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Gratitude Large & Small!

A big thank you to Reverend Guitars for another home run! I’m thrilled to share their most recent contribution to Giving Songs, but first I’d like to share some personal perspective.

Jack woke up this morning (Christmas Eve, 2015) at about 3, and we came downstairs to sit by the tree at 5. We had some quiet time with our breakfast, which we used to reflect on the things we are grateful for. We know that we’re lucky to have our home, friends, and amazing family. We know challenges in life can sweep families off their feet, and somehow we’ve managed to pull through everything that has come our way.

We spend most of our time fighting to gain a glimpse of calm in this storm, and when a calm shows up we don’t waste any time – we enjoy it… we smile, we hug, we laugh, we dance, and we don’t take it for granted. We’ve learned to lock in on moments that might seem insignificant to an untrained eye; a joke, an uneventful meal, a new milestone for Jack… a sound, expression, or new movement. Some of these little things are capable of delivering tremendous and instantaneous joy.

Newton’s 3rd law of physics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Prior to learning about Jack’s challenges my life had been fairly free of heartache. When I called to tell my mother her three month old grandson was blind, I did it from the floor because there was no strength to stand. The depth of that sadness was much stronger than anything I could have ever imagined. Fortunately, the equal and opposite reaction to that sadness is a joy more powerful than I had ever known. I’m always looking for one of these moments to recognize with gratitude, so a few quite hours with my son on Christmas Eve is a welcome gift this morning – a true moment of peace, Buy Viagra online no prescription and show… and calm, and joy. I’m smiling today.

If these little islands of happiness are enough to keep a fella going – imagine how impactful the really big islands are? Giving Songs has been and always will be a blessing to our family – we’ve made friends, discovered new resources, helped other families like our own, created beautiful music, and enabled our little boy to change the world in spite of his challenges. None of this would exist without you, and we know it, and we’re grateful for it… so are the families whose lives change when they discover the remarkable resource Giving Songs has become.

Now back to that thing I initially mentioned about a big thank you to Reverend Guitars. In 2014 Reverend shared one of our songs on Facebook, and then they were kind enough to respond to the email I excitedly sent their way. This is a cool company – grass roots heritage, passionate people working to build world class instruments, and they’re all happy to be doing what they do. It’s difficult to describe, but you can feel their pride in the air when you walk into the factory. A couple days ago Jack and I had the privilege of visiting them for the second time to pick up this brand new (completed that day!) Reverend Sensei Jr:

From left: Zack Green, Jack Johnson, Giving Songs President Brent Johnson, Reverend Manager Chris Zielinski, and Grace (Jack's cousin, enjoying a tour!)

From left: Guitar builder Zack Green, Jack Johnson, Brent Johnson, Reverend Manager Chris Zielinski, and Jack’s Cousin Grace.

This is a gorgeous guitar and it will be autographed (by who? TBD!) and raffled off to its owner at Karl’s Cabin on February 20th. It’s cool to raffle off autographed guitars… but it’s really cool when those guitars are professional quality instruments played by folks like Mark Knopfler and Billy Corgan. We are so lucky to have these folks on our side – thank you, thank you, thank you.

In gratitude,

Brent

Featured Artist – April 2015 – Rustic Union

I’d like to extend a tremendous thank you to Rustic Union for leading the local music scene in the right direction.    I’ve had the chance to speak to guitarist Mike Leavitt at a couple of shows and he is focused on the healing power of music.  To paraphrase, he believes that music is a source of positive energy in our world; music can inspire and heal, motivate and improve the world that we live in. Mike, John and Jaime provide world class live performances that challenge the best performances of our heritage.  They’ve provided Giving Songs with a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that is moving and genuine.  The Giving Songs’ recording mirrors their live performance, and reflects a wonderful interpretation of this classic.  The trio chose this song because of the positive message, and the focus on their world class harmonies.  Thank you to Rustic Union for this generous donation of talent.

Rustic Union performing live at Cabin Fever - 2015.

Rustic Union performing live at Cabin Fever – 2015.

Download their song and name your own price for a donation to Giving Songs here:  Teach Your Children

Featured Artist – June 2015 – Gavin Mee

We had an interesting thing happen this month when we crossed paths with Gavin Mee, from Dublin.  Gavin passed through town briefly on a tour of the United States, and by happenstance we met at a local open mic session.  Gavin’s passion and talent is world class, and as a result we immediately asked him if he’d like to know more about Giving Songs.  After some discussion Gavin generously made himself available for a few hours in the Plymouth Rock Productions studio.  The result is a live recording of a song written by Tony Chapman, of Amsterdam and we would like to thank Tony for giving Gavin permission to record this song for Giving Songs and waiving the royalty expenses.  The combined generosity of these two talented international artists has resulted in a really, really, really.. really great song.  Let’s talk about that – music can be interpreted in so many ways, so here it goes:  don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not in first place.  That’s what this song is about.  We have choices in life and often they’re a result of external pressures, but at the end of the day if we can shake those off we are left with the choice be proud of ourselves. Great advice.

Gavin Mee 1

Gavin Mee

Please enjoy the first international contribution to Giving Songs.  We extend our largest and most grateful thank you to Gavin and Tony for reaching out across the pond and creating new and wonderful art for our community.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In gratitude,

Brent

Download the song here!

Featured Artist – February 2015 – Bekah & Kyle

The February Artists of the Month are a duet we were introduced to by Lee Hyland, brother of Giving Songs president Brent Johnson. It is always incredible when random life circumstances (and great live shows) intersect you with talent like Bekah and Kyle. We thank them for donating their time and skills to our cause. Here’s a bit more about them:

A little over a year ago, what started as a classical guitar duet at Eastern Michigan University, has turned into a pop/punk/indi/folk/country/rock duo. In their own words – this duo’s act includes covers, originals, crazy glockenspiel solos, and some pretty awkward conversation with anybody in the room. Bekah and Kyle have been playing open mic nights in the Livonia area for a few months now and they hope to turn into multi-faceted act for years to come.

Kyle Kutskill recording for Giving Songs at Plymouth Rock Productions

Kyle Kutskill recording for Giving Songs at Plymouth Rock Productions

Download their song and name your own price for a donation to Giving Songs here:  What About Love – Download

Featured Artist – January 2015 – Greg Stryker

This month’s song was written by Lee Hyland and Greg Stryker, and recorded by Greg.  We are proud to present the first original song written to support Giving Songs – here is some behind the scenes background on the project:

In early 2014, songwriter Lee Hyland set a goal: to craft an original tune for Giving Songs, one that would help express his feelings as brother to founder Brent Johnson and uncle to Brent’s son, Jack.  After a promising start, the effort stalled and the song sat in limbo for a few months until Lee spoke to Giving Songs producer Ryan Hyland about a possible collaboration with veteran singer-songwriter Greg Stryker.  When Lee met Greg at Plymouth Rock Recording Company, they began working on  “Give Your Love Away (Shine)” with very little preamble.  For Stryker, there was no hesitation; he lives to write music and figured this was a great opportunity to support an uplifting cause.

The collaboration generated sparks and the songwriting was completed in less than an hour.  A couple of months later, Stryker enthusiastically agreed to record the song while being filmed live in-studio. This task would intimidate many, but was just another day in the office for Greg Stryker, who brought the song to life with soaring vocals and rock-steady guitar work.  His effort underscores a growing trend in the Giving Songs ranks- musicians going the extra distance to pour their heart into the charity.  Listen, and you can feel the connection in Rob Nelson’s tender vocal on “Brokedown Palace”, in  the beauty of the Bugar Brothers’ harmonies on “One Love”,  in every note, every word sung by so many artists who have donated their creativity and energy.

Giving Songs exists to serve the needs of families with blind, multi-disabled children, but the charity has evolved into a public art project with a pulse.  We are trying to emote, sharing a message of love and hope, to encourage togetherness and support within the community.  Our voice is a song. Won’t you help us sing?

Please download and enjoy this month’s song here.

Featured Artist – August 2015 – Kevin Allan

I met Kevin at a local open microphone session, and the first thing that caught my attention was his ability to convey energy.  Kevin’s music flows into the room and quickly captivates the audience.  I noticed folks whispering “I like him,” and “he’s really good!” as he began to play his set.  It didn’t take me long (15 seconds or so) to decide that I needed to invite him into the studio for a Giving Songs track.  Fortunately Kevin was excited to help, and it ended up being a really great session.  Kevin hadn’t recorded in a professional studio yet, so it was great to watch him enjoy the experience.  Here are a few words from 21 year-old Kevin Allan:

Giving Songs is one of the coolest ways to raise money, and for a such a awesome cause.  It allows artists to give their time and talent to help children who are in need and unable to get around without  special care and specific resources.  The 5 hours in the studio were the best, and it was great knowing families are going to benefit from something I genuinely had fun doing. I decided to get involved with Giving Songs because I knew we would really help families who can’t afford certain resources.   Giving Songs also showed me a new way to do good with the talents I’ve been given.  Music isn’t always about money and fame, it’s about giving.

Kevin

Giving Songs is thrilled to share Kevin’s talent and hope that you enjoy this Jason Mraz cover, I’ll Do Anything, as much as we do!

Download Kevin’s song here.

In gratitude,

Brent

Moments in Time

For Mother’s Day this year Jack and Ava bought Jaime a gift certificate to Painting Escapes, which is a local shop that hosts guided painting sessions.  I always envision Bob Ross leading the group along as they paint a masterpiece.  Although I am not a painter, this mental image puts a smile on my face because I grew up watching his show.

 

PBS Remix-Happy Painter

 

Jaime took her mom to the session and they had a great time – they spent an afternoon together and the paintings turned out beautifully.

 

Jaime and mom photo

 

I have really enjoyed coming home each day and seeing Jaime’s www.punapharmacy.com painting in the entranceway.  I have always enjoyed original art and this painting means a lot to me as our family will surely enjoy it for years and generations to come.  I like that Jaime signed and dated her masterpiece “JJ ‘14”

Jaime initials     Jaime art

as it reminds me of another painting we have in our home:

dalton initials     Dalton Art

 

This watercolor was signed in 1938 by “L. Dalton” who is my Great Grandmother, Lucille.  I don’t know the story behind this painting.  I don’t know if Lucille was at a painting party for Mother’s Day.  I don’t know if she hung it and enjoyed it as much as I do.  I don’t know if she painted a lot, or if this is her only creation.  As much as I don’t know about this painting, I do know it is very special to me and it was painted in a moment in time that occurred almost 80 years ago.  Art gets created once, and can be enjoyed for centuries afterwards.  I’ve always thought that was really cool.

 

Ancient Art

 

Of course everything we do at Giving Songs is designed to provide relief to families with a limited network of support and resources, however over the past few months we’ve figured out that we’re serving another community: artists. With each song we record and each live performance we host, we give artists a chance to capture their moment in time via music. Many of the songs currently in our catalog are world class, delivered by talented local musicians who otherwise may not have an opportunity to experience recording in a studio. This is only possible through the generosity of the awesome team at Plymouth Rock Studio, our amazing supporters and donors, the all-volunteer Directors that manage Giving Songs, and the talented musicians who share their moments in time with us.  I hope that everybody involved recognizes how wonderful this program is for our musicians and the children who benefit from our combined efforts.

 

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With your assistance we can continue to deliver world-class music that supports the under-serviced community of blind, multi-disabled children.   What can you do to help?

  •  Share our website and Facebook page Let the people in your life know about Giving Songs.
  • Download our music or make a donation.  As an all volunteer organization we have a very low overhead which allows a huge percentage of your tax-exempt donation go to where it is needed most.
  • Sponsor a song.  Do you have a musician in your life that deserves the chance to be heard?  We can help make that happen.
  • Host a retail location.  Do you have access to a retail counter that would look better with a stack of Giving Songs CDs on it?  We can provide you with inventory on a consignment basis, which makes it very easy to help this great cause.

If you would like to take action in any of these ways please send an email to info@givingsongs.org and we can get started!

In Gratitude,

Brent Johnson

President

Jack and Dad


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