Sunday, March 26, 2023

Behind the scenes: Local bands unite on ‘One Perfect Summer’ album for Surfers Healing autism charity

Led by George Hartner of Mighty Olas and Hourglass Studios’ Trent Harrison, album sales will go toward scholarships for kids with autism to participate in surf camps.

WILMINGTON — Eleven bands in Wilmington have joined together to produce an eclectic album called “One Perfect Summer” to benefit Surfers Healing, a charity that helps kids with autism learn how to surf in camps across the U.S.

CDs will be available at a Surfers Healing camp at Wrightsville Beach Monday and Tuesday of next week, as well as local participating surf shops, including Aussie Island and Side Arm in Wilmington, and 50 South and On Shore in Surf City. Digital albums will be sold on iTunes and Amazon, they’ll also be streaming on Spotify and Pandora.

For George Hartner, creator and executive producer of the album and lead singer of Mighty Olas, the idea of producing an album-for-charity sprang from his own experience with kids who struggle with autism, including his godson.

After volunteering as a “board caddie” at last year’s Surfers Healing camp in Wilmington, Hartner wanted to get involved.

“I thought I was going down there to do my good deed, then I got hit with this thought of, ‘My God, this is amazing,’” Hartner said. “You know, this is a life changing experience. I mean, to watch these kids who were a moment ago terrified about what they were going to get into, and then watch this calm come over them, I knew I was truly watching the healing power of the ocean.”

George Hartner, lead singer of Mighty Olas and executive producer of "One Perfect Summer". (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
George Hartner, lead singer of Mighty Olas and executive producer of “One Perfect Summer”, said his goal is for a permanence to resonate in the album through platforms like iTunes and Spotify, where people can listen to the songs well into the future. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)

When Trent Harrison of Wilmington’s Hourglass Studios – who had worked with Hartner on previous Mighty Olas albums – produced a Christmas album last winter with local artists to benefit New Hanover County music education programs, Hartner approached Harrison with the idea for “One Perfect Summer”.

“We sat around and did a pow-wow at Hourglass Studios in the spring, and everybody kind of just took it on their own from there,” said Hartner, adding that most of the musicians created original songs for the album to reflect the positivity and peacefulness of surfing.

Hartner raised $7,000 for studio space, distribution of the album, and a live release show at Theater Now scheduled for October 7th with a current lineup of Mighty Olas, Da Howlies, Elephant Convoy and Stray Local.

Kids with autism making music

The album leads off with “Dave the Wave” by Raleigh’s George “DJ GeoYio” Yionoulis, a 10-year old with autism whose musical career began when he posted a YouTube video that went viral with 1.2 million views.

“He’s somewhat of a protege,” his father Mike Yionoulis said. “[My wife] and I are both musical – she’s a stage actress and I’m a composer – but we have taught him, essentially, nothing. He has an innate talent. He has perfect pitch … he teaches me stuff about my pro (music) software now.”

He went on to speak about the influence Surfers Healing has had on his son’s life, and the communion shared by families with common experiences and struggles.

“Just being out on that beach, it’s a spiritual experience,” Yionoulis said. “It’s amazing to see these kids, even the ones who were struggling on the beach – once they’re on the waves it’s kind of a Zen thing going on.”

The album also features drummer Zack Lanier, 12, who is also on the autism spectrum. Alongside his father Alex – a guitarist for L Shape Lot – and his aunt Whitney, they recorded track number 10, “Today in a Frame”.

Harrison from Hourglass Studios noted the importance of choosing the right bands for the album, which ended up with a mixture of EDM, rock, Americana, reggae, Hawaiian, folk, and bluegrass.

“We wanted to make sure we got some bands with original music that was positive and uplifting, or if we knew them personally – knew their vibes – and thought they’d be a good fit,” Harrison said. “We also just picked them based on what we liked.”

Most musicians are surfers themselves, Harrison added. 

Hartner’s ultimate goal for is for a permanence to resonate in the album through platforms like iTunes and Spotify, where people can listen to the songs well into the future.

“And the families and kids can talk about it down the road,” he said. “And the bands know they left something amazing behind.”

Take a preview listen of the album

Listen to a preview of the album here:


  1. Dave the Wave – DJ GeoYio
  2. Summer’s Here – Mac & Juice Quartet
  3. One Perfect Day – Mighty Olas
  4. Break the System – Elephant Convoy
  5. Walking on Air – Onward, Soldiers
  6. Makin’ My Way – L Shape Lot
  7. We’re All the Same in the Water – Da Howlies
  8. Little Tunes – Stray Local
  9. Forever – Signal Fire
  10. Today in a Frame – The Laniers
  11. Watch Me Run – Massive Grass

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