When Fortune magazine named The Difference “Best Corporate Rock Band in America” in 2001, few could have imagined that this honor would be just the beginning of an amazing journey for Air Products’ company rock and roll band.
Thirteen years after then Air Products Executive Vice President Joe Kaminski made a simple suggestion about forming the rock group, the band has played over 300 concerts, recorded four studio albums, and helped to raise more than $700,000 for charities throughout the United States. The Difference has even shared the stage with rock royalty, such as long-time Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto and 38 Special guitarist Jeff Carlisi. However, the road has not been without heartache for the band, as it lost founding members Barry Grow in 2003 and Steve Eck in 2007 to cancer. Nonetheless, they have persevered.
“The Difference has displayed a level of passion that many Air Products volunteers share for supporting good causes,” said John McGlade, Air Products chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The band members have provided tireless support, on their own time, for countless charities and I thank them dearly for the 13 years of great times that they have given to so many in the community and at Air Products.”
Due to the upcoming retirement of drummer and vocalist Sal Nicrone, The Difference will play its final concerts on September 8th at the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem. Air Products and ArtsQuest will pay tribute to Nicrone and fellow band members Joe Hilgar (bass guitar, keyboards, vocals), Ed McKendry (lead guitar, vocals), Jim “J.T.” Meyer (lead guitar and vocals) and Terry Wetzel (sound technician) when they sponsor two free thank you concerts by the band.
Showtimes will be 3.30pm and 7.30pm and the group will play many crowd favorites in acoustic and electric sets. A limited number of free public tickets will be available at www.artsquest.org starting on August 22nd at 10am.
Drum master Liberty DeVitto explained his first impression of The Difference and his relationship with the band over the years.
“The first time I saw The Difference was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” DeVitto said. “They were doing ‘Hold on Loosely’ (by 38 Special) and I said who the heck are these guys. I met Sal and the band and we’ve been friends ever since. I mean like friends, beyond music. They’re great people.”
DeVitto added, “A company that allows a rock and roll band to represent it is a great company because, I believe, that music is a team builder – even more than sports.”
The Difference Has Made a Difference
The Difference has lived up to its namesake, an Air Products corporate motto that says that the company’s people, through their integrity, passion and understanding, is what sets it apart in the marketplace. Through their music, the band has supported various non-profit organisations and causes, including the Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Diabetes Foundation, American Heart Association and many local charities.
In addition, The Difference has recorded four charitable albums – “Rockin’ for Charities” (2001); “Anything at All…for Charity” (2003); “Grow” (2005), titled in tribute and dedicated to founding member Barry Grow, who died of cancer in 2003; and “Songs I Always Wanted to Do with a Band” (2008), titled in tribute and dedicated to Steve Eck, who died of cancer in 2007.
“I have so much gratitude to be a part of this,” Eck said in a 2005 interview. “It’s what music is meant to be about. We make people happy. We make people feel things. And on top of everything, every time we go out we raise money for something important.”