Saturday, March 11, 2017

Even Better With Age—15th Anniversary Music4Martin

It’s hard to believe but when the talented and energetic cast of Music4Martin takes the stage at 3:30 this Sunday afternoon at its longtime home at Grace Lutheran Church 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road in Woodstock, Illinois, the program will be celebrating its 15th Anniversary.  For the first several years, I volunteered to do press relations and beat down the doors of local media for coverage of an event that celebrated and honored the life and mission of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in the heart of white bread and red meat right wing McHenry County.  But they don’t need me anymore.  Music4Martin has become a beloved local annual tradition and the media practically beat down the doors to give it well deserved glowing coverage.
When you get special press attention like this in the Northwest Herald's 
Way back when recognition of Martin Luther King in these parts was notable mostly for its absence.  On the new King Day Holiday elementary school kids were given Ditto work sheets that mostly talked about his non-violence but rarely much at all on why and how he used civil disobedience to flaunt unjust laws and stir up trouble.  Sometimes they might be shown a grainy film clip of the I Have a Dream speech.  For a couple of years the old Interfaith Committee for Peace and Justice in which the Congregational Unitarian Church took a leading role put on a sparsely attended program at McHenry County College.  It was the only public event in McHenry County.
Ken West was not satisfied.  As a child he had been moved and inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and wanted to share that inspiration with local children and teens.  Already working with young people as a volunteer and as a mentor, he knew that they were best engaged not by passively sitting still through a take-your-caster-oil-its-good-for-you program.  They need to get up on their feet and participate—lean by doing, by singing, dancing, reading quotes, and contributing their own creative energies and ideas.
Thus was Music4Martin born.  The program included children, teens, and adult community members brought Dr. King and his movement to vibrant life.
Vocalist and ukulele player Abby Burns and Sam Madaus are each making their Music4Martin debut this year.

And these annual shows, which eventually moved to early March to avoid January’s often bitter weather and give the casts a longer preparation and rehearsal period.  Because these shows were not just throw-it-all-together-in-a-week programs meant to be performed mostly for parents and kin.  The plan was always to do shows of such quality that even civilian members of the public would want to attend.  To this end West engaged the aid of a quality music director and others.  For the last 10 years the musical director has been George Muliganao, an Island Lake guitarist who performs with the band Funk City.  This year he is sharing those duties with Bob Diss.
In its many season hundreds of young people have participated in the shows, many returning year after year starting as elementary students and continuing through high school.  They work side by side with adults in an all-ages program that promotes mutual respect and collaboration.  They are part of the multi-generational house band, sing together with adults in combinations, and dance to each other’s songs.
The program includes many accomplished adult performers who are thrilled to be part of the collaboration including singers Cheryl Niemo and Sam Jones who are regularly seen in local clubs.  This year the cast includes the powerful Woodstock Community Choir under the direction of Cassandra Vohs-Demann.
Becky Sargeant and Sam Jones duet.

Besides the Choir and the previously mentioned the musicians and singers include, Grace Eliana Kane, Ryan Diss, August Potje, Rhea Garbis, Darien Garbis, Devin Anderson, Riley McKenzie, Becky Sargeant, Ashlynn Drach, Max Lisowski, Abby Burns, Nolan Nestler, Ross Robbins, Tyree Bell, Devi Madaus, Nick Madaus, Sam Madaus, Ali Walsh, Dan Noyes-Mills, Abdiel Villarreal, Savanah Hodges, and Ken West himself.  I am proud to say that many, along with several members of the Community Choir, are from Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry.
Admission to the concert is free, but there will be a free will collection taken to benefit The Break, a teen center based in Crystal Lake the official host of the event, Community Connections for Youth.

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