It's almost impossible to think about the city of New Orleans without its trademark and historical music community. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc. has provided housing, furniture, transportation, instruments and anything else it can to assist those still struggling to rebuild their lives post Katrina. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc., a grass roots certified 501c(3) non-profit was founded in Internet cafes and FEMA rooms by musician Jeff Beninato and his wife Karen and is supported by volunteer graphic designers, publicists, video producers and friends of New Orleans music including Wilco, REM, Dr John and Ian Hunter.
With the 4th Anniversary of Katrina approaching, this organization has played a big part in assisting survivors in rebuilding their lives. Millions of Americans will never forget as they watched the horror unfold before their eyes as 80% of the city flooded along with many areas of neighboring parishes for weeks. Tens of thousands of survivors were left clinging to rooftops, trapped in hospitals and shuffled to the Convention Center where they were left without food or water for five days. Hundreds of thousands of other survivors were scattered around the country, many of them just now returning home. In the first few years after the storm the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund was able to mail hundreds of direct grants to musicians across the country and help them return.
With grass roots charities struggling to survive, the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has increasingly received physical items ranging from drums to desks. Tanio, a brass band drummer, received a donated van for gig transportation. When the band's van was stolen, the lawyer who processed the donation paperwork donated her car just in time for his family's Hurricane Gustav evacuation. This week, 500 pounds of bright blue band uniforms were shipped from Williamstown School in New Jersey to Lusher Charter School to give them the chance to have a marching band. And within the last year, the Astor Crowne Plaza donated 20 floors of four star furniture to Furnish our Neighbors as the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund helped them kick off ReDefine 8/29. The furniture sells for $8 and $29 to those returning home and people drive home with truckloads. Furniture was also donated to musicians living in the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village. Help keeps rolling in in the form of instruments including 3 grand pianos, guitars, horns, congas - even vintage clothing for gig wear. And the charity was pleased to offer a free family friendly CC's Coffee Shop series that gave musicians extra gigs this summer.
"It's been humbling how many of their own instruments music lovers have sent us, even four years after the storm when many are struggling themselves. Those who have the least sometimes have the most room in their hearts for a city still healing," said Karen Dalton Beninato. "Instead of focusing on the day to day struggle of trying to keep a small charity running, it's heartening to focus on the help that's still coming from music lovers and musicians."
Jeff Beninato agrees, and just told Press of Atlantic City about the charity's support from New Orleans legend Dr. John: His presence can make ailing friends and family members forget their troubles just a bit. We visited his friend in the Musicians Village who was having a tough time paying for his medication, and through Mac's generosity he forfeited his expenses from a show used to help many musicians," Beninato said.
"The New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund has a great debt of gratitude to Dr. John for his unselfishness as an ambassador for the music of our city. Jeff adds that "Tragedies like the Galveston hurricane and Minneapolis Bridge collapse are forgotten too quickly in today's news cycle, like New Orleans, but I believe that people have enough compassion to go around if given the chance. Traveling across America after Katrina to raise funds for displaced musicians because we couldn't go home, it was amazing how many local jazz and dixieland bands would be playing traditional New Orleans songs. The sounds of New Orleans still entertain people across America, and it drove home the point that our music is a cultural mainstay."
You can help keep the music programs rolling. Founders Piano Prints are available, and soon NOMRF will post Jackson Squared - an artist's pop art nod to Michael Jackson's 8/29 birthday and Andrew Jackson who fought the Battle for New Orleans which is ongoing in many ways. You can also purchase ReDefine 8/29 tee shirts and memorabilia at the charity's web site.
This year's rebooted ReDefine 8/29 download for $4.99 will feature 6 tracks: Dr. John, Dream Warrior; Ian Hunter, When the World was Round; REM, live South Central Rain; Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey and Branford Marsalis, Begin Again; Dave Pirner, Start Treating People Right; and the late Barry Cowsill, Kid. Rolling Stone Magazine gave the first ReDefine 8/29 download a four star review.
An auction to support the charity now underway with a 40th Anniversary edition Fender stratocaster signed by musicians including Little Steven; Rock Tree posters signed by supporters including Mike Mills and Ian Hunter, and other pieces of history including two Andy Warhol photo prints will be auctioned on ebay through 8:29 pm on August 29, 2009.
Contact the founders with any questions or comments - all support is welcome.
New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Link: http://www.nomrf.org
Ebay Auction Link: http://bit.ly/18mpfr
Furnish Our Neighbors Link: http://bit.ly/gJLCf
Press of Atlantic City Link: http://bit.ly/108oN9
For more information, please contact:
New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund