It’s the end of a rock-and-roll era at Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Trexlertown.
The company’s corporate band – once dubbed the “Best Corporate Band in America” by Fortune magazine after winning a competition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – is hanging up its guitar picks and drumsticks after nearly 13 years together.
The Difference will be playing its final concerts on Sept. 8 at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
With its frontman, Sal Nicrone, retiring and other band members, such as Ed McKendry, looking to spend more time with their grandchildren, the band thought it was time to put The Difference to the history books.
“I will miss the guys and the events we’ve played,” Nicrone said.
But he’s excited about going out with a bang with the band’s two final shows.
The band was formed in 2000 at the suggestion of executive vice president Joe Kaminski, who read an article about corporate bands organizing at other companies and suggested it would be a fun idea for Air Products.
The group, made up of Nicrone, McKendry, Joe Hilgar and Jim “J.T.” Meyer has been a source of pride for the company. (Founding members Barry Grow and Steve Eck passed away from cancer in 2003 and 2007, respectively.)
“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 CEO. “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.”
Besides the feather in their cap of winning the battle of the corporate bands at the Hall of Fame and sharing the stage with well-know musicians such as Billy Joel’s drummer Liberty DeVitto and 38 Special guitarist Jeff Carlisi, the band members have boosted team spirit at Air Products events and helped raise more than $700,000 for charities.
McKendry is quick to share the credit for the fundraising with coworkers at Air Products.
“There are 3,500 employees here. They’re very supportive. If we’re playing at an event, they’ll buy a table and they’ll come out and they’ll spend money to support the cause,” he said.
To be sure, their time in the band has given members of The Difference a bit of hometown fame, even with people from outside Air Products.
“It’s happened to me a few times,” McKendry said. “I’ll be at Target and someone will come up to me and say ‘aren’t you in that Air Products band,’ and my wife will be standing there, rolling her eyes.”
The band members also give a great deal of credit to the management at Air Products for the support the company has given the band over the years.
“If I say I have to take a couple of days off to go to Cleveland, my boss just says go,” McKendry said.
And no, despite their success as a band, the members said none of them ever considered giving up their day jobs to pursue a rock-and-roll career full time.
“It’s really the best of both worlds,” Nicrone said.
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