Several months back, when I was asked to join the event committee for The Residency, I didn’t realize what kind of an impact it would have on me. I’ve been a lover of hip-hop for as long as I can remember. I knew they were recruiting me for my sponsorship and event experience, along with my network of contacts. Not because I could carry a tune or drop a beat.
I consider myself to be a philanthropic leader in the Seattle community. I’ve thrown countless parties and events over the years that have always had a nonprofit benefactor. I’m an experienced board member and currently sit on two boards. I created a nonprofit “speed dating” event called Konnected that invites guests to get to know a large number of nonprofits over the course of an evening, in a fun and low pressure environment with hopes at the end of the night they match with one nonprofit and take action in some way that is meaningful to them. As a heart disease and cancer survivor and a recovered alcoholic, I’ve had the opportunity to share my stories at breakfasts and lunches to provide that tear jerking response that happens right before the raise the paddle call for donation happens. And while I don’t have piles of money to donate, I donate what I can and I do have my own skill sets, experience, and time that I can do my part to give back in meaningful ways. I am at my best when I am being of service to others.
“I am at my best when I am being of service to others.”
Although I come from a family that has many talented musicians in it, I’m not particularly musically gifted myself. I gave up on piano around the age of 13. (Something as an adult I now regret. You were right Mom. I should have listened to you) The only place my vocals have been really appreciated was alone in my shower, my car, or when playing RockBand with my son Jakob when he was in his early teen years. Our band name was Kid-Mama and honestly I thought we were really good. He played guitar, I played vocals, our neighbors bought stock in earplugs. My mother plays the piano, my father plays the flute and also sings in a barbershop singing group and their church choir. Several of my cousins on both sides of my family would probably do very well if they ever tried out for The Voice. The idea that someone could grow up and NOT have access to music never really occurred to me. The idea that someone could grow up having a passion for music but never receive training or support to pursue that dream crushes my insides.
What is the Residency? The Residency seeks to build a powerful community of young hip-hop artists equipped with the artistic and leadership skills, business acumen, and mentorship necessary to become professional artists and cultural change makers. Through their participation in The Residency, young artists from low-income families in the Seattle area acquire tangible artistic and professional skills while also gaining confidence, teamwork, and a deepened understanding of their own identity and power. Take 6 minutes and watch this video. You’ll be glad you did.
As the months went by, meetings were had, emails exchanged, and phone calls were made. The general public really has no clue the long list of things that have to go on behind the scenes, months in advance of a large scale event, to make things come together. As I got to know others on the events committee, I could tell immediately each person was bringing a specific skill set to the table and collectively as a group we were a power house of players. This would be a fundraiser concert event unlike no other that people would talk about for years to come. I was honored to be included.
The VIP pre-event at the home of Ben & Tricia Haggerty was a night I’ll never forget. Along with other event committee members, we mingled with prospective donors and explained how The Residency, only in its fifth year, was already changing lives. There were several musical performances by former and current students. Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. His passion for this project is palpable and his commitment and vision to seeing it grow is authentically genuine.
KING 5 was the media sponsor of this event. In the week leading up to the benefit concert, we profiled stories of Residency students (former and current) to gain excitement for the concert and to raise awareness for the organization. MC TALK performed one of my favorite songs, “Shinin” on New Day Northwest. We also featured a story about the program, including one of the teaching artists Jace ECAj, on KING 5 Evening. KING 5 also profiled Travis Thompson from Burien, a former Residency student that is making a name for himself nationally.
The Big Night was here! An Evening with The Residency celebrated five years of the innovative program that provides access and opportunity to aspiring young hip hop artists. The evening, featuring Residency student performances and guest speakers raised over $500,000 to support the ongoing growth and expansion of The Residency. Macklemore headlined the show, with featured special guests joining him including Black Stax, Travis Thompson, Brandon Marsalis, Paris Alexa, Sir Mix-a-lot and Residency students and alumni on stage. This was a fundraising party unlike anything I’d been apart of before. There was no raise the paddle or silent auction items to bid on. Guests were generously donating funds without the expectation they would take home a silent auction item or go on a fancy trip in exchange for their donation. How pure is that? That, my friends, is truly a community coming together with a common thread of their love for music to help other members in the community without all of the traditional fundraiser auction “pomp and circumstance”. Macklemore gave a speech of a lifetime that was followed by a simple text to donate as the community came together with one shared goal…the music and the youth.
I am so grateful to my long list of friends and family that took time out of their schedules to help volunteer as volunteer staff for this nearly 3,000 person sold-out event. My MVPs of the day included my son Jakob, my cousin Emma, and their two friends McCabe and Gabe. My crew of four worked all day and all night doing any job that needed to be done, including cleaning up post after-party. The concert was their pay-off and I know they had the times of their lives. McCabe will always be able to tell the story of the time he held Macklemore as he surfed the crowd at the Paramount. But I also hope they learned that volunteering is fun and is rewarding. Because you know what? It is. Being of service to others is the most valuable skill I have learned in my 44 years of life. You don’t have to be rich to donate, even if all you can donate is your time or a set of certain skills. As my dad always says, “It’s really hard to feel sorry for yourself and help someone else out at the same time.”