Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A shout out to Music Maker. (Let their voices be heard!)

In this day and age, it’s hard at times not to fall into the trap that equates artistic greatness and talent with financial success. The trap that tells us that “the market” (that brutal, unrelenting, but inherently – ahem -  impartial beast) will somehow discover all there is to discover and reward it appropriately.

To some degree, the market does do a lot of weeding out for us. Really terrible actors will generally stop getting good roles, no matter how many casting couches they fall onto. Really dreadful, wooden artists whose works fall flat on the canvas, emitting no spark of the divine, of coherence, emotion, skill or wit, won’t end up on the walls of MOMA for long. Really rotten musicians won’t sell out the big arenas year after year, and the purely manufactured hokum acts won’t tend to have staying power.

Not every artist will be to everyone’s taste, and we can all point to plenty of those with less than stunning talent who make it big, whose most stunning talent appears to be making a stunning amount of money without having anything any modicum of real talent.


Not that I can’t come up with well-populated lists of folks who’ve made it big who I don’t think have all that much to offer, talent-wise - and maybe because I am a reader-writer, my longest sub-list is that of writers  - but the majority of those who “make it” in some sort of artistic, literary, whatever endeavor are not what my father used to refer to as “no talent bums.”

The converse is no so true.

The only great writers aren’t the anointed ones with seven-figure book deals and full page ads in The New Yorker. The only legitimate artist isn’t Jeff Koons. And just because you’re not selling out arena shows doesn’t mean you’re not a great musician.

If you don’t trust my word, look and listen no further than this video, from PBS News the other evening:

Although it looks like you're going to the full show, clicking on the video should theoretically get you to the segment on the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a.k.a., Music Maker, . If that doesn't work for you - or if the segment starts in mid-stream - this link will take you to the page where Music Maker has posted it.. (Between the app I use to write my blog, and Blogger, where it's published, there doesn't seem to be a clean way to successfully embed a video. I've been crazing around with HTML, and it kinda/sorta works...)

Anyway, I know about the Music Maker through my brother-in-law, who has served on its board for the last several years.
Music Maker is a non-profit:
…founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time…
Since our founding in 1994, we have assisted and partnered with over 300 artists, issued over 150 CDs and reached over a million people with live performance in over 40 states and 17 countries around the globe.
Music Market is the life’s work of Tim and Denise Duffy, who have devoted their considerable talents and energies to the organization for the past twenty years.

Yes, Music Maker does plenty of handouts – some of those they help our so poor, old, and infirm that they really just need a case of Ensure and the heating bill paid – but it’s model is really to get the artists they support to do paid gigs.

Early on in their 20 years of supporting their artists, the Duffys learned that, while these folks “lived in abject poverty…when we asked how we could help, they didn't ask for money, they wanted a gig.”

The Duffys’ experience evolved into the Music Maker model, a model based on their realization that:
…it was easier to help an artist earn $500 than to raise $500 to give away, and the earning usually involved an artist doing what they love best: performing. Better yet, this most often results in a crowd watching the show, keeping the art form vibrant and our culture enriched.
Which is not to say that they still can’t use flat-out donations, which can be made here. Better yet, you can shop their catalog and support their musicians directly here.

I am a big fan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an incredibly talented group of musicians who are on the younger side of the Music Maker catalog age distribution. They are also not among the abjectly poor and needy musicians that Music Maker more generally supports. But they are dedicating their careers, and their extraordinary talents, to roots music. And if there’s a more beautiful, poignant and  soulful song than “Leaving Eden” out there, I’ve yet to hear it.

With Music Maker, Tim and Denise Duffy are doing something so meaningful and important.
The world needs more of this than we do yet another twerking and tweeting Beyoncé wannabe, that’s for sure.

Maybe they never get to sell-out the stadium. Maybe they never get to pay the NFL for the privilege of doing the Super Bowl half-time show. Maybe they never get the glitz and glamour.

But how wonderful to be reminded that there are so many brilliant, talented, dedicated musicians out there. Sure makes listening worthwhile.

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