Fitz and the Tantrums Drummer Launches Coffee Business That Gives Back

Fitz and the Tantrums. Photo: Joseph Cultice

By Laura Ferreiro

The life of a successful, touring musician can be hectic and demanding, but John Wicks, drummer for Fitz and the Tantrums, has found time not only to open up a popular café in his hometown, but also to ensure that it gives back to the local community.

After being a barista for years before his musical career took off, Wicks developed a passion for making good coffee and bringing people together in a relaxed, casual atmosphere to enjoy the java.

“I worked as a barista in Seattle for over 10 years back in the ‘90s,” Wicks explains to Music for Good. “Coffee provided me with income, a flexible schedule so that I could pursue my musical dreams, notoriety, a social life and a love for the craft of making espresso.” These passions inspired him to recently open Drum Coffee in his adopted hometown of Missoula, Montana.

What’s more, Wicks ensures that Drum Coffee supports the local community by donating a percentage of its sales to renowned charities voted on by its customers. “We choose three local non-profit organizations quarterly,” says the renowned percussionist who co-founded Fitz and the Tantrums and has played with artists including B.O.B., George Clinton, David Byrne, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chocolate Genius, Money Mark and RZA. “Each time a customer makes a purchase, he or she may vote for one of the three non-profits we are supporting at that time. We then allocate two percent of sales based on the number of votes each organization receives during the three-month donation period.”

Drum Coffee currently supports the local YWCA as well as Animeals, a no-kill pet adoption center and food bank, and Open Aid Alliance, which provides free HIV testing and AIDS prevention education and outreach.

John Wicks. Photo: Joseph Cultice

Wicks was a big fan of the casual, communal meeting-house vibe of the Seattle coffee houses where he worked in the ‘90s, which he believes is absent from most cafes these days. “Unfortunately, the ‘third wave’ of coffee culture that is happening now has taken a lot of the social aspect and fun out of the experience,” he says. “While the quality of coffee is higher than it ever has been, and the science and methodical preparation is incredible, the fun is gone. Most cafes I go into now are very museum-like. The baristas are intimidating, folks are scared of seeming stupid, and the atmosphere is quiet with folks mainly there for free WiFi. I pined for the casual vibe of the ‘90s Seattle coffeehouses and the social aspect of Italian cafes. I wanted to provide a meeting place for the neighborhood to come together and chat, gossip, and rub elbows with one another and the barista.”

While the other members of Fitz and the Tantrums are based in Los Angeles, Wicks fell in love with Missoula, and decided to put down roots there and use the cafe as a way to give back to the community. “I love Missoula,” he gushes. “I was a Navy brat as a kid so we moved all over the place, and I continued to do so as an adult, living in Boston, New York, Greece, Los Angeles, and finally ending up here in Montana. It’s the first place I’ve lived where I miss it as if it were a person. The people here are so supportive of us and we didn’t want to take it for granted. This business model just makes sense to us. Customers encourage us to stand on our own two feet and to follow our dreams. Why would we not give back to those people? It feels good, and it just seems like common sense.”

Wicks has plans to expand the scope of the cafe’s charitable initiative, one coffee bean at a time. “The first step for Drum Coffee’s philanthropic expansion is to begin selling our whole bean coffee and merchandise online and dedicate another quarterly non-profit to those sales,” he says. “Our hope is to inspire other businesses to adopt a similar philosophy and expand the charitable initiative that way. Lead by example and be the change you want to see in the world, so to speak.”

Meanwhile, Fitz and the Tantrums are gearing up to release their eponymously titled third studio album in June, and will embark on an extensive US tour this summer. The band is also doing its part to support causes it believes in.

“Some of us in the band have recently come together and decided to donate proceeds from upcoming shows in North Carolina to Equality North Carolina, a group working to repeal House Bill 2,” says Wicks. “This law forbids localities to enact ordinances prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians, and it requires people to use the bathroom that aligns with their anatomical gender at birth rather than the one with which they identify. We’d like to see it repealed in the next legislative session.”

But until the band heads out on tour, Wicks will continue to enjoy the perks of being a café owner. “My cafe is loud and fun,” he says. “We have no WiFi so people talk to one another. Mainly though, I just love being a barista. Being behind the bar during a busy morning rush gives me the same hypnotic focus and feeling that practicing drums does. It’s magical. Also, as the owner I get to drink all the coffee I want, which is awesome.”

Paul McCartney, Sting and Other Top Musicians Launch ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ Campaign for Music Education

Paul McCartney

By Kennedi Johnson

“Every kid deserves the right to learn an instrument,” says musical icon Paul McCartney. “If it hadn’t been for my dad giving me a trumpet on my 14th birthday, which I traded for a Framus Zenith guitar, I’d have never joined the Beatles.”

In order to secure the chance for every American child to learn how to sing or play an instrument, countless musicians are lending their time and support to the Don’t Stop the Music campaign. Based on a 2014 televised campaign in the UK, Don’t Stop the Music is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of music education programs in the United States. It enjoys the support of a number of leading musical icons including McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Harry Connick Jr., Aloe Blacc, My Morning Jacket, O.A.R, and many others.

The year-long campaign launched on May 16 with a 10-day eBay auction. Don’t Stop the Music’s supporting artists donated some phenomenal auction items such as two VIP tickets for McCartney’s U.S. tour, a signed saxophone from Bill Clinton’s private collection, tickets to an Alabama Shakes concert, and sheet music autographed by Sting. You can bid on auction items here. Although the auction closes on May 26, the campaign will continue over the course of the next 12 months.

In early 2017, Grammy Award-winning singer and actor Harry Connick, Jr. will host a documentary special featuring some of today’s most accomplished musicians. Keeping in theme with Don’t Stop the Music’s mission, the documentary will emphasize the importance of music education in our schools. The documentary will be televised on PBS stations nationwide.

Next, Don’t Stop the Music will host a star-studded, A-list concert in the Spring of 2017. The concert will recognize the innovative, passionate, and inspiring educators and students who make music education possible.

And finally, Don’t Stop the Music has organized a year-long musical instrument drive. The drive will take place in eight hub cities and other designated towns and communities. Instruments will be collected, refurbished and distributed to more than 250,000 music students and educators across the country.

To find out more about Don’t Stop the Music or donate to the campaign, click here.

Rihanna Launches Global College Scholarship Program

Rihanna

By James Pleasant

Pop megastar Rihanna wants students around the world to achieve their full potential as global citizens. As a result, she and the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) – which she founded in 2012 to honor her grandparents – launched a global scholarship program to provide students around the world with full-ride college scholarships.

The CLF will award students in Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and the United States between $5,000-$50,000 in scholarship money, which will be renewed until the completion of the students’ bachelor’s degrees. Applications for the 2016-2017 school year will be accepted until June 10, and winners will be announced in August.

“To be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honor,” said Rihanna. “Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it.  I am thrilled to be able to do this.”

All applicants must have already been accepted into a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited four-year college in order to qualify for the scholarship. Fifty students will be selected for the 2016-2017 school year, and qualification will be based on academic performance, leadership, work experience and an essay. Students must maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average in order to qualify for renewal of the scholarship.

The “Work” singer is no slouch when it comes to philanthropy. In 2008, Rihanna helped raise awareness for HIV/AIDS through H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS project. In 2012, she donated $1.75 million to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in her hometown of Bridgetown, Barbados.

Other foundations and campaigns Rihanna supports include MusiCares, Red Cross, Hope for Haiti, Live Earth, Grammy Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association.

For more information about the scholarship, click here. To learn more about the Clara Lionel Foundation, click here.

Members of Guns N’ Roses, Deep Purple & Cheap Trick Front Star-Studded Benefit for Adopt the Arts

Drummer and Adopt the Arts Cofounder Matt Sorum

By Kennedi Johnson

With arts-based curriculum increasingly becoming a footnote in American education, organizations that strive to preserve and protect arts in public schools are all the more important. One such organization is the LA-based charity, Adopt the Arts.

On May 12, Adopt the Arts will host a live benefit concert at Hollywood’s Fonda Theatre featuring an illustrious lineup of rockers, including Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes, Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, Adopt the Arts cofounder and former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, his former Guns N’ Roses’ bandmate Gilby Clarke, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, and many more.

In addition to the rockin’ concert, Adopt the Arts will host a live and silent auction. Some of the auction items include a color print photo of Prince from rock photographer Gene Kirkland, a canvas screen print signed by Woody Guthrie, an African safari, and guitars signed by bands including Metallica, Maroon 5 and Journey. All proceeds collected from ticket sales, donations, and sold auction items will benefit Adopt the Arts’ Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) elementary school music programs.

Founded by Sorum and activist Abby Berman, Adopt the Arts aims to reach public schools across the nation, but the primary beneficiaries are schools in the LAUSD. The LAUSD arts-based curriculum has been floundering due to the lack of commitment to the preservation of the arts and a decrease in arts education funding. Without the support of Adopt the Arts, many LAUSD students would not have access to arts education, as an estimated 80% of its students live at or below the poverty level.

“Adopt the Arts was born out of frustration for my own children losing education in the arts,” says Berman. “Because Federal and State funding is falling short, the responsibility is upon us as concerned parents and citizens to ensure we’re raising a new generation of healthy and well-rounded individuals.”

To purchase tickets to the concert, make a donation, or to learn more about Adopt the Arts, click here.

Haim, Beth Ditto, ZZ Ward & More for Girls Rock Camp Foundation Event

Haim

By Kennedi Johnson

There are certainly plenty of amazing girls who rock, but in a male-dominated music industry, it’s hard to deny that we need to nurture more rockin’ girls. That’s where the Girls Rock Camp Foundation comes in. Since 2014, the organization has provided funding and support to Girls Rock Camps nationwide. On Friday April 29, the Foundation will present its first annual “Girls to the Front” gala at LA’s Chateau Marmont.

The event will be hosted by writer, comedian, and Golden Globe-winning actress Rachel Bloom. Singer-songwriter and the Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto will be the event’s VIP dinner host. Ditto will be accompanied by singer-songwriter ZZ Ward and indie pop duo Tegan and Sara. There will also be a special performance by the LA-based sister rock group HAIM.

“Girls to the Front” will honor the pop songwriting duo Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Michaels and Tranter have collaborated together on Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” and Selena Gomez’s “Good for You”.  They have also been sought out by many other renowned musicians including Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love and John Legend.

In addition to Michaels and Tranter, Ethiopia Habtemariam will be honored at the event. Habtemariam is the President of Motown Records, the President of Urban Music, and Co-Head of Creative at Universal Publishing Music Group. Her accomplishments have landed her on Billboard’s highly acclaimed “40 under 40”, “30 under 30”, and “Women in Music” lists.

The event’s star-studded honorary committee is worth mentioning as well: Kristen Bell, Margaret Cho, Marianne Faithfull, Kathryn Hahn, Kathleen Hanna, Cyndi Lauper, Reba McEntire, Rose McGowan, Yoko Ono, Katy Perry, Chloe Sevigny, Carly Simon, Tegan and Sara, and AGI’s Marsha Vlasic.

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Pabst Blue Ribbon Grants Bands’ Wishes Through the PBR Music Foundation

By James Pleasant

Burgeoning bands often face countless obstacles on the road to success, whether it’s a broken down tour van, unexpected illness or even a chance encounter with a crocodile who gobbles up all of their gear (it could happen!) Luckily, Pabst Blue Ribbon is coming to the rescue with its recently launched PBR Music Foundation—a brand-new organization dedicated to helping musicians in need.

Here’s how it works. Musicians and bands from any genre are welcome to seek support from the PBR Music Foundation. They simply need to submit a sincere video explaining why they need the assistance.

Each month, PBR Music Foundation will award one band or musician a grant to help them overcome any hardships they’re facing in maintaining their music career and continuing their dreams.

“Touring bands and musicians know all too well the roadblocks (sometimes literally) that can hurt or hinder their road to success,” the Milwaukee-based brewing company said in a statement. “A van might break down, get a flat, or need a new transmission, or maybe the lead singer got hit with a flying bottle at a show and needs stitches. At the end of the day, these things cost precious time and money, and the more trouble a band has bouncing back quickly the longer it might take them to reach their full potential.”

To qualify, bands and musicians must submit the video and online application to pbrmusic.com, with bonus points given for creative submissions. The company also requires that the artists have a social media or an online presence.

“Another good prerequisite is to be a passionate, and somewhat well-rehearsed band,” says the spokesman in the official video released to promote the foundation. We don’t want a group of hacks playing shows just to get some tail.”

The launch of the foundation is part of PBR’s continuing involvement in the music industry. The company also holds its annual Project Pabst Music Festival, which is set to take place in Denver, Portland, Atlanta and Philadelphia this spring and summer with headliners including Duran Duran, Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Violent Femmes, Ice Cube, Andrew W.K., and additional artists to be announced.

To learn more about the PBR Foundation, click here.

Will Ferrell and Chad Smith Throw a Quinceanera for Two Great Causes

By Kennedi Johnson

Funnyman Will Ferrell and his uncanny lookalike, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, cordially invite you to their Red Hot Benefit Comedy + Music Show & Quinceanera! That’s right — two grown men are throwing themselves a Quinceanera. On Friday April 29, Ferrell and Smith will deliver musical and comical entertainment to LA’s Shrine Auditorium.

Aside from Ferrell and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the proposed line-up is guaranteed to please: Devo, Jim Gaffigan, Nick Offerman and many others! Ferrell and Smith first joined forces for a hilarious drum-off competition in May 2014 on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which raised more than half a million dollars for charity.

Surprised by the success of their short gag, Ferrell and Smith searched for new ways to raise money for their charities. “So much goodwill came out of one silly joke,” Smith says. “We’ve been trying to find another way to get together and do some good for our respective causes and I think we have found it.”

The Quince will raise money for two commendable charities. Ferrell’s charity of choice is Cancer for College. Cancer for College was founded in 1994 by Ferrell’s college fraternity brother, Craig Pollard. The charity’s mission is to help cancer patients go to college through the provision of scholarships. As of today, Cancer for College has raised more than $2 million for over 1,000 cancer patients and survivors in the United States.

Smith’s charity of choice is the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Silverlake Conservatory is the brainchild of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bass player, Flea. Arts funding and education are increasingly dwindling within the public school system. Silverlake Conservatory’s mission is to provide a basic music education for the Los Angeles community’s youth. The charity is able to secure this music education through the provision of extremely affordable or free instruments and music lessons.

Tickets for the Red Hot benefit Comedy + Music & Quinceanera show are available on Funny or Die’s website here. Don’t miss out on the chance to be a part of a star-studded night of entertainment that’s all for a good cause!

Check out Ferrell and Smith’s original drum-off below.

The Avett Brothers, Deer Tick on McMenamins Compilation to Bring Music to Kids in Hospitals

The Avett Brothers

By James Pleasant

Not only is McMenamins famous for its homebrews and the handcrafted spirits served up in its unique pubs, historic hotels, and concert venues throughout the Pacific Northwest, but it’s also releasing a compilation album in celebration of the 10th anniversary of McMenamin’s Great Northwest Music Tour (GNWMT) – and it’s all for a great cause.

The compilation, which features artists including The Avett Brothers, Deer Tick, Langhorne Slim and Elizabeth Cook, benefits the Children’s Cancer Association’s music program, MyMusicRx.

The artists featured on the compilation donated these songs, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go towards MyMusicRX, which is a program designed to help children deal with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses through the power of music therapy.

MyMusicRX’s program provides patients with sing-a-longs led by experienced music specialists, music lessons, concerts, greetings from artists, and the opportunity to play digital instruments.

The Portland-based program focuses on treating patients with “music medicine” in order to bring them joy and serenity in the face of serious illness. They currently serve more than 5,000 kids and teens in 20 pediatric hospitals across the country.

The McMenamins GNWMT, born in 2006, gathers developing artists to play free shows at McMenamins hotels throughout Oregon and Washington. This year’s compilation album features artists who played at previous GNWMT events, and is just a taste of what fans can expect if they attend the live shows.

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Giving Back at SXSW: A Rewarding Service Project for a Local Homeless Shelter

SXSW-goers including Chadwick Stokes of State Radio assemble gift bags for an Austin homeless shelter

This year’s South by Southwest Music Festival was a whirlwind of great music, thought-provoking panels and of course beer and barbecue, but one thing that made it even more memorable than usual was taking part in a service project to help a local Austin homeless shelter.

The unforgettable day started off with an official SXSW panel we took part in, titled “Music & Activism: Amplifying Your Voice for Social Good.”

(L-R) Jeb Gutelius, Marta Riggins, Marika Shaw, Chadwick Stokes & Laura Ferreiro at the SXSW Social Giving panel

Chadwick Stokes, the frontman for State Radio & Dispatch and Co-Founder of Calling All Crows; Jeb Gutelius Executive Director of The Ally Coalition, Marika Anthony-Shaw of Arcade Fire and founder of Plus 1; Marta Riggins, Pandora’s Director of Employee Experience & Marketing; and Laura Ferreiro, Founder of Music for Good & M4G Media, had a lively discussion about how musicians, fans, brands and non-profits can come together to make a positive impact while supporting good causes and addressing important social issues.

Immediately following the panel, we invited audience members and other musicians, brands and SXSW-goers to put together gift bags for the local Austin homeless shelter, Front Steps. Volunteers of all ages came together to assemble gift bags full of shaving supplies, warm socks, healthy snacks and more. We also included handwritten notes in the bags to add a personal touch. After gathering all the goodies together and placing them in backpacks, we loaded up the sporty red vehicles that Mazda generously lent us to transport the gift bags from the Austin Convention Center to the front door of Front Steps.

Stokes helps a young volunteer assemble gift bags

“One of the things people experiencing homelessness in Austin need the most is shaving cream and razors,” explained Kay Klotz, Front Steps Communications and Development Director. “Socks are also so important when it is raining or cold as foot problems are common. We were thrilled to receive approximately 300 backpacks containing these items. More importantly, our clients were thrilled to receive them! Every time a group makes a special effort to acknowledge the people who are experiencing homelessness, it lets them know that they are not invisible.”

Loading boxes outside the Austin Convention Center to deliver to Front Steps homeless shelter

We all agreed that this was one of the highlights of SXSW and that we’d like make the service project an annual tradition.

“Since we had a panel about music and activism during SXSW Music, we didn’t want to just discuss how easy it is to give back, but also demonstrate how easy it can be,” said Riggins.

(L-R) Laura Ferreiro, Marika Shaw, Jeb Gutelius, Chadwick Stokes & Marta Riggins amid a sea of backpacks donated to Front Steps homeless shelter

“Seeing musicians, brands and attendees come together to give back at our service project was inspiring,” she added. “It re-affirmed our belief that SXSW is a great way to bring like-minded people together in the music industry to make an impact. After touring Front Steps and learning about their needs, all of us felt that we could help solve this problem and believe there is potential to do even more social good at SXSW next year!”

Jack Johnson Interview: The Musician & Environmentalist Illustrates How Easy It Is to Be Green

Jack Johnson educates & entertains kids through his Kokua Hawaii Foundation environmental programs. Photo: Ryan T Foley

By Laura Ferreiro

Jack Johnson has long been known for his laid-back, beachy vibes and his feel-good music. But beneath his calm surface and easy-going demeanor lies a very thoughtful, calculating artist and environmental activist who knows exactly what percentage of carbon emissions comes from fans traveling to his shows and has devised creative ways to make his tours more environmentally friendly while supporting great causes.

The 40-year-old singer was well on his way to a successful career as a professional surfer when he had a bad surfing accident at the age of 17, running into a coral reef and severely cutting up his face. As a result, he quit pro surfing and decided to pursue music. It ended up being a fantastic career move, as his 2001 debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, went platinum and paved the way for even greater success headlining major festivals, amassing a huge and loyal fanbase and releasing numerous hit albums.

All the while, Johnson has effectively used his platform as an artist to gather people together and champion the causes he deeply cares about. “Growing up [in Hawaii] I had a profound love for the natural world and the environment and the ocean,” Johnson tells Music for Good. “As I got older, I found myself in this position [as a musician] where I suddenly had the ability to gather lots of people at once.”

Kim & Jack Johnson. Photo: KokuaHawaiiFoundation

Kim & Jack Johnson. Photo: KokuaHawaiiFoundation

Johnson’s wife, Kim – who was his college sweetheart – left her job as an educator to manage his tours in the early stages of his career. Working together they saw how they could use their unique position to affect positive change. “I took her out on the road with me, and we started to see that the potential to gather all these people and how to use that to affect these communities in a positive way,” Johnson recalls.

This desire to give back became even greater after Johnson was asked to perform at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit, an annual star-studded concert to support the School, which is dedicated to educating children with special needs. “Being invited to Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit and seeing their strong community of musicians and whole team coming together to do something so positive for the community was really inspiring,” Johnson says. “Coming back to Hawaii we did the first Kukua Festival, inspired by the Bridge School Benefit. I had conversations with Pearl Jam, Neil Young and Willie Nelson, and found out what they were doing.”

Meanwhile, Johnson had gone from playing small clubs and restaurants to headlining amphitheaters and major festivals. While most musicians would be thrilled about this, Johnson had a bit of an existential crisis when he realized the negative impact his tours were having on the environment.

“When you’re traveling in a van, your tour is low impact by nature,” he says. “[In the early days] all of our gear fit into one minivan and our impact was pretty low.” But then, as his tours and fanbase grew, so did the negative impact his tours were having on the environment. “A majority of emissions is from the fans coming to the shows,” he explains, admitting there was a time when he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep doing it because of this. Then he realized there was a way to reduce the harm and increase the good, and it made sense to him again.

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