Featured Cause: Music Rising*

August 28, 2006 · Print This Article

By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor

On Aug. 25, 2005, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida warned its readers about the possible dangers of Tropical Storm Katrina. "While not a hurricane, it is a reminder of how quickly storms can develop and threaten the state," the paper wrote.

Just a few days later, residents in Louisiana and Mississippi learned how quickly storms could develop into a threat when Hurricane Katrina struck. The devastation that followed—caused directly and indirectly by Katrina—would, according to the Discovery Channel, kill 1,836 people, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hundreds more still remain unaccounted for.

The millions of survivors were left without homes, schools or businesses and were evacuated to locations all across the country. As the pictures and stories flashed across televisions, newspapers and magazines grew more and more grim, many were left to wonder if the region, particularly culture-rich New Orleans, would come back.

"It is a live culture," is how the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. describes the city. Taking its character from the various groups that have settled in the city (including French, Spanish and African), the city has become renown for its music, food and lifestyle.

After Katrina, though, it seemed that those things could be lost forever. In addition to funds being raised to rebuild the physical structure of the city, money was also needed to bring the cultural life back to New Orleans.

"New Orleans is a crucible for great music," The Edge told Rolling Stone last November. "The idea that it would be just a place of history for music is awful to me. Coming from Dublin in the ’70s, when music was something you had to search out, I’d never dreamt that somewhere like New Orleans could exist. Music was coming out of the walls. It seemed not just a form of escapism, but like it was weaved into everybody’s life."

That idea led The Edge to join forces with MusiCares, the charitable arm of The Recording Academy, music producer Bob Ezrin, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and Guitar Center CEO Marty Albertson to create Music Rising, an organization designed to aid musicians impacted by the hurricane.

"My recent visit to New Orleans gave me a first-hand look at the devastation which tragically destroyed the lives of thousands," The Edge said at a press conference unveiling the organization. "The area’s rich and spirited culture must be restored and can be by assisting those musicians affected by the disaster, which in turn will bring back the essence of the regions. Providing replacement instruments through Music Rising will not only help the professional musicians to regain a foothold on their future, but will also ensure that one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest assets, its music, will rise again."

Since its inception, Music Rising has given $1,000 grants to musicians to buy new instruments and equipment at cost. The Edge has been able to hand over the new instruments himself at a variety of Music Rising events, including the reopening of Preservation Hall in April during JazzFest, where he also played with Dave Matthews Band and The New Birth Brass Band.

"While I was walking around at the jazz festival, four or five musicians came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for the new amp, man, it’s got me back on the road,’ or ‘Thanks for the guitar,’" The Edge told The Independent. "It was really inspiring, an amazing feeling, and it showed that this really is making a difference."

The organization is also getting noticed. Music Rising received the Gold Cause Marketing Halo Award for Best Transactional Campaign at the fourth annual Cause Marketing Forum conference in June and will be honored at the Billboard Touring Awards this November with its Humanitarian Award.

Music Rising has raised more that $1 million for musicians in New Orleans the Gulf Coast region through a number initiatives, including the sale of a limited-edition Gibson guitar, painted in Mardi Gras colors and made with woods from the affected areas, that is exclusively sold at the Guitar Center. The Edge signed a handful of the guitars that were later sold for $10,000 each.

The organization also sells a logo T-shirt worn by The Edge at this year’s Grammy Awards. Ticketmaster has established a series of auctions where winning bidders receive four concert tickets and an Epiphone guitar, with net proceeds benefiting Music Rising.

The Edge also hit the pavement to seek out donations, appearing in a public service announcement that ran on channels including VH1, as well as doing numerous interviews. In an interview with CNN, The Edge discussed a documentary he was making about Katrina and Music Rising.

A year after Katrina hit, Music Rising is still working to bring music back to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. Through its website, which includes a blog and bulletin board, the organization takes donations, accepts grant applications from area musicians and shares some of The Edge’s experiences with Music Rising. The organization is also branching out to help schools, churches and community organizations, the places where, Edge once explained, the music really lives.

"Other parts of America have music scenes, but it really is a completely self-sufficient music culture in New Orleans," The Edge told The Independent. "It’s like the city is one giant music academy: everyone is into music, everyone’s learning how to play from other musicians. And with Katrina, that whole system has been completely shattered."

Music Rising is helping to bring that system back together.

For more information on Music Rising, visit its website.


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