This is a week that reminds me why I love this city
I bike now and the weather’s been downright gorgeous this week. It’s also Bike to Work Week and I’ve been able to stop at Law Park and have a little coffee and a morning treat on my way to work. The biking here is really spectacular; there are trails everywhere and my daily commute is really awesome. I think about that every day. The city has really gotten behind the bike movement and it’s good for the environment and for people’s health. Bike to Work Week puts the icing on that cake and makes me appreciate where I live.
I got to write about the most deserving musician this week, Bill Roberts. I feel privileged to able to do those type of things. So many people responded to him and that has to make a writer feel good. Too many musicians don’t get the respect they deserve, especially when it comes to music as a career choice. The old, “Oh, but what do you do for a living?” response most get when they say they are a musician.
I get it, how can you make a living at music? Well, that’s the point of two events that are happening next week which also make me proud to be a Madisonian and remind me that we really do live in a bubble here – a bubble of goodness and no small amount of hope.
The first ever Between the Waves Madison Music Festival and Conference happens June 15-18 and the buzz is starting to build about it. Just like people question the value of music as a career choice, so some question the value of music as a part of the economy. Stop and think for a minute what life would be like without music. The average person probably hears hundreds of music cues in a single day. How many local businesses use music as a foundation in their advertising? How many jobs in the service industry are reliant on music? How many charitable events are held that rely on the work of local musicians – often for no compensation – to further their cause?
One only needs to look at any successful music city to see how much effort is behind that success and that a significant portion involves city or state agencies designed specifically to work with their musicians and other artists to boost their economy. Madison took a big step toward recognizing the economic value of the work its artists do when it got behind Roy Elkins and BTW Madison. That financial support, particularly at that level, will not be necessary for long. BTW Madison will be a success and in a few years will be filling a lot of hotel rooms and feeding the local economy as well as taking the news out into the world that Madison is one cool place with a thriving music community that is getting support from its city council and its citizens.
BTW Madison has two areas of focus: to put it out there that Madison is a great city for music and to inform working independent artists about common-sense ways they can make a living making music. It doesn’t require stardom or even a record label. Roy Elkins knows all this; he’s been immersed in it for most of his life. Roy has really stuck his neck out to make this happen, not because he wants to make money but because he actually, really cares. He doesn’t just want the city’s help, he needs it and the city needs an institution like this if it wants to capitalize on a golden opportunity that may not present itself again. It’s a win-win.
The festival portion of BTW is just as important. Luke Jorgensen has undertaken a superhuman feat to coordinate that aspect; people do not generally understand how hard a first-year event is to put together. When people come in from out of town and get a load of the caliber of music we have going on here – which we all take for granted to some degree – their minds will blow. They will take the message back with them and the word will spread. It takes some time but more will come and the groundswell will build. The courage to continue will define the shape of the city going forward.
If you’re a musician, or even if you don’t play anything, just love music, think about how different your life would be without music. As a musician myself it’s unimaginable to me how I would survive without music. Madison also has the Madison Area Music Association (among other organizations) working to keep music education alive for future generations. On June 18th the 14th annual MAMA Awards will be held at the Capitol Theater in the Overture Center. That event promotes the cause of the organization and simultaneously acknowledges achievements by our local artists, which really does help them get gigs, provide opportunity, further drive the economy and build community. In addition to funding music education programs and buying instruments for Madison-area youths the MAMA organization also helps under-insured musicians with its MAMA Cares fund. In two years it has already funneled thousands of dollars to musicians and their families dealing with illness and loss, much of it cancer-related. The organization also has stepped in to help create the MAMA Clyde Stubblefield Scholarship which will make monetary awards to students studying music. Major announcements and the launch of a full-blown fundraising campaign are close to being made.
These are difficult undertakings, far from perfect in a far-from-perfect world. But they give me hope because music gives me hope and when things work, in harmony, I get a sense of joy. That keeps me going.
I hope you’ll join me at both these important events because they need your support. When you do, find me and we’ll do a real power handshake in a salute to harmony; the harmony of the human spirit, because that is what art and community are about.