Wednesday, March 17, 2010

music marathon

Billy Robin and his All Stars performing Terry Riley's In C at 2:30am, Music Marathon 2009

Okay, now that I have your attention, listen up. And listen closely, because this is important.

Six weeks from today is Northwestern University's second annual Music Marathon, a 26-hour benefit concert which will raise money for The People's Music School, a Chicago non-profit which gives free music lessons to underprivileged youth. This will be my second year producing the event, which I co-founded. Last year we raised over $17,000--enough to to fund over five hundred lessons.

Here's how it works: Students, faculty, alumni, and local professionals sign up to play for fifteen minute slots, and pledge to raise $100 for that commitment. The performance begins at 8pm on Friday, May 1st in Regenstein Recital Hall , on the NU campus (60 Arts Circle Drive) and goes straight until 10pm Saturday night. Last year we had hundreds of performers, and this year we'll have hundreds more.

I want to emphasize that this is practically the most grassroots thing ever. A few music students at Northwestern came up with the idea last year, ran with it, and in a few months had thousands of dollars pledged, local professionals signed up, and many, many students and faculty involved. We have devoted a huge amount of our time to this, and literally every dollar raised goes to The People's Music School (which is why it's so depressing to read something like this). This is all about music education, and an entirely self-serving classical music system: older students funding the education of younger students. Last year we had an hour of performances by YOURS, The People's Music School orchestra structured after El Sistema, and I spoke to a young, immensely talented cellist who had quit performing for several years because his family could no longer afford a cello. The People's Music School provided one.

So guess what, classical music blogging community? I'm calling on you, all of you, to help us out. We raised $17,000 last year with about three months of work. Now we're going to raise $30,000. In the coming weeks I will provide more info about who's performing when, as well as interview some of the people involved for Seated Ovation.

Here's what you can do:
1. Donate - Here's our Paypal button, and it's super easy. Donate in the name of Billy Robin, Seated Ovation, or your own blog or whatever. 100%, and I really mean 100%, of the proceeds go to The People's Music School

2. Post about it! Everyone who reads about this has a blog, twitter, whatever. Link to our website or this post, tell people to donate, hype it up. I can guarantee we will have some really excellent performers and performances this year--we already have a number of faculty booked for our final two-hour chamber music blowout, featuring Marlboro-style collaboration between students and teachers.

3. Perform! You can register to perform on our website if you are interested, and pledge your $100.

4. Use your connections. A lot of you guys write for major newspapers, magazines, etc. Some of you work for radio stations. Write us up! We're really interesting to talk to in interview and I'm excellent at providing sound bites. My email is if you want to get in contact. Last year Bryant Manning wrote a brilliant preview in Time Out Chicago that helped galvanize donors and fill the hall.

That's all for now. I leave you with a video from The People's Music School, describing how they do it.


  1. Ahem, the idea started earlier this century, and stopped around 2005. The MSM covered the final one to the best of its abilities.

  2. Odd that it took place at NU with people I know but I've never heard of it before...Either way, ours is about 18 hours longer plus it's a fundraiser, although I guess new music is kind of a nonprofit unto itself.