Friday, September 21, 2018

Katy Macek

Area musicians have 'big hearts'

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I wrote a heartwarming story for Thursday’s On The Town section of the Leader-Telegram about 16 local musicians who donated their time and original songs — that they could have gotten money for — to a good cause.

The musicians partnered with Jennifer Coyne, mental health therapist for Arbor Place treatment center in Menomonie, to create a CD. “Homegrown” will be used to raise funds for Music Heals, a project Coyne started through Arbor Place to infuse music in the substance abuse recovery process. 

Through talking with Coyne, I learned how selfless these musicians have been, not only in creating this CD but, in 2015 when Coyne started Music Heals, in donating their instruments and funds to help her project get off the ground.

These aren’t superstar musicians such as Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, nor even as big as local legend Justin Vernon of the band Bon Iver, with funds to spare. They are every day musicians who take gigs when they get them and continue writing songs and performing as a hobby because they are passionate about it.

And, this isn’t the first time they’ve “dropped everything” for a good cause.

Anastasia Vishnevsky, a good friend of Coyne’s and one of the musicians who donated to Music Heals, said “it didn’t surprise” her how quick musicians helped “Homegrown,” because they always do.

In December, she and Duane Kebschull of DMi Sound co-produced “Manifestive: The Holiday Album,” a collection of holiday songs recorded by area musicians such as Billy Angell, Sue Orfield, Randy Sinz, Peter Phippen, Brian Bethke, Jim Pullman and others. She said they released that music for free to anyone who donated additional funds to benefit The Community Table.

Around Thanksgiving, Angell also ran his annual “Stage Fright: The Last Waltz.” The event is a tribute to the band called The Band, a national group that held the event with famous musicians each year. Angell’s localized version includes area musicians, and all of the proceeds from that concert also went to The Community Table. 

Those are just the bigger projects. 

Musician Dan Zerr, who appeared on “Homegrown,” said many of the events don’t even make the headlines, but he is often asked to perform at a local fundraiser.

“There’s always stuff going on where there are just local musicians coming together and helping out,” he said. “Everybody’s good to each other.” 

Just by glancing at The Plus’s Facebook events page, I see three different benefits featuring live music coming up before April: “Fight For a Cause — Supporting Kelsey Hamm” (Saturday) to help a woman battling breast cancer; the “Homegrown” CD release show I mentioned earlier (Sunday); and a benefit for Olivia Garcia, who appears to be a child struggling with Acute Disseminate Encephoalomyelitis (ADEM). 

Each of those events feature music from local musicians, and occur within a week of each other. Take a moment to let that sink in. 

“A lot of big hearts,” Zerr said of Eau Claire’s music community.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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