Daniel J Vance

If you haven’t heard, FLAME is one hot upstate New York rock band. Besides averaging 90 paid performances annually throughout the U.S. and Europe, this 7-year-old band has performed live on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, in Greece, and for New York City Mayor Bloomberg and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver wake. The group will soon be featured in People magazine.

What makes FLAME special? Each of 11 members has some kind of disability, such as autism, Down syndrome, blindness or a cognitive disability. Besides original music, the band plays more than 100 classic rock, country, and blues songs. And they are really good.

In a telephone interview, 24-year-old FLAME keyboardist Adrienne Phillips said, “Through the band, I really enjoy meeting people and getting to travel all over. Performing before a big crowd is awesome and being an inspiration to others is awesome, too.”

Phillips, who has 19 years of piano playing experience, first learned of FLAME two years ago through one of its backup singers. She added, “Joining the band a little more than a year ago was a dream come true. I always wanted to be in a band that was famous.”

Phillips was born premature and blind, and later had a brain hemorrhage. In time, she attended a school for the blind. Where she grew up, children in her neighborhood sometimes teased her and “called me all sorts of mean names,” she said, “and came up with ten reasons why they hated Adrienne. It was awful.”

From such emotionally trying beginnings, she went on to find a special group of friends in FLAME. The soft rock band has been one big family, she said, “always looking out for each other and joking around and having fun, too.”
Over the years, the group has released three CDs: All for a Reason, Holiday Classics, and Live at the Glove. A fourth should be available this November.

She opined: “Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean it should stop you from what you want to do. You could spend your whole life complaining or move on to do what you’ve dreamed. I didn’t think my dream was going to come true, but it did. It was because of God and I believe God gave me the ability to sing and learn how to play instruments.”

Watch FLAME by putting “Flame the band” into youtube.com.

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