The Brag Encyclopedia: Using the Power of Music to Uplift, Inspire, Educate, Heal, and Connect

Note from Auntie Kimberly: This is an Epilogue that accompanies To the Next Generation of Music Lovers:  We Had to Walk Ten Miles In The Snow to Buy Concert Tickets.  But the Album Art was Awesome.”  For the full effect, check out the original blog post first.  Or you can just read on for my “Brag Encyclopedia” – a listing of artists, events, and nonprofit organizations that use the power of music to music to uplift, inspire, educate, heal, and connect.  I’m proud to be a part of this extended family!

20151213_144957Music and Memory. This nonprofit organization raises funds to bring iPods into nursing homes, custom loaded with each patient’s favorite music. The results have been astounding. Just a few notes from a familiar tune and residents who were noncommunicative – even completely catatonic – suddenly re-engage with their loved ones and with the world around them. If you have 7 minutes, watch the short clip “Henry’s Story”. If you have 78 minutes, watch the full Alive Inside documentary. But before you hit “play”, grab a tissue. Oh, who am I kidding? Bring the whole box.

NAMM Foundation. I’d known about the National Association of Music Merchants for years, but recently became aware of their Foundation. Among other objectives, the NAMM Foundation seeks to promote music education and to encourage people to participate in making music, regardless of experience, age, or income level. If the Foundation’s “Just Play” PSA’s – including “No More Excuses” and “Music – The Original Social Network” don’t fire you up to learn to play a keyboard/trumpet/violin/flute/harmonica/tambourine (or to dig your old one out of storage) you might want to check your pulse.

Rosie’s House. Founded in 1996 by German immigrant Rosie Schurz, Rosie’s House is a charitable organization that provides instruments and free musical instruction to underserved kids in the greater Phoenix area. I attended a concert of their students a few years ago.  The performances were wonderful, and the stories were truly inspirational. One young man was getting ready to attend college – the first in his family ever to do so. Goosebumps!

Musical Instrument Museum. The MIM opened in Phoenix, AZ in 2010.  This beautifully designed building displays 6,000 instruments (out of a collection of 15,000) organized primarily by continent of origin, with a few special galleries and exhibits.  Visitors can watch video clips of many of the instruments in action, with audio provided via wireless headsets.  The Artist Gallery features exhibits from popular performers ranging from Toby Keith to George Benson to Roy Orbison to Jake Shimabukuro.  The Mechanical Music Gallery highlights self-playing instruments, with a fully functioning Apollonia dance organ as its centerpiece.  The Experience Gallery includes a room full of instruments that aren’t just for display – kids and grownups alike can make their own music by playing a harp, xylophone, ukulele, drum, guitar, gong, or banjo.  The facility also has a 300-seat venue that was designed for complete acoustic perfection and draws internationally recognized performers from all genres of music.

La Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura (The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura).  This is an amazing project featuring kids as young as 8 from a poor town in Paraguay; they play all styles of music using violins, violas, flutes, guitars, saxophones, and percussion instruments – all constructed out of trash from the local landfill!  I was thrilled to get a chance to see this group perform live at the MIM (see above) in October 2015; the setlist included everything from Pachelbel to Henry Mancini to Metallica to Frank Sinatra.  Conductor and founder Favio Chávez spoke through an interpreter and told a hilarious story about deleting e-mails from Metallica inviting the Recycled Orchestra go on tour with the band, because he thought the messages were spam.  For more information, check out the recent documentary landfillharmonic.

ProgPower USA.  A reviewer for this year’s installment of the USA’s premier progressive and power metal music festival noted, “If you walk away from this event without a dozen new friends and the desire to return, then you might have done the weekend wrong.” Back in 2006, I discovered Circus Maximus, a progressive metal band out of Norway, but was disappointed to find out their only USA date for the entire year was in Atlanta, GA at the kickoff event for ProgPower USA VII. So I sat at home for the rest of the year feeling sorry for myself. Nah, just kidding. I bought a ticket, flew across the country, and then stuck around to see the rest of the festival. The ripple from that one decision has turned into a tidal wave of positive impact on my life. For going on 10 years now, the festival has provided a unique opportunity to hear new bands that otherwise wouldn’t have been on my radar – and to find a fabulous bunch of new friends  who have excellent taste in music.

Theater Development Fund.  I once read a heartbreaking newspaper article about a special needs child forced to leave a theater production because he wouldn’t stop singing along with the performers. He didn’t understand why he was being asked to leave and cried all the way out. I’m a regular theater-goer. And I get that tickets are expensive and patrons want the best experience possible. But I would much rather sit next to an enthusiastic special needs child than an adult who thinks it’s OK to carry on a full-volume conversation during the show – or who believes they have a special dispensation from the Pope that exempts them from the ban on using electronic devices.  The New York-based Theater Development Fund works to make sure that the theater experience is accessible and enjoyable for everyone. In addition to education and engagement initiatives with local schools, the organization includes programs for patrons living with autism, vision loss, hearing loss, and physical mobility issues. Bravo!

The Phoenix Symphony’s B-Sharp Music Wellness, a W.O.N.D.E.R. Project. This amazing outreach effort has three separate projects that fall under the main program umbrella. The first brings members of The Phoenix Symphony to local hospitals to perform in public areas for patients, staff, and family members. The second involves working with patients living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and their care partners; programs take place in local care centers as well as at Symphony Hall. The third project, the Homeless Initiative, sends members of The Phoenix Symphony to perform in healthcare and community facilities that serve the homeless population.  The Phoenix Symphony also has an excellent program called Symphony for the Schools that brings students K-12 to Symphony Hall for a daytime concert.

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. A couple of years ago, I saw a short video of the orchestra as part of one of the exhibits at the Musical Instrument Museum. The orchestra was performing the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and I was initially inspired by the conductor’s passion.  However, I was even more inspired when I did some research online and learned about the group’s origins. The orchestra arose from what was intended to be a one-off project in 1999, where conductor Daniel Barenboim and author Edward Said brought together Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians for a workshop in Weimar, Germany. This unusual partnership was such a success that the group has since toured internationally and has recorded a number of CDs and DVDs.

Nightwish. A symphonic metal band with members from Finland and Holland, the group’s European tour was set to kick off just days after the Nov. 2015 terror attacks in Paris, the deadliest of which occurred at a concert hall. Instead of cancelling their scheduled Paris show – or even the whole tour – the band released the following statement on  Facebook: “…in solidarity with France, Europe, and the rest of the good, sane people of our world, we have no intention of cancelling our shows in France or anywhere else for that matter. Defiance is vital in the face of such darkness.” Play on, brothers (and sister).  Play on.

Edited 9/14/16

Piano. Push. Play. and Pianos For Peace.  Portland’s Piano. Push. Play. program restores old pianos and displays them in public places for the summer.  When the summer is over, the pianos are donated to local schools and community centers.  Atlanta’s Pianos For Peace has a number of programs that promote music education and utilize the power of music to bring peace, healing, and a sense of community.  During their “Pianos for Peace Festival”, pianos are placed in public places throughout Metro Atlanta for two weeks, and then donated to local schools, nursing homes, healthcare facilities and other community centers.  I love these programs – but I really should work on my own piano skills so that I can take advantage of them without becoming a public nuisance.

So that’s the “Brag Encyclopedia”.  For now.  As soon as I hit “Publish”, I’m guaranteed to think of ten more entries that should have been included.  Do you have a favorite one that I’ve missed?  Let me know!

 

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