Oregon Music Hall of Fame Benefits Music in Schools

Crazy 8s

I can’t imagine my life without music. In fact, my conception would not have occurred without music, and not just because music and baby-making go so well together. Without music, my percussionist father wouldn’t have met my music-teacher mother at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in the ’70s.

But that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

I remember my pudgy fingers plunking “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano when I was five. I remember lying on the top bunk and harmonizing songs with my twin sister (on the bottom bunk) when we were eight. I remember coming home from school to a couple of hours of Mom teaching eager students “Für Elise” and “Chopsticks” on our family piano each day. In sixth grade, I remember choosing percussion as my instrument in the school band because I wanted to play something the boys were playing. Then, I remember kicking all the boys’ asses in chair tests, playing on an all-girl snare line in the Clark High School marching band, and feeling on top of the world slamming down an eight-minute, four-mallet marimba solo before an entire auditorium.

I remember how listening to Moby‘s Play and, of all things, Kelly Clarkson‘s Breakaway, got me through my breakup with my high school sweetheart. And I remember how connecting with an instrument for the first time in five years, the acoustic guitar, helped me regain the self-esteem and sense of identity I had lost in a six-year relationship.

For me, music is essential. When I watch a great band perform, the multi-sensory experience has a drug-like, stimulant effect on my body. Music is a form of drug-free therapy that builds confidence, reduces anxiety, brings joy, and transforms people’s lives. I was very lucky to grow up with musician parents, but without music education programs, some kids have zero exposure to something that helps them cope with and heal from life’s hardships and also plays a role in developing creative, social, and mathematical skills.

Among fellow music believers is the local non-profit, the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. This past Saturday, October 8th, Portlanders spent anywhere from $25 to $90 a ticket to attend the OMHOF 5th Annual Concert and Induction Ceremony, a benefit for music education. This year’s inductees were:

Phil Baker of Pink Martini
Norman Sylvester
Sam Henry
Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones
Dharma Bums
George Touhouliotis, owner of the legendary club, Satyricon
Bob Ancheta, Sunday Night Blues Room host on KINK FM
Esperanza Spalding (Artist of the Year)

Portland icon Tony Starlight hosted the event, kicking it off in a comical Bob Seger costume and singing a medley of Seger’s hits with parodied lyrics. Interspersed between induction speeches were performances by legendary Oregon rockers Johnny and the Distractions and The Crazy 8s, who delivered an epic funk-rock finale joined by singer Jeremy Wilson of Dharma Bums, Johnny Koonce on guitar, Norman Sylvester on guitar, guest artists on African drums, and a group of high school students on sousaphone, flute, and sax.

The catchiest performance of the night, I kid you not, was the Aaron Meyer Music in the Schools children’s choir, who wrote and performed their own songs from Meyer’s summer music program. I will never forget the lyrics, “These are the things that I like: ice cream, sports and muuuuusic!” I had the damn song in my head while eating my corn flakes this morning.

Sassy drag queens auctioned off guitars signed by Willie Nelson, Doobie Brothers, Heart, The Crazy 8s, My Morning Jacket and more to raise money for music programs and scholarships for Oregon students.

My twin sister and I sat in an old-fashioned balcony box like the famous old muppet men, surrounded by veterans of the Portland music community and industry. I thought about how music helped cultivate the special bond I have with my sister and was a guiding force in my move from Texas to Oregon in 2008. A wave of gratitude washed over me for the experiences music has afforded me and for living in Portland, a city that continues to promote artistic expression and spawn influential artists who give back to the community.

To become a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and support music in schools, click here.

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