It was just one year ago that New York-based charity Music Unites was founded by Michelle Edgar to support music education in underfunded inner city school districts and bring music to underserved communities. As a classically trained pianist, Michelle has always had a deep appreciation for various types of music across all genres. After attending Sting and Trudie Styler's Rainforest Foundation benefit gala at Carnegie Hall several years ago, she was inspired. She saw the crucial need for a program that reaches the city's youth while supporting emerging and established musicians across the spectrum and involves all members of the broader Manhattan community.
"I wanted to create a community that supported emerging and established musicians across all genres, while giving back to underserved communities in need of musical rejuvenation and providing students who wouldn't traditionally have the means an opportunity to experience and study music," said Edgar.
In celebration of the charity's one year anniversary, Music Unites will host an exclusive benefit concert celebrating artists of all genres from pop, rock to rap, with a total of eight acts. This event has been made possible thanks to the support of the Annie O. Music Series, Cooper Square Penthouse and AriZona Beverages. Musicians who have been behind the cause from the start have donated their time and will come out to support the cause including Tamarama, As Tall As Lions, Matt White, Jaicko, Maino, Niia, Rachel Platten and DJ DL.
Hitting the ground running and garnering immediate support from the music, media and fashion industries through hard work and dedication, Music Unites became a grassroots force that grew in leaps and bounds by hosting monthly benefit showcases to fund their philanthropic programs. Featured artists included Peter Bjorn & John, Blue October, Tamarama, Mark Ronson, Daniel Merriweather, Sting, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, John Forte, Melanie Fiona, Chester French, Howie Day, Jaicko, Diego Garcia and most recently, Charlie Siem.
The benefit concerts throughout the year served not only to raise funds, but allowed the community to become personally involved in Music Unites mission while discovering and supporting the emerging and established artists who joined the cause.
The first philanthropic focus established the Music Unites Youth Choir, made up of children from the city and its five boroughs in partnership with Young Audiences New York. Members practice weekly and are given access to well-known cultural venues for performances and the support they need to follow their dream.
MUYC made their debut at Carnegie Hall earlier this year decked out in tee-shirts designed especially for them by actor David Arquette in a tribute to The Who. They stole the spotlight by opening the show with their rendition of Tommy's Overture and were honored to share the stage with an all-star roster of artists including Patti Smith, Bobby McFerrin, Sondre Lerche, The Postelles, Bettye La Vette, and Gaslight Anthem to name a few.
Music Unites also brought several of their musicians into school systems through partnerships with Young Audiences New York and Education Through Music to speak with the students and function as mentors. Jaicko and John Forte both visited the MUYC and inner-city schools at Harlem's St. Marks and Brooklyn's IAB where the kids asked them questions about their careers and how to make it in the music industry. It was truly a lesson in how those you inspire always manage to inspire you as the artists themselves walked away more impressed with the kids than the kids even were with them---a level not easily accomplished.
Many prestigious cultural venues throughout the city opened their doors as hosts including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and The U.N., in addition to New York hotspots including Norwood, the Red Bull Space, Spin NYC, RDV and The Cooper Square Hotel's Penthouse. Although Music Unites is unable to announce their future plans, there is a full summer ahead with a special partnership to bring an unplugged rock series to New York.
By Mara Siegler