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    Dan Ashley Turns Passion for Music into Successful Fundraiser Benefitting Kids

    Emmy Award-winning television news anchor Dan Ashley can seemingly do it all. As you will soon read, this elegant and bright ABC-7 News broadcast journalist is also an accomplished musician and even a former competitive figure skater! Through sheer talent and incredibly hard work, he has turned many of his life’s dreams into reality. Now he is turning his attention to helping youths in need with his fourth annual Rock the CASA charity event on March 3.

    We are grateful that Ashley recently took time out of his near non-stop schedule to share his thoughts about the event, his band, meeting former U.S. presidents and much more.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your band PUSH is fantastic. We have seen you all perform a few times before. We are happy to see that you have some shows planned for this year, including Rock the CASA. How did this particular event come to fruition?

    Dan Ashley: I have a new band now that I am really excited about that will open for Melissa Etheridge. A producer who was a talent development producer for a couple of major labels came to me with an idea to reinvent my musical pursuits and to create new opportunities at a higher level. I’m now doing Country-Rock with a phenomenal band of touring pros. As an example, the lead guitarist is Mariah Carey’s lead guitarist and music director, the percussionist tours with Pablo Cruise … they’re all like that. There are already plans to book us starting this summer. The band is simply called by my name. Music is a great passion for me and it is a thrill to pursue this new opportunity.

    As a result of that passion for music, I conceived the idea for Rock the CASA several years ago as an Evening of Music for Children in Need. As a board member of CASA—which is the CASA in Rock the CASA, of course—I wanted to create a different kind of charity event. I’ve been on the CASA board for many years, probably a dozen or more. My very best friend in high school, who lost his parents under terrible circumstances, should have had a very different life, but did not have the support of a family or truly caring adults. Later in life, I realized what was missing in his, so CASA was a good fit. 

    I’ve also been on the board of Friends of Camp Concord (FOCC) for twenty years. We send underserved kids to summer camp at Lake Tahoe. In the 22 years I’ve hosted a golf tournament for FOCC. We’ve sent 10,000 kids to camp, all expenses paid. For Big Brothers Big Sisters, I serve on an honorary committee with Willie Brown, Dianne Feinstein, and Lorrie Sullenberger (wife of famed retired heroic American airline Captain “Sully” Sullenberger), and just love the mission to mentor young people.

    Rock the CASA is fully centered around young people in need who need help, guidance, and new experiences. It raises money and also awareness for all three of these amazing causes. The first year featured Eddie Money, then REO Speedwagon in 2016, Cheap Trick in 2017, and now Melissa Etheridge this year. RTC is on the first Saturday in March.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are you most looking forward to at Rock the CASA this year? Have you ever met and performed with Melissa Etheridge?

    Dan Ashley: I am looking forward to a really special evening this year with an amazing headliner and a few surprises. We have remarkable sponsor support, fantastic auction items, and music all over the Lesher Center—at the VIP reception, in the lobby, on stage as people take their seats even before the show starts. I met Melissa in August when we shot the television spot that is airing on ABC7 now. She is just terrific and is really excited to play this event. I decided this year that I wanted to mix things up and find a great female artist, and Melissa was the obvious choice. I’m just thrilled she was able to add it to her touring schedule.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your philanthropic work has tremendously benefitted the LGBT community, such as through your long-standing involvement with AIDS Walk San Francisco. What is your personal connection to the LGBT community, and how might that have influenced your desire to help out?

    Dan Ashley: One of the things I am most grateful for about this great job I have is that it gives me a unique place in the community simply because of its public nature. It is a privilege to be able to be involved in so many ways that are meaningful to me and I would like to think are meaningful in some ways to various causes that I support. One of the associations for which I am most proud is AIDS Walk San Francisco. For more than twenty years, I have supported the Walk in many ways—including serving as emcee every year. I remember the first year that I was on the dais looking out at 25,000 people who came to Golden Gate Park that morning and I was so proud, proud to be in a community where caring people gather in large numbers to make a difference. Way back when, the LGBT community did not get that kind of support. Almost every one of us have personal connections to this community, I certainly do, and it is important that we stand together with them to show our love and support.

    San Francisco Bay Times: We cannot even imagine your work schedule, given your many important projects. What is a typical work day like for you?

    Dan Ashley: My days are a bit frantic I will admit, but they are generally filled with things that I am grateful to have the chance to do. In the few months leading up to Rock the CASA, my mornings are often filled with activities and duties related to the event. Quite often, I speak at lunches for various groups before work. I also take a couple of singing lesions each week, so I try to make time for those. I also serve on several boards and a lot of those calls are made in the morning as well, or during my commute into the city. After all of that, it’s time to head to the city. I anchor four newscasts each day—sometimes five if the 4 pm anchor is off—and it’s a pretty busy and full day spent writing and editing material for each of them. I get home at around 12:15 each night.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What have been some of the highlights of your career so far? We recall your one-on-one interview with former President Barack Obama, for example, but are wondering what stands out for you.

    Dan Ashley: I have had so many remarkable experiences as a journalist. I did interview President Obama at the White House a few years ago, and that was a great privilege. The chance to ask a sitting president questions was certainly a highlight. I also interviewed George W. Bush shortly before he was elected, and that was also a great experience because I found that his public image was not at all the impression I had of him in person.

    Among my most memorable stories was the chance to cover the March of the Living in Poland about ten years ago. That is an annual event where Holocaust survivors and Jews from around the world gather to march symbolically from the Auschwitz concentration camp site to the site of the former death camp, Birkenau. To be there with three Bay Area people who survived those camps was truly incredible. I’ve covered political conventions, inaugurations, wildfires, hurricanes, and just about any kind of story you can name with boots on the ground and every one of them has been a growth opportunity both personally and professionally. I saw John Glenn return to space about the shuttle in Florida, and I flew with the Blue Angels. I’ve just been so fortunate.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Is it true that you were once an ice skating instructor? Do you still enjoy skating? 

    Dan Ashley: Yes, it is true. I was a figure skating instructor and also a competitor and performer—in freestyle, pairs, and ice dance. For a time, I skated five or six nights a week. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t bad, but since I wasn’t going to the Olympics, I figured I better find a different career!

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are some of your future goals? You have already accomplished so much! We’re even wondering if you might run for a political office someday.

    Dan Ashley: One of the things that makes life so enjoyable for me is to find new interests and to set new goals. While my career in journalism is always my top priority, there are always new opportunities to pursue and goals to reach. Rock the CASA has become a significant event, and my intention is to continue to see it grow to a point where it is ultimately self-sustaining.

    I would like to see how much I can grow and achieve as a singer—that is a real love. One of my brothers and I have written several screenplays that we have shopped around in L.A. with agencies and script experts, and I would love to push that forward a bit more. We have no shortage of ideas—several finished screenplays and a dozen or more in some state of development. It would be so much fun to see that go somewhere. 

    I am also currently working on a book that I plan to finish by the summer that is focused on helping readers gain perspective and to pursue what really matters in their lives. It is a little surprising and very flattering how many people ask me whether I have an interest in politics. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or an insult! Kidding aside, the short answer is no or, at least, probably not. While there are many issues I care a great deal about and think we could deal with far more effectively, I am not sure that I am political enough by nature to want to dive into that snake pit—it’s tough!

    The only thing I might add is that, however busy my life and career may seem, I cherish down time and very simple pleasures. I don’t care a lot about parties and fancy dinners; I truly don’t. The perfect evening for me is a great movie or football game at home with a pizza delivered to my door and then a late-night bowl of ice cream. Mint Chocolate Chip please.

    To learn more about Ashley, go to: http://abc7news.com/about/newsteam/dan-ashley/