Weird Al, St Vincent & More Promote Music Education at NAMM 2016

NAMM Foundation's Mary Luehrsen interviews Weird Al Yankovic Photo: Getty/Michael Loftus

By Laura Ferreiro

While most people think of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) as a musician’s playground where gearheads check out the latest instruments and jam out on the $4,000 guitar they’ve been eyeing, many don’t realize that promoting music education is at the forefront of everything NAMM does.

At this year’s NAMM trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center January 21-24, everyone from Weird Al Yankovic to Dr. John to St. Vincent did their part to celebrate the importance of music education in schools and inspire younger generations of musicians to play and pursue careers in music.

At the inaugural Rally for Music Education, NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen interviewed Yankovic. The curly-haired comic-singer discussed his creative process and how music lessons shaped his career. He explained that a traveling salesman came to his parents’ front door when he was young selling musical instruments, and they bought him an accordion rather than a guitar.

“It worked out…the accordion made me stand out,” he said. “If I’d learned the guitar I would have been one of 10 million people playing guitar and trying to get noticed.”

During the lighthearted exchange, Yankovic gave students in the audience some serious advice. “If you make a living doing something you’re passionate about, you’re already successful,” he said.

St Vincent at NAMM 2016

Renowned indie artist Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, also spoke to NAMM-goers during an interview with with NAMM President Joe Lamond about the launch of her own signature guitar with Ernie Ball, and her major musical influences including Nirvana and David Bowie.

“I guess I always looked at guitar as a noise-generator,” Clark said. “It could be a monster, it could be a shield, it could be very gentle. So I kind of just tried to explore the full palette of what guitar means and try to reinvent it for the 21st century.”

What’s more, the NAMM community took part in a Day of Service at James Guinn Elementary School in Anaheim on January 19 by coaching 4th, 5th and 6th graders to make music. The kids played guitars, drums and ukuleles with music educators and reps from Kala Brand Music and Remo Inc.

Ukulele class during the NAMM Day of Service. Photo: NAMM Foundation

“The NAMM Foundation works year-long to bring music to children around the world,” said Lamond. “And while our members come from around the globe, making a difference right here in Anaheim has special meaning to us. We’re proud to support the passionate music teachers, parents, students and administrators in the Anaheim City School District who are working so hard to ensure every child has an opportunity for a well-rounded education that includes music!”

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus has become a regular fixture at NAMM and was parked outside the Anaheim Convention Center offering tours to students and NAMM-goers who were treated to a glimpse of its state-of-the art, mobile recording studio. The non-profit offers students the chance to write and record music with high-quality equipment and music professionals completely for free. The Bus celebrated its 19th year at NAMM with a party featuring a Dr. John & The Nite Trippers.

Lastly, renowned rocker Alice Cooper joined Beasto Blanco for the NAMMJAM 2016 at the City National Grove Of Anaheim benefiting the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation on January 22. A live silent auction held during the event featured music memorabilia, autographed guitars, musicians’ original artwork and more to further Music Forward’s mission of providing young people with music-industry mentorships and greater access to music education.

Youth Orchestra Los Angeles to Perform with Coldplay at Super Bowl 50

Coldplay will perform with the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at Super Bowl 50

By Lauren Shelburne

Imagine receiving an invitation from one of the world’s biggest rock bands to join them on stage at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. This dream-come-true is a reality for the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), which was invited by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin to perform alongside his seven-time Grammy-Award-winning band at the Super Bowl Halftime Show at Levi’s Stadium on February 7 under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor, Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. Photo: Mathew Imaging

Since 2007, YOLA has provided more than 700 students ages 6-18 with free instruments, instruction and academic support with the help of the LA Phil and its partners.

The three branches of YOLA in Exposition Park in South LA, the Rampart district, and at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts in East LA all provide different services to students. YOLA at EXPO has three orchestras, mentorships, group lessons, chamber music and parent ensembles that students attend four days a week. YOLA HOLA offers music creativity, singing ensemble rehearsals and academic tutoring daily. YOLA LACHSA pairs elementary school students with high school students from LACHSA to act as mentors.

Dudamel has worked with the LA Phil and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He was inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, which provides free classical music education for impoverished children, and founded YOLA. Dudamel advocates for access to music for all and will be instructing the students at the Super Bowl.

“This is a wonderful honor and an extraordinary showcase for YOLA, as well as a tribute to youth orchestras worldwide,” Dudamel said. “When we play, it will be for the youth of the world so they can be inspired to create both a better life for themselves and a better future.”

The group performs annually at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and has played at the Hollywood Bowl in past years, but this will be its first experience performing at the Super Bowl, which will be seen by more than 100 million television viewers around the country.

Click here for more information about YOLA.

Music Community Rallies to Combat Flint Water Crisis

Cher was one of the first musicians to donate to Flint

By James Pleasant

Musicians across the U.S. are rallying to donate much-needed clean water and funds to help the citizens of Flint, Michigan during the city’s deadly water crisis, which has already contaminated thousands of residents with extremely high levels of lead.

The water crisis finally received national media coverage earlier this month after President Obama declared a federal state of emergency, following a Virginia Tech study of the city’s water quality, and a string of class-action lawsuits.

Pop singer Cher, with the help of the Icelandic Glacial bottled water company, is donating 181,440 bottles of water to the residents of Flint. Cher has been outspoken about the crisis on social media, criticizing Michigan’s elected officials for their negligence in handling the issue.

“This a tragedy of staggering proportion and shocking that it’s happening in the middle of our country…I cannot wait for the water to get there to help these people who have been poisoned because the water they’ve been getting out of their taps has been polluted for so long and remains that way without the state or the federal government stepping in with any substantial plan to resolve this problem,” said Cher in a statement.

Pearl Jam

The water will be distributed by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to other foodbanks, community centers and low-income housing areas throughout Flint – a city in which 40 percent of  the population lives below the poverty line.

Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records, is also lending a helping hand. It organized a water drive in Flint, and launched a campaign to raise money for relief efforts. The label is encouraging people to donate to its Crowdrise fundraiser and is offering a grand prize to one lucky donor. The grand prize winner will become a Platinum Vault Subscriber for the next 5 years and receive 20 free packages with all types of merchandise and memorabilia from the label.

All of the donations will go to the United Way of Genesee County Flint Water Fund. The money will be used to purchase water filters, bottled water and emergency services, and the remaining donations will go towards the Flint Child Health and Development Fund—an initiative to help children poisoned by the contaminated drinking water.

Legendary grunge band Pearl Jam donated $125,000 to the United Way of Genesee County, and inspired several of their friends and partners such as Brandi Carlile’s Looking Out Foundation, Glasper Progress Foundation, Live Nation, Republic Records, Ticketmaster and Universal Music Publishing Group to donate an additional $175,000.

Pearl Jam is urging fans to donate to the cause via Crowdrise and have already raised $20,000.

Several artists in the hip-hop community have also stepped up to help Flint survive its deadly water crisis. Big Sean, a rapper from nearby Detroit, donated $10,000 with a fundraiser on Crowdrise called #HealFlintKids through his Sean Anderson Foundation to assist the Flint Child Health & Development Fund.

“I am devastated by the water crisis that has put the entire city of Flint in a state of emergency,” said Sean in a statement to the Detroit Free Press.

Big Sean

Big Sean’s campaign is also packed with incentives, and people who donate $10 or more will get a chance to win two VIP tickets to see the Detroit rapper in concert, complete with a meet-and-greet and photo opportunities.

Compton rapper The Game donated $500,000 to Flint, and promised that water bottle company Avita Water will donate an additional $500,000. The $1 million total donation will be facilitated by The Game’s charity The Robin Hood Project, which assists poverty-stricken families and individuals.

Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill also got in on the action and donated 600,000 bottles of water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and to the Flint Child Health & Development Fund.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated in 2014, after the state switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which was already notorious for being dirty, according to a report by CNN. A Virginia Tech study revealed that Flint River is 19 times more corrosive than Lake Huron, which caused old lead pipes to leak into the water supply.

Mark Ronson, Alison Mosshart, Joanna Newsom and More to Headline Fleetwood Mac Fest Benefit Show

Fleetwood Mac

By Lauren Shelburne

The Best Fest will continue its 15-year tradition of bringing rock-and-roll to fans for charity with their latest event, the Fleetwood Mac Fest, on February 9 and 10 at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles.

The event will celebrate 40 years of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and John and Christine McVie as Fleetwood Mac with renowned artists performing their hit tunes. The eclectic bill includes Mark Ronson, Alison Mosshart of the Kills and The Dead Weather, Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, Joanna Newsom, Cold War Kids, KT Tunstall, Dhani Harrison, PHASES, Will Forte, Ruby Amanfu, Sarah Silverman, Karen Elson, Butch Walker and more, as well as the Cabin Down Below house band and a few unannounced special guests.

“We have some major surprises up our sleeves,” said Austin Scaggs, co-founder of Best Fest.

The Best Fest began in New York celebrating the accomplishments of musicians such as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones. In September 2012, ticket sale proceeds began to go to charity and allowed The Best Fest to expand around the country.

This year’s proceeds will be donated to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and The Sweet Stuff Foundation. Sweet Relief has been serving the musician community since 1994 and provides financial assistance to musicians who have suffered from disabilities, illness and injuries. Musicians of every genre have benefited from the fund. The Sweet Stuff Foundation has worked since 2013 to assist musicians with medical expenses not covered by insurance as well as help finance children’s music lessons and instruments.

“Fleetwood Mac has been such a major part of the soundtracks of our lives that it’s time to honor their living legacy,” Scaggs said. “These shows really represent the next generation of artists giving love to their musical heroes and raising money for two deserving charities.”

The Best Fest has celebrated other artists over the years to benefit notable charities that serve musicians. Previous Best Fests include Neil Fest, Dylan Fest, Stones Fest and Petty Fest.

Tickets to Fleetwood Mac Fest are available here.

Joan Baez Works with Amnesty International to Raise Awareness of Mass Incarcerations

Joan Baez teams up with Amnesty International

By Lauren Shelburne

On January 27, folk artist Joan Baez will celebrate her 75th birthday by launching an 18-city North American tour with Amnesty International with a star-studded performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

The performance will celebrate both Baez’s 50-year career with songs from every decade, and also bring awareness to the issue of mass incarceration of minorities in the United States. Audiences will have the opportunity to support the cause at shows with the help of Amnesty International workers.

Amnesty International works to bring justice and human rights to those all around the world while educating the public about these issues. The organization won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its contributions to bring peace and justice to the world. Baez began her work with the renowned non-profit in the 1970s after meeting Ginetta Sagan, a torture survivor and Bay Area activist.

Margaret Huang, interim executive director for Amnesty International USA, is excited to continue working with Beaz. “We are excited to continue our longstanding collaboration with Joan and look forward to welcoming her fans to join Amnesty International and take action on human rights issues here in the United States,” Huang said. “The United States is the leading jailer in the world. Together, we can change that.”

Baez took part in the Conspiracy of Hope tour in 1986 as a featured performer and was a special guest in the 1988 Human Rights Now! tour. On May 21, 2015 Baez was honored alongside Ai Weiwei with the “Ambassador of Conscience Award” for their leadership in the human rights field.

“I am pleased once again to be joining forces with Amnesty International, this time on the critical and urgent issue of racial and ethnic disparities of incarceration, right here in the United States,” Baez said.

Baez’s birthday performance will be recorded and produced as part of the Great Performances series on PBS and will feature notable performances from artists including Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter and more. Baez will then travel throughout the eastern region of the United States and conclude the tour in Buffalo, NY on March 26.

For tickets for Baez’s birthday show, click here, and to learn more about Amnesty International, click here.

FC Bayern Munich Teams Up with Linkin Park to Raise Money for Disaster Relief

FC Bayern Munich teams up with Linkin Park for Music for Relief

By James Pleasant

The FC Bayern Munich soccer team is fusing music, sports and a great cause by teaming up with Linkin Park in a disaster relief effort for the non-profit that the rap-rock band founded, Music for Relief. The Germany-based footballers are offering fans who donate to Music For Relief the chance to win some seriously enticing prizes.

The top prize earns one winner VIP tickets to a home game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. The winner and a guest will be flown into Munich round-trip, and treated to a three-night hotel stay as well as food and drinks, so what’s not to like?

The second prize winner will receive a signed comic from the team’s defender, Jerome Boateng. Other donators will be eligible to receive shirts, hoodies and other FC Bayern Munich gear.

To enter, fans simply donate at least $5 to Music for Relief at Prizeo.com. Each $5 donation get fans closer to the top prizes. The sweepstakes closes February 1.

Music For Relief is a non-profit founded by Linkin Park in 2005 dedicated to giving aid and relief to those affected by natural/environmental disasters. The band started it as a response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which devastated Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and surrounding islands. Since then, Music For Relief has raised more than $8 million for natural disaster survivors.

To learn more about Music For Relief, click here. To sign up for FC Bayern Munich’s prizes, click here.

College Playoff Free Concerts Kick Off with The Band Perry, Ciara & Campus DJ’s Spinning for a Cause

Ciara will perform at Playoff Playlist Live

By Laura Ferreiro

Leading up to the College Football Playoffs on January 11 between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers, fans will be treated to some stellar tunes from top artists and the Campus DJ National Championships at the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! free concert series.

The three-day event, which is billed a “virtual playlist for every segment of the population that makes up the college football fan base,” will feature performances by The Band Perry, Walk the Moon, John Mellencamp, Ciara and X Ambassadors. What’s more, top college DJs will spin for their chance to be named the national champion of the Campus DJ competition.

Once again, Music for Good has joined forces with Campus DJ and Chegg to present Spinning for a Cause, in which Chegg will give a generous cash donation to the non-profit of the winning DJ’s choice. Stay tuned for more details about the winner and his or her favorite charity!

The free concerts will begin at 4:15 or 5pm MT January 8-10 in Block 23 of downtown Phoenix between First, Second, Jefferson and Washington Streets and will also feature spirited performances by team mascots and cheerleaders.

The schedule is as follows:

Friday, January 8 – The Band Perry, David Nail and Campus DJ
Saturday, January 9 – Ciara, WALK THE MOON, X Ambassadors and Campus DJ National Championship
Sunday, January 10 – John Mellencamp, American Authors, Moon Taxi and Campus DJ
*Gates open each day at Noon MT; Performances start at 5 p.m. MT and at 4:15pm on Saturday

Join Bono for a Bike Ride, Get Compliments from George Clooney & Fight AIDS

By James Pleasant

Have you ever dreamed of biking alongside Bono or smoking legal weed with Snoop Dogg? If so, you’re in luck because RED – an organization dedicated to fighting AIDS – is offering many of these celebrity meetups as prizes to people who donate at least $10 this holiday season.

Over the next month, donors can bid on over a dozen of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and help fight AIDS while doing it!

Prizes include a holiday photo shoot with NBA legend Shaq, a glamourous makeover from Kim Kardashian, getting complimented by George Clooney, accompanying Meryl Streep on the red carpet, joining Snoop Dogg for a “Merry Jane Wellness” retreat in Colorado, meeting the cast of Game of Thrones on set in Ireland, riding bikes with RED founder Bono in Central Park, and many more.

“Life knocks us down, we get back up,” Bono says in a video promoting the campaign, referencing the nasty spill he took on a bike last year that left the U2 frontman seriously injured. “Forget about jumping out of planes, scaling Mount Everest. Join me for a bike ride and really live on the edge.”

RED launched the campaign on World AIDS Day (December 1), and proceeds will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.

Each dollar donated gives you 10 chances to win the celebrity experience of your choosing. For example, if you donate $10 – the minimum to enter – you get 100 entries in the prize pool. The more money you donate, the more likely you are to win the prizes.

Air travel and accommodation are also provided, so you won’t have to worry about paying those expenses if you win. There’s also an option to bring a friend along for the experience.

Bidding will continue until January 21, when the winners will be revealed. Every dollar donated will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—a private foundation dedicated to fighting extreme poverty, enhancing healthcare, and improving education.

To donate to RED, learn more about the prizes, and enter to win, click here.

Jennifer Lopez, Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas & More Want You to Rock the Vote

Jennifer Lopez and Blake Shelton join campaign encouraging young people to vote

By Laura Ferreiro

Although millennials played a key role in deciding the 2012 presidential election and re-electing President Obama, a recent survey showed that nearly 80 percent of 18- to 24-year olds are not politically engaged or active. What’s more, a majority believe that their vote will not “make a difference,” according to the Harvard Public Opinion Project.

To remind young people that their votes really do matter and to encourage them to vote and take an active role in shaping the direction of their country, Rock the Vote has teamed up with iHeartRadio and several notable musicians for a year-long-campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Jennifer Lopez, Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas, Tori Kelly, Prince Royce and P Diddy are among the artists who appear in a PSA urging young people to get out and vote.

“Next year, 84 million millennials will have the power to shape the direction of the country,” said Jonas.

Lopez reminds us not to take this for granted, as there are several countries where people don’t have the right to vote. “There are still countries around the world where people can’t choose their leaders,” she said. “As an American, when you turn 18, you have the right to vote.”

The campaign, “Voting is the Party,” encourages young people to “Register to vote and join the party now.”

Keeping Up With the Kardashians star Kendall Jenner also got into the act, dressing up as a suffragette in a PSA that gives an oral history of the women’s suffrage movement.

Check out the PSA below, and register to vote here.

DJs Raise Awareness of Climate Change with Worldwide Communal Music Event

The Crystal Method

By Laura Ferreiro

Electronic music artists from across the globe have teamed up for #ListenParis2015, a communal music event taking place during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to raise awareness of climate change issues.

More than a dozen top DJs and electronic artists including The Crystal Method, Above and Beyond, Oliver Heldens, UMEK, DJ Three, Danny Avila, Michael Mayer and many more will contribute playlists and mixes for a 24-hour live stream of music with the goal of uniting the world through the common experience of listening to the same music at the same time.

The stream will be available via Beatport starting at 5pm Paris time on Saturday, December 5, and will continue live streaming for 24 hours. The playlists will also be available on Beatport after the event.

World leaders including President Obama have been in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference this month. They aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit dangerous increases in temperatures that are threatening human beings and wildlife across the planet.

“Resolution of the climate change issue requires cooperation, inspiration, and communication among citizens and leaders from diverse cultures and backgrounds worldwide,” said Beatport President Greg Consiglio. “What better way to contribute than through the universal language of electronic music?”