Some of the most rewarding experiences of my career have resulted from contributing my gifts as a musician to serve a purpose greater than myself. In 2011, I became involved with a project called “Ben and I Play for Peace.” A young man named Ben inspired three very busy adults to put on concerts in three cities in our first year: Austin, Denver and Sarasota. Ben was playing outside of a bakery in his hometown in San Francisco to help raise money for children who needed wheelchairs in Iraq. I became the Florida director of this project and we held benefit concerts for three years. When I came to know about Ben’s work, I learned that he had raised $20,000 on his own. Through our joint concerts, we were able to add another $20,000 to his grand total. The monies benefit Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids and ROC Wheels. Later years of the project also benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Veterans’ Guitar Project in Austin, Texas.
More recently, I have been happy to support projects benefiting orphaned and abandoned children in Mexico. I sang for benefits that contributed to the continuing education of vulnerable children and served for two years on the board of directors of a non-profit organization involved with this work. In 2014 & 2015, I traveled to Oaxaca City and was able to meet and spend time with many of the young people that these benefits served. In response to the natural disasters this fall, a generous portion of the proceeds from my November recital benefit hurricane relief through the American Red Cross.
As a student, I spent countless hours practicing and thinking of myself. A question often haunted me – “who am I helping with this?” As I matured I understood that contributing art and beauty to the world helps everyone. Becoming involved in a cause that directly impacts children in particular gave me a very clear answer. I didn’t spend all those hours refining my craft just for myself. With it, I can also help make a difference.