Notes4Notes benefit concert raises awareness
By Lou Fancher
Everyone knows the difference between bad news and good news.
Cancer is bad news. Music concerts are good news.
Sandy Preto has been producing good news -- benefit rock concerts in the East Bay -- to benefit breast cancer research since completing treatment for invasive lobular carcinoma in 2013.
The concerts started as an invitation-only party at Lafayette's Town Hall Theatre to mark the conclusion of two surgeries, six months of chemotherapy and other medical challenges Preto overcame. As founder and president of Notes4Notes, a breast cancer awareness-raising nonprofit, the Moraga resident says proceeds from the upcoming show at the Bruns Amphitheater will benefit the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund.
BCF's programs support advocacy and public education about environmental risks and breast cancer. BCF president Jeanne Rizzo will be the night's emcee.
"We choose concert beneficiaries to match our mission encouraging an integrative approach to preventing breast cancer," Preto says. "But the real story is Paynbirds, a newly formed band with lead singer Tom Luce (singer/songwriter of LUCE band) and two original members of Train, Rob Hotchkiss and Charlie Colin."
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, originally of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, is "coming up on his own dime from Los Angeles to jam with the Paynbirds guys," Preto adds. The playbill includes Big Head Todd & the Monsters, a Colorado rock band with a dozen albums and a decades-long tour track record and singer-songwriter Megan Slankard.
"Megan is an up-and-coming artist. Paynbirds is brand new and even though they formed after being in established bands, this will give them exposure," says Preto's life-partner, Mark Carlton. His production and marketing expertise are one reason the concerts have sold out and the events are able to hopscotch without technical mishaps from the intimate Town Hall to the large Orinda Theatre to the outdoor Bruns.
Preto says the return to the amphitheater, after a successful October 2014 show in the venue, is ideal.
The concert is geared for all ages, with doors opening at 5:30 and an early start time of 7 p.m. Like the previous Notes4Notes concerts, there are general admission tickets and VIP tickets that include early access to preselect seats, meet the bands, and enjoy a multicourse, organic dinner featuring local wines.
Preto says the concerts always sell out, especially the VIP tickets, and business sponsorships are also increasing. DC Solar will contribute for a third time and Whole Foods in Walnut Creek joined on, raising $6,000 through a 5 percent of sales giveback day.
Thankfully, Preto has remained cancer free and two years after reconstructive surgery, she says her focus has shifted beyond the foods she eats and the lotion or makeup she uses.
"I'm learning about the science behind this, the chemistry behind diseases that are cropping up," Preto says.
Studying toxins and pesticides and attending presentations at the LaBarge Lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Preto says researchers are learning specifically about the aging breast.
"They have live tissue they're studying. I'm learning about corn syrup -- how it processes as something foreign and is different for each person. I'm learning about the effect of stress on cells."
She and Carlton are also realizing that a body that is cancer-free doesn't mean complete escape.
"I always thought cancer was something that happened to other people," Calrton says. "When Sandy got it, we both got it. When we do these events, the fear rises."
Preto says she no longer believes that a cure for breast cancer will be found, but she firmly believes in prevention.
"Yes, fear is always there. When you know your body can do something, you know it can do it again. Doing something positive keeps me focused on being healthy and helping others to be healthy. I know music concerts are one of the times when you're present in the moment of community and it's healing. That's what I love."