Wild Honey Foundation Premiers ‘Unforgettable Sunrise’, A Collaboration Between Autistic Composer Jacob Rock And Singer/Songwriter Rob Laufer

The Wild Honey Foundation, which is known for its all-star tributes to The Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star, Buffalo Springfield, The Band, The Kinks, Lovin’ Spoonful, and Nuggets, are going to be presenting the world premier of Unforgettable Sunrise, a symphonic collaboration between Jacob Rock and Rob Laufer. It will be conducted by Daniel Newman-Lessler and performed by 54 Students from the USC Thornton School of Music as a benefit for the Autism Healthcare Collaborative, on Saturday, September 30th, 2023, at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.

Unforgettable Sunrise is a 70-minute musical journey that often recalls symphonic Frank Zappa, Gershwin, Copland, Bach, and more, but vividly expresses the unique musical vision of its creators: Jacob Rock (age 19), and Wild Honey musical director Rob Laufer, a singer/songwriter, producer, and band leader.  

Unforgettable Sunrise chronicles the journey of Jacob Rock, a non-verbal autistic teenager, from being unable to convey his experiences and abilities to ultimately gaining an ability to type with his index finger on an iPad, which allowed him to reveal his personality and creativity. This led to his remarkable musical collaboration with Rob Laufer.

Rock and Laufer working together

For most his 19 years, Jacob Rock, diagnosed with severe autism at age three, has only been able to roughly verbalize the words “yes” and “eat.” In 2020, a breakthrough with an iPad typing app enabled Jacob to begin communicating with his index finger, to his family and to the world. Soon, he began writing poems, movie reviews, and expressing “fierce political idealism.”

Then, six months after communicating via iPad, the Brian Wilson/Bob Dylan-loving Jacob revealed that he had just finished composing a 71-minute symphony in his head, but he would need help extracting it. In the following weeks, Jacob typed out a detailed description of his musical vision. Consisting of six movements, it showed, “tempo, mood, main instruments, sense of story, and the intended emotional impact.” 

Jacob’s vision has found a collaborator in family friend and Wild Honey Foundation Musical Director Rob Laufer. Following Jacob’s notes, Laufer created the score to Jacob’s spec.

In Rob Laufer’s words:

I compose music that Jacob feels is close enough to what he is hearing, that fulfills his vision. He will let me know immediately if I play him a new section that doesn’t work for him. He gives me instructions on how to expand or improve certain sections. 

He has nixed entire sections. I have never disagreed with his judgment. It’s always completely grounded and guided by the clarity of his artistic vision. When I get it right, Jacob’s face practically explodes with joy. It is something to behold.

About the Wild Honey Foundation:

Since 1994, Wild Honey Foundation, a 501(c)(3), non-profit, has produced concerts, film screenings, online fundraisers, and live stream events to benefit autism treatment/research and a variety of important progressive causes.Led by Paul Rock, David Jenkins, and Andrew Sandoval, Wild Honey is a grass roots, volunteer organization dedicated to passing on the passion, creativity, and idealism found in rock, rhythm & blues, folk, classical, and pop music to future generations through cultural events of all types. Wild Honey has produced a string of sold-out all-star autism benefit shows since 2013, featuring the music of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, The Band, Big Star, and the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Its most recent tribute show was in May 2023 devoted to Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets garage-rock compilation, the event declared by Variety as one of the “top 10 concerts of the year (so far).” Featuring its non-verbal autistic visionary as co-creator, Unforgettable Sunrise is Wild Honey’s initial foray into classical music.  For more information on the Wild Honey Foundation, please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/WIldhoneyfoundation/

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