Alicia Keys, Pharrell, Bono & More Come Together to Fight Racial Injustice in ‘23 Ways’ Video

By James Pleasant

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys assembled dozens of celebrities to stand in solidarity with the victims of institutional racism.

In the video 23 Ways to Be Killed If You’re Black in America, part of Keys’ “We Are Here” movement, musicians, actors, and comedians including Beyoncé, Pharrell, Queen Latifah, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Lenny Kravitz, and Bono cite 23 different incidents in which black lives were ended for frivolous reasons—namely at the hands of law enforcement.

The video was released a week after the senseless murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively. Sterling was shot point-blank by officers after he was detained for selling CDs outside of a grocery store, and Castile was shot dead in his car after reaching in his pocket for his ID after the officer’s instructions. Both deaths were referenced in the video.

The various reasons for many senseless deaths included “wearing a hoodie” (in reference to Trayvon Martin); “selling cigarettes outside of a corner store” (Eric Garner); “making eye contact” (Freddie Gray), and “calling for help after an accident” (Renisha McBride).

“The time for change is now,” says Keys in the video clip. “We demand radical transformation to heal the long history of systemic racism so that all Americans have the equal right to live and pursue happiness.”

The video is also tied to We Are Here’s “Moonshoot” petition urging President Obama and Congress to allocate $150 billion for poor communities in the United States, in order to end the institutional racism that has harmed people of color for centuries. The petition calls for these funds to help provide access to healthcare, equal education, housing, job training, nutrition, and reform of the Criminal Justice System over the next 10 years.

To sign the petition, click here. To learn more about We Are More, click here.

Dave Stewart Brings Sweet Dreams to UK Churches for Innovative Concert Series

Eurythmics' Dave Stewart launches Church Keys series

By Kennedi Johnson

Award-winning musician Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics is launching an extremely innovative pop and rock concert series: “Church Keys.” Stewart’s own “idea factory,” Dave Stewart Entertainment, is partnering with the Churches Conservation Trust to repurpose abandoned churches throughout the UK into unique concert venues.

The concert series idea is a nod to one of the church’s original functions: the creation of music. As they had for centuries before, the abandoned churches will once again ring with the sound of music. However, instead of hymns and Gregorian chants, the churches will host sounds of pop, rock and folk. “These churches are part of the fabric of England’s history,” says Stewart. “The buildings themselves hold so many stories in their walls. We want to expand that legacy and give it a soundtrack. We have so much reverence for these spaces, and it’s an honor to showcase them in a different light.”

A UK national heritage charity, the Churches Conservation Trust was naturally very interested in helping to develop this musical restoration project. “In order to ensure the future of these buildings, we want to make them what they used to be when the parish was the hub of the community,” Chairman Loyd Grossman told the Telegraph. “Music and churches are just so closely intertwined, whether it’s sacred or pop music is almost irrelevant because these are such great venues and the music brings people together.”

In addition to using the UK’s breathtaking churches as venues, “Church Keys” hopes to introduce up-and-coming artists to concert-goers. With the path to fame and recognition growing increasingly difficult and expensive, Stewart aims to provide an opportunity for new musicians to perform without all the extra hoops to jump through.

“Church Keys” began on June 16 at Langport’s All Saints’ Church with singer-songwriters Chris Difford and Nik Kershaw as headliners. Other confirmed performance locations throughout the summer include Cambridge, Blackburn, Eresham and Kings Lynn.

To view future dates and to grab tickets for “Church Keys,” click here. To read more about the latest projects of Dave Stewart Entertainment, click here. For more information on the Churches Conservation Trust’s mission to save at-risk historic churches, click here.

Lifelong Activist Kris Kristofferson to Receive Woody Guthrie Prize

Kris Kristofferson

By Kennedi Johnson

Tackling topics from racism to poverty, folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie dedicated his life to voicing the issues of oppressed Americans through his music. In honor of his altruistic spirit, the Woody Guthrie Center annually awards the Woody Guthrie Prize to a single artist who exemplifies commitment to using their own art form for promoting social good. This year, award-winning singer, songwriter, and actor Kris Kristofferson will receive the honor at a ceremony on October 18.

Kristofferson has been an active presence in the music world for decades. He was a member of the 1980s country group The Highwaymen alongside Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. He has also written lyrics for songs made famous by other prominent performers including Jerry Lee Lewis and Janis Joplin. What’s more, he’s made several notable appearances on the big screen, starring in movies A Star is Born and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Aside from incredibly successful music and film careers, Kristofferson has spent the greater portion of his life promoting social justice and equality. He has made it his duty to provide a voice for those in need by using his influential celebrity platform. “If you can move somebody’s emotions, you can move their brains too,” Kristofferson said in a 2012 interview with Music for Good. “If you have the opportunity to affect people’s way of thinking, then it’s your duty to do it.”

Kristofferson has made good on his word by actively supporting causes including immigrant and farmers’ rights. He has worked closely with the union group United Farm Workers (UFM) for nearly 30 years. The UFM was founded in 1962 by Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. “The farm workers are doing work that’s needed everywhere and they need help because people pay them as little as they can get away with,” says Kristofferson.

Noting the countless contributions he made over the years, the Woody Guthrie Foundation had no trouble selecting Kristofferson as recipient of the prize. “With over 50 years of social activism, Kris was an easy choice to receive the 2016 Woody Guthrie Prize,” says Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud. “It is an honor to recognize his incredible career and tireless work to make positive improvements in our society.”

Kristofferson will join an illustrious group of previous honorees including prize Pete Seeger (2014) and Mavis Staples (2015).

Hosted in Guthrie’s hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Woody Guthrie Prize will be presented at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District. The event will include performances by Kristofferson and others. For tickets to the event, click here. To read more about the Woody Guthrie Prize and the Woody Guthrie Center, click here.

St. Vincent, Rhye, Questlove & More for First-Ever Festival of Disruption Benefiting David Lynch Foundation

By Kennedi Johnson

Surrealist filmmaker and artist David Lynch has been a practitioner and advocate of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for more than 40 years. “TM is, in a word, life changing for the good,” says Lynch. In order to bring this “life changing” practice to people who experience stress or trauma, Lynch founded the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) in 2005.

In order to raise funds to further DLF’s work, it will host its first Festival of Disruption October 8-9 at the Ace Hotel and Theatre in downtown LA. The event will feature performances by an impressive array of musicians including St. Vincent, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, Rhye and Sky Ferreira. Renowned composer Angelo Badalamenti, who scored Lynch’s famed films Blue Velvet and Mullholland Drive will perform music from the Twin Peaks series.

Lynch hand-selected his favorite artists in various fields and backgrounds to take part in the one-of-a-kind event: musicians, visual artists, virtual reality creators, choreographers, and DJs.

In addition to the musical performances, there will be talks by renowned architect Frank Gehry, actors Laura Dern, Kyle Maclachlan and Mel Brooks, photography exhibits by Lynch and Chris Stein, a virtual reality experience by Chris Milk, a new dance piece choreographed by Ryan Heffington, and DJ sets by the Roots’ Questlove and KCRW’s Jason Bentley.

There will also be screenings of rarely viewed Lynch short films and classics, daily Transcendental Meditation sessions, and more. All of the funds from the Festival of Disruption will directly benefit the David Lynch Foundation.

Lynch initially began the DLF as an effort to fund the teaching of TM in schools. Performed twice a day, Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a practice in which the participant sits with his or her eyes closed and allows themselves to enter a “level of peaceful awareness.” There have been countless testimonials affirming TM’s ability to relieve stress and restore one’s composure.

The Foundation eventually expanded to help “at-risk” populations that experience trauma and toxic stress including African war refugees, prisoners, victims of domestic violence, veterans suffering from PTSD, and underprivileged children in low-income neighborhoods and schools.

Grab your tickets to the Festival of Disruption here. To donate to or discover more about the David Lynch Foundation and Transcendental Meditation, click here.

Shana Halligan on Teaming Up with Children’s Music Fund: “Music Releases Endorphins and Restores Lost Abilities”

Shana Halligan

By Laura Ferreiro

Music can fuel dance parties, fill stadiums and make our rush-hour commutes much more bearable, but many studies confirm that music does much more. It can help heal numerous physical and mental conditions and ailments, ease pain and elevate spirits.

Putting these studies into practice, the Children’s Music Fund (CMF) provides music therapy to children and young adults who suffer from chronic conditions and life-altering illnesses. The non-profit finds ways to bring music into hospitals where the children are being treated, as well as into their homes to help expedite their healing processes. It also conducts research to measure the impact music has on children to help ensure its programs are as effective and meaningful as they can be.

Renowned singer Shana Halligan – former lead vocalist for Bitter:Sweet who’s now working as a solo artist – recently became a spokesperson for CMF and will perform at a benefit concert for the organization on June 25 at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles.

“I was invited to perform at one of [CMF’s] fundraisers by a friend of mine and it was there that I learned about what incredible things they do,” Halligan tells Music for Good. “Over the past year we stayed in touch. I consistently asked how I could help, and a few months later they asked me to be their spokesperson!”

Through Children’s Music Fund, Jessie uses music therapy to promote physical rehabilitation and regulate breathing.

Halligan was drawn to the organization because she knows first-hand how powerful music can be. “We all know how music can change your mood in a moment,” she says. “It is the purest and most authentic wave you can sail on. There is no greater joy for me than being able to give through music. The idea that I can do what I love, bring people together in one room and help raise awareness and financial support for such an incredible organization is so inspiring.”

As a new parent, this cause had an even greater impact on Halligan. “Having recently given birth to a baby boy of my own, I have an even deeper connection with children,” she explains. “Looking into the eyes of my sweet, perfect little guy, I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak that other, less fortunate parents and children must feel when faced with these life-altering diseases.”

Halligan has witnessed the tremendous impact that music has on these children’s lives and believes in its potential to ease many conditions. “In pain management, music provides a distraction and cognitive imagery to aid in relaxation,” she explains. “Music releases endorphins which feel good! It can also help restore lost abilities such as speech or motor skills that may have been lost due to a brain injury. It improves the quality of life and confidence in these children and gives them a sense of purpose. They play, sing, write, listen, feel, and get lost in the natural healing abilities of song.”

The singer looks forward to spending time working and creating with the children when she visits them in the hospital this summer. Meanwhile, she’s excited about the CMF benefit concert and promoting her soulful and sultry new album, Back To Me. She’s also collaborating with Thievery Corporation on a new album and has several other projects in the works.

Grab your tickets for the all-ages CMF benefit concert featuring Halligan here.

Switchfoot Returns with 12th Annual Bro-Am Benefiting Youth

Switchfoot perform at the annual charity Bro-Am. Photo: Nick King

By James Pleasant

Alternative rock band Switchfoot will host its 12th annual Bro-Am charity event on July 9 — an event founded to benefit charities for underprivileged children in the San Diego area.

Bro-Am, which usually draws more than 15,000 people, will feature a surfing contest and a free concert with performances from Switchfoot, American Authors, Parachute, Josh Garrels, Brynn Elliott, and an as-yet unannounced local artist.

Last year’s Bro-Am drew boards and bikinis galore, and this year is bound to do the same, with plenty of colorful costumes on hand and expert surfers battling it out alongside kids and music fans of all shapes and sizes.

The Hurley- and iHeartMedia-sponsored event will benefit organizations including the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, Feeding America San Diego, StandUp for Kids, and the Rob Machado Foundation in an attempt to improve the lives of homeless, impoverished, or troubled youth who have limited opportunities due to their socioeconomic status.

Kids compete at the 2015 Bro-Am. Photo: Nick King

Children 16 and under will also have the chance to compete in the Rob Machado Bro Junior Surf Contest, named after famed surfer Rob Machado. Adults can participate in several other surfing competitions such as the Bro-Am Team Surf Contest and the More BRO than PRO Contest. In addition to the competitions, Bro-Am will host surf lessons for kids or anyone who wants to learn the sport.

“The Switchfoot Bro-Am began in 2005 as an unplausible dream that three of our favorite things – surfing, music, and the local community – could collide for a day in a way that gives back to the town that has given us so much,” said Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s vocalist. “To see our hometown come together and help deserving kids is an incredible experience.”

The Bro-Am festivities will begin on July 8 with the Bro-Am Benefit party, which will gather musicians, philanthropists and others in the San Diego area for a night full of good eats, cocktails, auctions and live performances.

Switchfoot has raised more than $1 million for San Diego’s youth charities since the inaugural Bro-Am event in 2005. For additional information about the 12th annual Bro-Am, click here.

Demi Lovato, The Lumineers, Andra Day and More Launch MusiCares Social Media Challenge

Demi Lovato supports the MusiCares Challenge

By Kennedi Johnson

The music community is a tight-knit group, so it comes as no surprise that there’s an organization created by music people for music people. This organization, the MusiCares Foundation, recently launched an innovative social media campaign, the #MusiCaresChallenge, to encourage people to support musicians in need by posing with their favorite albums.

The challenge asks music fans and musicians to take a snap or a video of themselves holding their favorite album, and post it to social media with the hashtag #MusiCaresChallenge. Those participating can then make a donation to the MusiCares Foundation and tag five friends to join in on the challenge.

The Lumineers support the MusiCares Challenge

Pop star Demi Lovato championed the cause by posting a picture of herself with her current favorite album, Beyoncé’s Lemonade. In addition to Lovato, several other celebrities are lending their time and support to the campaign including Troye Sivan, Andra Day, The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers, and the Backstreet Boys.

All proceeds from the campaign will be directed to those in need within the music community. To watch a video detailing the challenge and showcasing the celebrities involved, click here.

Described as the “music industry’s Red Cross,” the MusiCares Foundation is a non-profit founded by the Recording Academy to provide critical assistance and healthcare programs for members of the music community, including addiction recovery support and disaster relief. To date, MusiCares has provided more than $43 million in services and helped approximately 80,000 people.

Although it’s primarily known for the annual Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy has long been committed to lending a helping hand to members of the musical world in need. To find out more about the MusiCares Foundation, the Grammy Awards and the Recording Academy, click here.

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.”

Continue Reading →

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.