Brown County Musicians
Against Poverty CD Project
by Barney Quick
Among Brown County’s assets are its vibrant musical community and the culture of neighbor caring for neighbor. Newcomers are made to feel like they belong. One doesn’t find too many places like that anymore.
That kind of caring was the impetus behind Brown County Musicians United against Poverty and its soon-to-be-released CD, “It’s Not just A Dream.” In typical Brown County fashion, it’s a homemade, grassroots project that helps area residents and celebrates musical excellence without pretense.
The planned CD release date is October 3. On Saturday, October 4, a CD kickoff party will take place from noon to 6:00 pm in the parking lot of the Nashville Christian Church at 140 S. Van Buren Street. In addition to performances by the musicians featured on the album, volunteers from Mother’s Cupboard, a local food pantry, will give talks on their activities and the importance of their service.
The project is the inspiration of Rick Clayton, Senior Minister at Brown County Christian Church. A longtime musician, Clayton was in several bands going back to the 1980s prior to embarking on his current calling. He has also long felt that music could be a powerful force for social change. He is completing his thesis for a Master’s degree in folk art at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and is fascinated with the impact that the folk music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie had on American life in the twentieth century.
For several years, area churches have banded together for an annual hymn sing in early to mid-November, rotating the hosting sanctuaries. Donations made by those attending the sing go toward $20 vouchers for transient people in Brown County. At last year’s sing at Parkview Church on State Road 46, Clayton was impressed “to see all these different faith traditions coming together for a common purpose.” He thought about the web of friendship that united area musicians as well as area faithful and the idea for a fundraising CD featuring an array of musical acts was born.
“I called Karen Avery and her husband Bob the next day and asked, ‘Do you think we can pull this off?’” They held their first meeting in January at Muddy Boots Café.
He thought of Avery, who has a background in radio news and currently serves as director of communications for the Association of Indiana Counties, because she’s an organizer. “I’m the kind of person who’s consumed by details,” she says. She drew up a flow chart and began enlisting others.
The Brown County Community Foundation held a grant-writing workshop in April, at which it encouraged applicants to partner with other organizations. “We had to think fast,” says Clayton. That was when Rich Wescott got Mother’s Cupboard on board. Wescott, who commutes to his Indianapolis printing business from his Brown County home, has handled the business end, as well as community relations. The project was awarded a grant for $7282.
The CD features tracks by Gordon Bonham and Jim Richter, Kara Barnard, Frank Jones, John Whitcomb, Lou Stant, Mark Henderson, Rick Clayton and Amanda Smith, and the Mizfits. The contributions are quintessential Brown County music—string-band numbers, singer-songwriter ballads, and acoustic blues.
Christian Church student minister Kenny Gooch engineered the record and it was mastered by Jake Belser at Farm Fresh Studio.
Clayton says that while Brown County appears to be an idyllic tourist spot on the surface, poverty is a real problem. The county “suffers a lot of issues that come in under the radar,” he says. In the first quarter of 2008, Mother’s Cupboard served 7,372 meals, an increase of more than 50 percent over the first quarter of 2007. In May of this year, the food pantry of the Brown County Department of Family and Children closed. It had served up to seventy-five families per month.
“Mother’s Cupboard is about more than just serving food, though,” says Clayton. “You see relationships being formed.” He explains that the project’s secondary goal is “inspiring people to get involved. These are your neighbors.” He cites the fact that Mother’s Cupboard has a $30,000 budget, three paid staff people, and the utility bills of any other organization. “It needs volunteers to come in and cook once a month, and drive to get the food.”
He strove to ensure that the CD would have a down-home feel. As Clayton puts it, “We wanted this to be normal people, not big guns.”
Those interested in getting involved should go to the contact page on the project’s website: <www.browncountymusicians.embarqspace.com>.