“It’s been the most special thing I’ve done in my life,” said Martin Brull, co-founder of the Tommy Brull Foundation, a Rockville Centre-based nonprofit which raises funds to help children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities on Long Island. “It’s a way to give back to the community, and to make a difference.”
Since 2011, the foundation has held a series of highly attended benefit concerts organized by Brull called Shine A Light, which have raised funds for various organizations and families across Long Island.
Brull co-founded the foundation in 2008 in memory of his brother, Tommy, who died in an accident in 1999. Both were counselors at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach. Shine A Light, he said, was inspired by his late brother. The two would attend music events together, and he wanted to put together shows that his brother would have enjoyed.
The foundation has not only made a difference in the lives of those with special needs, but has also honored Tommy’s memory by attracting an impressive array of musical talent — along with ample crowds — to various locations on Long Island, with Long Beach as the latest destination.
Shine A Light has featured a number of top-tier headliners, including Luna, Strand of Oaks, Deer Tick and folk rockers The Felice Brothers. The event has also featured indie rock singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile and The Violators, as well as The War on Drugs, whose 2017 album “A Deeper Understanding” won a Grammy award for Best Rock Album. The series came to Long Beach with The Felice Brothers headlining at Junction last December, and Deer Tick performing a sold out show at the venue in June.
“I’m an avid music lover — I seek out acts I’m interested in, bands my brother would have liked,” said Brull, who explained that his process of booking top acts has involved a lot of trial and error. “The bands that have signed on have really enjoyed the whole vibe, and supporting our cause.”
Brull noted that every show has been special, not only because they support the foundation’s mission, but honor his brother’s memory.
“Having artists come out, and dedicate a song to him is special,” he said. “This helps you heal, and has helped friends and family. It’s nice to see my brother’s memory still alive.”
The Shine A Light series, he explained, has also allowed him the opportunity to meet new people and form exciting relationships, including a new partnership with Junction, at 20 W. Park Ave. Though Long Beach is a new location for the popular music series, he said, the energy and passion for music among fans has been palpable.
John Hamlet, acting manager at Junction, described partnering with the foundation as an honor, noting that the music venue is becoming a popular destination for top musical performances. The New Orleans-themed venue, which features acoustic and jazz music, dueling piano performances and a large stage, has drawn strong crowds, he said.
“It’s been amazing to support such a good cause,” Hamlet said. “Marty is great. The foundation runs a great show, and everyone always has a great time. We’ve been pushing live music, and the community has always been invested in the music scene here.”
In addition to Shine A Light, the Tommy Brull Foundation has raised more than $500,000 for various charitable organizations, including Camp Anchor. Brull noted another point of pride with the foundation — specifically, its recent efforts in starting a six-week surf camp within Anchor. In conjunction with the Long Beach-based nonprofit Surf for
All, the foundation has taught hundreds of kids with special needs to ride waves.
“I have strong ties to the Long Beach community, I’ve surfed there my whole life,” he said. “We wanted to start a surf camp, and we wanted to have kids with special needs experience surfing and build their confidence. It was a dream, and it came true.”
Overall, Brull said, he’s proud of the foundation’s accomplishments, and noted that the reception of the Shine A Light series has been overwhelming positive. Fans have been so impressed with the musical acts that the foundation has secured, he said, and he’s even noticed an expanding fan base for shows, with music lovers traveling in from around and outside the country, including Europe and South America. As long as fans are flocking to attend, he said, the music series will continue on.
The next Shine A Light series event will take place on Aug. 3 at Junction, featuring headliner Titus Andronicus — a punk/indie band from New Jersey that has performed live on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Last Call with Carson Daly” — with special guest Acid Dad.
“This is about bringing music to Long Island,” he said. “We’ve created a community at shows. People can feel what we’re there to do. They feel the home grown vibe we have.”