Giving Tuesday is coming up in less than a week. We need your help to continue bringing music and performing arts to isolated people.
Heart & Soul stimulates and delights 28,000 people each year by producing over 1,300 live shows at convalescent homes, senior centers, hospitals, centers for children with disabilities, psychiatric facilities, domestic abuse shelters and prisons.
Dear friends of Heart & Soul,
There is a classic image from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird that I keep tucked under my heart. It’s of Atticus Finch sitting outside the jailhouse, under the diffused light of a lamp he had brought with him. Through the night he holds vigil outside the jail door, planted on a wooden chair, dressed in his most respectable suit and tie, a book in his lap, keeping watch. He knows the potential danger the prisoner within might face from the citizens without. He’s the defender of the defenseless.
Atticus tells his young daughter, Scout, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
The writer, Harper Lee, uses Atticus to call out the best in all of us.
In an attempt to answer that call, I join my fellow musicians in our regular journeys to uplift our brothers and sisters through the healing power of music.
For 20 years I have slung my guitar over my shoulder and walked into nursing homes, assisted living centers, mental health units, and schools for handicapped or homeless children. I have passed through security doors, and lunch room doors, and prison doors. While I enter these places, to share stories and songs, I know there are others doing the same thing in other facilities, taking songs of hope and reminiscence to people who are bound in life situations that keep them from concerts and other artistic venues. While I love performing for my paying audiences, often under bright stage lights, I am most grateful for the audiences who gather under the soft radiant light of Heart & Soul. They have deepened my ability to love and accept others, taught me empathy, and increased my gratitude for the good and simple gifts that surround me daily. In the mysterious math of compassionate service, I can never give as much as I receive.
Under the generous and dedicated care of Janna Lauer and the board of directors, Heart & Soul has been facilitating this musical gift exchange for twenty-six years. They work diligently to place the right musicians with the right audience, and constantly endeavor to acquire funds through every possible channel so musicians can afford to get themselves to their shows without expense to themselves. When you do multiple shows a year, or a month, it becomes quite a sacrifice. Understanding the value of music and musicians, they offer a modest stipend to their musicians to cover costs. In my estimation, this is how such an organization as Heart & Soul remains alive and thriving: they have a continuous need, and an army of willing talent, but it is the mutual respect and steady leadership with an eye focused on their singular purpose that makes such a quest sustainable. Kudos to H & S musicians for their personal sacrifices. But the silent ones, the Atticus Finches who keep watch on those who are helpless… these are the donors. There is no life for a non-profit without the generous hearts and willing wallets of financial donors. So, we have no shame at all asking for help, because we understand the need.
A few months ago some of my singer-songwriter friends gathered at one of the stages at Heart & Soul’s Music Stroll. Professionally, we each make some portion of our living in music. Though we are good friends, we generally gig independently of each other. So, it was especially delightful for us to share the same time and space and play on each other’s tunes. We all have our own followings, and our own musical goals and successes, but the common thread weaving through each of us is Heart & Soul. And because of that strong thread, there was a feeling of warmth and family. If you’ve been fortunate enough to stroll through the neighborhood of musical porches hosting Heart & Soul musicians, you will appreciate the diversity in musical styles, the magnitude of talent, and the radiant energy of generous hearts united in a good cause. I am grateful to be part of this amazing chorus of talent.
Janna told me last week that her records show I have performed nearly 300 shows for Heart & Soul. Multiply that by fellow musicians who have done the same, and you can see a whole beautiful harvest of love grown from a simple idea: take music in to people who cannot get out to partake of it.
I’ve seen it firsthand, the power of music to nurture. Though circumstance may have robbed our brothers and sisters of some of their independence—their ability to walk, or to talk, or to remember—music finds its way in through the cracks and settles soundly in the heart.
Atticus Finch explained it to his children: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us…. They don’t do one thing but sing their heart out for us.” Here’s to Janna, her Heart & Soul team, and every single donor who chooses to give: Thanks for keeping the Mockingbird alive.