songs,” he said.
Maggiore often calls benevolent organizations to see if they need free entertainment for a gathering. When others listen to the electric performance, they sometimes ask the band to play future shows on the spot, he said.
Beats for a Cause has played a handful of private shows such as birthday parties, but any money made during those ventures goes to charity, as well, Maggiore said. The band does not make a dime.
The band chose to affiliate with the nonprofit Surgeons of Hope, which performs open-heart surgery on children in developing countries at no cost to their families. Surgeons of Hope also trains local doctors and builds hospitals, said Leila Hawken, executive assistant.
So far, Maggiore and his band have raised about $500 for Surgeons of Hope.
“These kids are model citizens for what they are doing in the world,” Hawken said. “You can only think they will keep on doing that as they grow into adulthood.”
Maggiore plans to volunteer with Surgeons of Hope for three weeks this summer in Nicaragua.
The band members usually devote three hours each Sunday to rehearsal. That is no easy task, Maggiore noted, considering their taxing school schedules and the distances between home and the practice space.
But like Maggiore — who was inspired by the generous donations and volunteer efforts of his grandfather, Arnold Zucker — most of the band is steadfast in their commitment to helping others.
Ethan Seltzer, 16, who is poised to take over the band when Maggiore goes to college, said he never imagined being part of such a worthwhile endeavor.
“I wanted to get involved because it is such a great organization and we get to help out other charitable organizations, and we get to do that while having fun and doing what we love, which is playing music,” Seltzer said.
When the time comes for Maggiore to hand off the boomwhacker, he said he hopes to start a similar band in college.