West Hartford accountant for music industry stars raises money for autism

West Hartford resident Alan Friedman is a music industry accountant and musician. He recently helped raise money for the Asperger/Autism Network nonprofit.

WEST HARTFORD — Looking at the list of clients Friedman, Kannenberg & Company has under its belt, you wouldn’t expect to see them call the Farmington Valley home.

Alan Friedman, a West Hartford resident, is a music industry accountant who might be better suited working in New York or Los Angeles.

“We’re an oddity,” Friedman said.

Their list of clients includes musicians like Walfredo Reyes Jr., who has played with Santana and Chicago, and Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler. There are bands on the list too, like Living Colour and progressive rock legends King Crimson.

Their representation also extends to music retailers, recording studios, record labels and just about anything else you might find in the music industry.

Friedman is a musician himself, too. Like many others of his generation, he became obsessed with music after seeing the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 when he was 8 years old.

“All I saw was an audience of girls screaming their heads off for rock and roll,” Friedman said. “It wasn’t just a music event. It was a cultural shift that they started. That’s where it began.”

After dabbling with the guitar for a few years, he joined his first band at the age of 14 and hasn’t stopped playing. He is in a band of accountants called The Accounting Crows.

His love for music and interest in accounting were married when he started his firm in 1985. They didn’t set out to become a favorite of the music industry. That, he said, sort of happened by chance.

After visiting the annual National Association of Music Merchants trade show in California just to see music gear, he was asked to speak on financial topics related to the music industry.

“Once we started speaking at the trade show, that’s when the doors blew open for our firm,” Friedman said. “We were getting music stores and manufacturers as clients. We were at a trade show and there were all these famous musicians there. That’s how the musician side grew.”

Friedman is now using his love for playing music and his attachment to the music industry to benefit the Asperger/Autism Network, a nonprofit whose mission is near to his heart.

His 7-year-old granddaughter, Emma, was diagnosed with autism when she was 2 years old.

“A lot of it is about my oldest granddaughter who is on the spectrum,” Friedman said. “Cognitively, she is really smart. A lot of these kids are. A lot of these kids are brilliant. She was reading at the age of 3. It’s all social for her. It’s how they react and how they communicate. I’ve just been intrigued and passionate about learning and understanding it since Emma was diagnosed.”

Friedman helped raise around $10,000 through a two-day concert event in South Windsor.

One day saw his band Alan Friedman and Friends perform highlights from his five solo albums, while the other day featured a performance by The Immediate Family, a band consisting of musicians who have made a career of backing up bands and artists like James Taylor, Keith Richards, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Erica Remi is director of development at the Massachusetts-based Asperger/Autism Network and also Friedman’s daughter. She said 80 percent of the funding received by the nonprofit goes toward programming that supports people with Asperger's and autism.

“It’s so important,” Remi said. “We are riding a wave right now of increasing awareness and perhaps increasing acceptance of autistic folks. The world around us is still built by and for neurotypical individuals. We celebrate neurodiversity. Differences in neurology is normal and that neurodiversity in the world makes it a better place.”

Remi said the world can be difficult for a neurodiverse person to navigate, which is why the programming they offer is aimed to support people with autism and empower them to live independent lives.

And while the nonprofit is based out of state, Remi said the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to shift programming online, something they plan to keep in place. Doing that, she said, opened up their world and they now constantly see newcomers from out of state and out of the country.

“The mission is really personal to me,” Remi said. “We can support individuals to navigate a world that is incredibly challenging.”

Connecticut Media Group