Musicians of Mercy is a Baltimore area ensemble that coordinates benefits and performs for the sole purpose of helping those in need. Its founder, Robin Fay Massie, shares with us the ordeal that led to the development of this project and how the community can get involved.
Teresa: When did the Musicians of Mercy begin?
Robin: MOM started as a direct response to the January 2010 earthquake disaster in Haiti. While watching the news, I was overwhelmed with sadness as graphic images flashed across the screen — displaced families, destruction, and despair. I didn’t have any money to give but I knew that I was profoundly moved. I decided to plan a benefit concert for Save the Children. I reached out to all of my musical friends and colleagues via email and Facebook, calling upon them to prepare orchestral repertoire, chamber music and jazz. Logistically, it could have been a planning nightmare as we were having record snowfall in the DMV and many of my colleagues were losing work due to the inclement weather. Still, it came together and we raised nearly $1300 for Haiti. Shortly thereafter, we did a second concert for Haiti. Out of those two concerts came the momentum which propels us two years later!
How do you select the music you will perform for each benefit?
Each concert is shaped by the marriage of MOM to its selected charity. Depending on the nature of the cause, I attempt to create a program that is balanced and reflective of the charity. MOM features new composers and includes as many styles as possible within the theme for each event. We even feature poets and dancers! Our conductors, Gordon Green and Igor Sarmientos, are both experienced musicians whose repertoire suggestions provide us with musically-fulfilling programs for our orchestra.
Artists are naturally very socially-conscious! Still, it never ceases to amaze me how people are ready to serve when given the opportunity. We have had many repeat performers and donors. I have received emails and notes from musicians who just want to say “thank you” for putting meaning into making music! It’s a beautiful thing! MOM artists volunteer their time and talents for each cause. Even though we are not being paid for our efforts, it is fulfilling to know that we are making a difference in our community while doing what we love!
Do you have any stories of how your efforts have directly impacted someone?
Some of the most memorable testimonials were given during our Benefit Concert for Thrive City String Academy in January 2012. TCSA’s Executive Director, John Littlejohn, engaged the audience (and all of us on stage) by sharing accounts of how his summer music program impacts the lives of young urban music students. Three TCSA alumni shared how this program gave them a chance when others counted them out in life. Two of three of the TCSA student musicians were performing within our orchestra! By their heartfelt testimonies, we learned that TCSA is more than a music program; it’s a family and support system. There was hardly a dry eye in the room!
FIRN -- a fantastic charity based in Howard County, MD — “empowers immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other foreign-born individuals by helping them to access community resources and opportunities.” Last September, we presented a benefit concert to celebrate and support FIRN in its thirtieth year of service in Howard County.
Next weekend, we will present our second concert for FIRN on May 25th at 7:00pm, at Bridgeway Community Church - 9189 Red Branch Road, in Columbia, MD.
We hope to reach out to the Howard County community and other domestic violence and women’s groups with a message of love. This concert will feature the MOM Orchestra led by Gordon Green and other alternative artists including Integriti Reeves from D.C.’s own Afro Blue Vocal Band, Baltimore-based rocker William Soul and his band, twelve year-old Philadelphia-based violinist Maxwell Chambers, poets Chinwe John and Bryan “Compose” Winslow and more!
What is in store for the future of M.O.M.? Are there some causes you have in mind to support?
There is never a shortage of need in this world. I love to receive emails from those who have read about the work we do and have suggestions for other charities which we can support. MOM provides both a service to charitable organizations and to our artists. We unite professional, amateur, and student musicians, providing a platform from which we can use our gifts to serve our community. As Executive Director, I especially aim to support humanitarian causes, some of which are not given the attention they deserve — natural disasters, AIDS and cancer research, human trafficking, struggling community arts organizations, urban schools, etc. Upcoming projects will include benefit concerts for a new urban arts school in Baltimore, a police station fundraiser, and a community concert. To contact us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website and find us on Facebook, Twitter (@MercyMusicians), and YouTube!