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Monday, June 27, 2011

Music With Soul

As you might have noticed- I am a little behind on posting. This is partly due to the general hecticness of life, but it is also a result of wedding season. I spent a long weekend in Sacramento for the lovely Love-Dumont wedding. The ceremony was beautiful and the vineyard reception was stunning - the only problem I can report over the whole weekend is that I was without reliable or free internet access. That being said I apologize for my blogging tardiness! To get back into the swing of things I've recruited some help.

Now, it is with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest blogger- my fiancé, Andrew. In addition to being an aerospace engineer and the most patient man alive, Andrew is a music enthusiast, a soccer fan and it just so happens, an excellent writer.  So with no further adieu, here is Andrew's post on music with a cause.

 When we began our wedding planning, Julie and I each made a list of the things that were priorities for us.  At the top of mine (well, alongside delicious food) was great music.  I wanted to have a band that people would remember, and as Engaged with a Cause took shape, also one that we could feel good about hiring.  Since our wedding is in New Orleans (a city that has had a rough decade, to say the least), we ideally wanted to find local musicians who were a part of the culture that we love so much.

I grew up going to public schools and participating in the music programs that they offered, so we were looking for ways to support students and their teachers. My brother-in-law (also musician, in my hometown of Lake Charles) put me in touch with the trumpeter John Gray.  Besides being a long time member and leader of numerous music groups in Louisiana (the Michael Foster Project, Soul Jukeboxx), John is also a music educator in Baton Rouge.  With budget crises putting pressure on public education (especially the arts and music programs), hiring a band with members who directly contribute to those programs was a no-brainer. After talking more with John and his musicians, it became clear that they go above and beyond playing gigs for money.

John Gray and his trumpet.
 Besides offering their services at a discount or free at some non-profit events, they often hold “informances” at schools in the community to share their love of music and knowledge of New Orleans tradition and history.  “We continue to give back as we grow in our music careers, because we know that children seeing us perform gives them encouragement to pursue music and get involved in the craft. For some children, they never see musicians with real instruments performing outside of the TV,” says John.  “Music education is so important for students during their middle school and high school development because of the discipline it teaches, as well as the creative spark that it encourages. Both discipline and creativity are vital if one wishes to be successful in any field.”

Another Louisiana-based organization doing good through music is T.H.E.S.E. straps.  The Heart Expresses Sound Everywhere is an organization that hand-makes guitar straps, and uses a portion of the profits to provide accessible instruments and music programs for impoverished communities around the world.  T.H.E.S.E. sponsors musicians by giving them quality guitar straps, the musicians enjoy and recommend them, and a small group of people make a big difference in the lives of children who might otherwise never get to play music.  T.H.E.S.E. is currently partnered with the Cambodia Children’s Sanctuary and LESPWA Means Hope in Haiti.
Children at the Cambodia Children's Sanctuary
 A few of my friends, who are T.H.E.S.E.-sponsored musicians, were among a list of acts that showcased their talents at last month’s Boogie for Books: Live Music for Literacy.  The musical fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Southwest Louisiana utilized musicians with roots in southwest Louisiana to celebrate reading, books, storytelling and music.  In addition to the festival staples of music and refreshments, the event also featured a book swap and booths set up to bring awareness to services offered by the council.  Proceeds went to support local literacy efforts, including day and evening classes for adults, GED preparation and English as a second language courses.

I was really surprised at how many instances of musicians giving back I came across, and I’ve only scratched the surface in one small region of our state.  Opportunities to give back through your choice of wedding entertainment are available in spades, and these local causes are examples of good places to start your search for music with soul.


  1. From one music enthusiast to another, I really appreciate this post Andrew! Selecting local musicians that give back themselves is very cool, as is circulating that money around the local economy and immersing your guests in the community culture. As for other musicians that "team up" with projects that give back, check out It's a monthly giving plan, and you can send money toward one of your favorite musician's projects in Africa like providing clean water, education, health, etc. Some of my personal favorite musicians who are involved are Katie Herzig, Dave Barnes, Jessica Sonner, and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.

    Great thoughts Andrew!

  2. Thanks for the comment Anna- don't know how I missed this one :) I thought Andrew did a great job finding the band and with the post too. Def. gonna check out the Mocha Club this weekend :) Hope you are doing well!