When the Grateful Dead launched the Rex Foundation in 1983, they had not yet hit the 20-year milestone. The band’s break onto the top of the pop charts and into the mainstream’s limelight was a few years away, and the taper’s section was not yet a reality.
This community has come a long way!
On December 13th, Rex celebrated 25 years of grassroots philanthropy with “Sweet Music Everywhere” at the Grand Ballroom of the Regency Center in San Francisco.
During his bluegrass set, early in the evening, headliner Peter Rowan commented that his musical world opened up the day he heard the “Whop-bop-a-lu-a-whop-bam-boo.” The evening’s performers, including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, David Gans, Jackie Greene, the Brass Mafia, and Crucial Reggae lived up to the challenge of exploring the horizons, weaving elements of reggae, bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll into new arrangements of familiar tunes.
Since its inception the Rex Foundation has granted over $8M dollars to grassroots nonprofits and individual artists doing good work all around the globe. Over $1M of that amount has been raised and given out since 2001, when Rex invited the next generation of musicians and supporters to join the Rex Caravan, and participate in special events that carry on the Grateful Dead’s tradition of benefit concerts.
Thank you to everyone who attended. Even if you missed the music, you can still be a part of the celebration. Stanley Mouse’s commemorative poster – created especially for the occasion – is still available.
We are pleased to announce the release of Keller William’s “REX”- Live at the Fillmore, featuring Williams, Keith Moseley (The String Cheese Incident), and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), now available for Digital Download.
On April 29, 2008, this very special evening of music became available for digital download at iTunes and other digital retailers. 100% of the net proceeds of REX: Live at the Fillmore will go to The Rex Foundation.
Rex Foundation wants to express its deepest appreciation to Keller and the musical community for this generous support.
The 2008 Rex Musical Caravan travels on with a special performance from New Monsoon and special guest ALBINO! at the Great American Music Hall.
Carolyn Garcia, former wife of Jerry Garcia and present Rex Foundation Board Member, has posted a video inviting everyone to come out and celebrate our 25th Anniversary!
In 2007 and 2008, the Rex Foundation provided grants to help Christine Stevens of UpBeat Drum Circles bring drumming as a peacemaking and community-building tool to war-torn areas of Iraq. (See Drums of Peace and Ripple Effects).
Rex executive director Sandy Sohcot recently received this report and pictures from Christine’s latest trip.
Thank you so much for your support of our project in Iraq.
Thanks to Rex Foundation, there are ongoing drum circles weekly in four cities recovering from the war in northern Iraq; including Halabjah, Darbandikhan, Koya, and Suliamaniya. In addition, we were able to join them for a ribbon cutting ceremony of the first-ever music therapy clinic for children’s rehabilitation in Iraq.
It’s been twenty-four years since I saw my first Rex benefit show. Since then I’ve seen more shows, contributed money, and worked with the Rex Foundation over the World Wide Web. It was a great joy to open a new chapter – joining other volunteers to staff a table at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
The festival, which celebrated its 8th year on the first weekend in October of 2008, is financier Warren Hellman’s gift to the City and to music fans. Mr. Hellman decided to underwrite the free concerts so that an eclectic group of musicians could be hired without regard to their ability to bring in ticket sales. The unique event now draws over 100,000 people to see big names like Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Robert Plant (with Allison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett) and less widely known players as diverse as Gogol Bordello, Loudon Wainwright III, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Mickey Hart performed with the Global Drum Project.
I had a great time at the Rex table, getting to know the other members of the team, board members Freddy Hahne (our captain for the weekend) and Nick Morgan; fellow supporters Dave Fortescue and Casey Lowdermilk; and intern Kai Flippini. What made the experience really special was the connections with so many generations of kind travelers, ranging from one woman who remembered Jerry Garcia from a time before he earned money from his music to another who looked at the Carvavan flyers and asked me why we chose a bus as the metaphor.
We collected $600 in donations for the Rex Foundation. For those $20 donors who recieved a Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares CD, enjoy your tunes. Thanks to everyone who visited, or who threw us a smile or a thumbs-up as you made your way through the crowd!
A two-hour set from Phil Lesh and Friends was the perfect close to San Francisco’s Slow Food Nation events. Over the course of the Labor Day weekend, sixty thousand people attended Slow Food Rocks concerts, lectures by luminaries such as farmer-poet Wendell Berry, a tasting event, and picnics at various locations across the city. A World War II style Victory Garden, planted at the Civic Center in July, produced food that was ready by late August for distribution to people in need.
At Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, the performers’ backdrop consisted of breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco cityscape. The weather cooperated with a sunshine daydream kind of day; by the time the openers took the stage, the fog had burned off. Brief educational speeches came between sets by London Street, G Love and Special Sauce, and the John Bishop Trio. Phil delivered sunny tunes, including Sugar Magnolia, Sugaree, and a lovely Box of Rain.
The Slow Food movement challenges us to contemplate the entire cycle that turns soil, air, and sunlight into the cells of our bodies. To protect both health and social justice, we must take into account the condition of the water supply, the treatment of animals that some of us eat, the nutritional content of our food, the work practices and economics of farming and distribution, the social rituals that surround the preparation and consumption of our meals, and how we dispose of the waste.
The network of music and arts festivals is taking the lead around creating traditions in keeping with this attitude of awareness. Foods for sale at Slow Food Rocks included healthful fare like salmon and organic salads instead of hot dogs and nachos. To meet the guidelines for a “zero-waste event,” packaging was recyclable, reusable, or compostable.
The Rex Foundation supports many organizations working in the intersection of food and social justice. Visit the Rex Foundation site to learn more about the work of grantees such as Oakland People’s Grocery, Sustainable Fishery Advocates, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Dinner Program for Homeless Women, and Rock and Wrap it Up.
On Saturday, August 2nd, we had a plan to hold the final Rex Jam of the summer with the New Riders of the Purple Safe (affectionately “NRPS”) at 2:30 in the afternoon. Because they were not the first band on the stage that day, and the weather had been extraordinary all weekend, I had anticipated a great event. I have said it before and I’m saying it again… I’m not always right. At about 12:00 on Saturday afternoon, the sun disappeared, the clouds grew heavy and skies opened up. I dare say I can not recall a time where I have been in an “out-door environment” in such a storm. Lighting strikes, thunder claps, strong winds and heavy rain certainly created chaos in Seaside park. As the rain continued in the the 1:00 hour… I began to wonder what was going to happen to the Jam. The music was halted when Alternate Roots was called from the stage. I figure there would have to be some cancellations and was not sure if NRPS would even play. As I stood in the relative safety of my friend’s vending booth – I contacted volunteers and asked them to hold tight until further notice… I contacted Harry Moran, our Non-profit contact, for his thoughts… he said to hold tight until further notice… I contacted Toast, manager of NRPS… he said hold tight until further notice. So we held tight.
The rain finally ended and more chaos ensued. What would the new schedule be? Are NRPS palying? Is that other storm going to move in and hit us too? We had “missed” the volunteer meeting, but my folks were waiting patiently. I finally decided to go backstage, as the storm seemed to have passed. Next thing I knew, Toast was telling me they were going on any minute. It was Whiz! Bang! Spring to action! Harry raced me over to the vendor booth to get the buckets and mateirals, I sent a text to the volunteers to come ASAP! Everything seemed to be happening at once, I am ever appreciative to have had Miss Jen there. She has been with us for three Rex Jams this summer, and I relied on her to help gather the troops and give them the low-down because I had not time to meet with them before I made the stage announcement. After the announcement was finished, I rushed over to meet the volunteers with the materials.
I gave out buckets, bags and CDs, as well as my best advice and sent them out into the crowd to wait for the signal. Again – we had more volunteers than buckets, so I did not go out into the crowd. I think it was for the best this time, as I was so frazzled…. fortunately, no one seemed to notice but me. While on stage making the announcement I saw few friends in various locations in the crowd, and they all gave me the “hi” sign. Afterward, they gave me praise for my “performance” and said I looked very composed and natural. I was also ever-so appreciative when Toast told me the band would make some acknowledgment of the song (Garden of Eden) designated for the Rex Jam. Michael Falzarano made a comment to the crowd before the song, and I know that helped.
Beautifully, in spite of the mayhem – the Rex Jam was a raging success (ok, so I was right about something!). I am so proud to say that we raised over $2000 for the Bridgeport Central High School Musical Instrument program. This program is set up to purchase instruments so students who can’t afford their own can still learn to play and perform with the band.
I want to say here that being the Rex Jam Representative at so many festivals this summer has been such an honor and a privilege for me. It has brought me such joy I can’t even explain it. I have always said that I wish I was rich so I could give money away when I see a need…. I don’t have that kind of money – and this is a great substitute (giving away other people’s money where there is a need!).
A friend of mine asked me how much money we had raised this summer, and I hadn’t really given it much thought – but as it turns out, over the 5 Rex Jams and fund raisers we did this summer, we have raised close to $10,000. It is amazing to me. Yes – your dollars add up quickly people. All it takes is $5.00. Just $5.00…..
August 3, 2008 was Jerry Day in San Francisco, the sixth annual day of celebration commemorating the life and music of Jerry Garcia. It’s one of my favorite summer events – for more than the expected reason. The success of the event is a testament to the power of community spirit in action.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Long before he was lead singer for the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia was a scrappy kid in the Excelsior — pulling fire alarms, sticking his hands in wet cement, throwing cherry bombs in the Alemany tunnel.”
San Francisco changed quite a bit in the 50 years or so since Garcia’s cherry-bomb days. His old neighborhood, “hidden” on the south east edge of San Francisco, didn’t benefit as much as some SF neighborhoods did from the City’s economic upswing.
Rex supporter and Excelsior resident Tom Murphy joined forces with a group of friends and neighbors to improve their neighborhood by renovating and upgrading the Excelsior’s Crocker-Amazon playgrounds. Local neighborhood associations, San Francisco parks officials, Garcia fans, parents, kids, and friends all came together around this worthy project. The first Jerry Day all-day concert in 2003 raised $5000 for the playgrounds.
In 2005, San Francisco’s Parks and Recreation Department voted to dub the open-air venue located in John McLaren Park “Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.” Not nearly as well-known as that other San Francisco Park, McLaren boasts athletic fields, hiking trails, and a golf course; a water tower and reservoir; and an abundance of flora and fauna.
This year’s show featured Loco Bloco, Stu Allen and Sandy Rothman Acoustic, Workingman’s Ed, and Melvin Seals and JGB. Jerry Day is becoming a tradition. A mellow tribute to Jerry Garcia – and a major triumph for a committed group of neighbors.
It’s always interesting, and usually inspiring, to talk to Rex grantees about their work and write about it in our Food For Thought section. So, when I went to talk to the folks at Youth Movement Records, I expected to like them and was looking forward to our visit, especially after seeing the YMR youth’s work in the Oakland Tech production of “The World As It Could Be: Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.”
Still, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that these folks really knocked my socks off.
Part of this, no doubt, is because I’ve lived in Oakland for the last 32 years, and thus am somewhat aware not only of the crime rate that currently has the city rated as the nation’s 4th most dangerous, but also the poverty and lack of opportunity that often drive youth down a bad path. Programs, many funded by the city, seek to address these issues, and many of them do good work, but others are defined by empty feelgood statements, political posturing, and a general lack of accountability, all of which tends to feed rather than mitigate the problem.
Which is why YMR was such a breath of fresh air. On the one hand, unquestionably hip, using state-of-the-art technology and topnotch professionals to teach kids media skills — while some well-meaning groups are all about what they think kids SHOULD want, YMR uses what they absolutely DO want to reach them. And on the other hand, the program has a strong component of fostering responsibility, personal accountability and life skills (as founder Chris Wiltsee puts it, “You want to be in the performance on Saturday night and you miss rehearsal, forget it”).
In a town with a 50% dropout rate, YMR keeps kids — most poor, some literally homeless — in school, broadens their sense of what’s possible in their lives, and gives them the skills to set and achieve their goals.
As an Oakland resident and a Rex supporter, I was just blown away by these folks. Check out the article, listen to their
, and you’ll probably agree.
At the end of April, Ellen Sebastian Chang (Creative Director of Rex’s The World As It Could Be project) and I submitted the draft curriculum to use the creative arts to teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This curriculum element is being considered for inclusion in the San Francisco Unified School District’s 2008-09 Pilot Ethnic Studies program.
Wow! When I began work on this project in 2006, my goal was to raise awareness about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to showcase the excellent work of the Rex grantees who utilize the creative arts in their work with youth who, due to their lower socioeconomic status, often face troubling and risk-raising issues. My theory was, “What better way to teach, than through the lessons we can we learn from young people, delivered through the medium of drama, dance and song?”
The first performance of The World As It Could Be – A Declaration of Human Rights was at the Presidio in San Francisco on December 7, 2006. The primarily adult audience was taken by the beauty and eloquence of the performance. During the interactive discussion following the performance, I learned that most of the audience had no idea there was a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that they appreciated the learning that had just taken place. The next morning, the performance was presented to the 1,000+ students of San Francisco’s Balboa High School. Just as the night before, the entire audience was fully engaged throughout the 40-minute performance; students cheered and called-out in appreciation for what their peers presented.
Besides feeling that this had been the most meaningful creative project I had undertaken, I knew that multiple dimensions of learning and teaching had taken place, and that this was something that should continue. Several of the sponsors, along with Sarah Crowell of Destiny Arts Center, who provided the core performance company, and Ellen Sebastian Chang, agreed. We decided not only to do a second dramatization that would build on the first, but also to explore how to bring more focus within the public school curriculum on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, utilizing the creative arts as a key learning tool.
The Aha! about this came to me as I thought about what I witnessed when the performance company youth began working on the dramatization project. In addition to learning about the Declaration, the youth were given numerous thought-provoking questions to prompt writings, dance sequences and dramatic staging, to help express their ideas about what it means to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. You could literally see the learning taking place as each performer mulled over the questions and shared their responses.
As I planned for the next steps in this project, it seemed that we had an opportunity not only to continue working with youth via the great grantee programs we support, but also to help reinstate the arts as a vital part of public school education. We started working on the second dramatization, The World As It Could Be – Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, to explore the “will” needed to manifest the words of the Declaration, this time including 826 Valencia and Youth Movement Records, as well as Destiny Arts Center. 826 Valencia worked with three freshman English classes at Raoul Wallenberg High School to create writings about human rights and the “will to change” for a Chap Book (a booklet of collected works). Youth Movement Records worked with several of their youth to create an anthem for the performance, and produce a CD of the anthem to be included with the Chap Book.
We arranged for two performances this time, once again at Balboa High School, on January 11, 2008, and at Oakland Technical High School, on April 14. Then, we worked with Balboa High School to develop a pilot curriculum focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (already part of the official curriculum for 10th grade history). Ellen Sebastian Chang and Destiny Arts Center program directors are currently leading three classes to create writings about the Declaration. In the fall, auditions begin for students who will create their own production about the Universal Declaration and perform it at an assembly on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration (which took place in San Francisco!).
My original hope had been that this pilot project could then be considered by the San Francisco Unified School District for broader application. While all of this has been going on, our newly assigned faculty representative at Balboa High School approached us about including the project in the pilot Ethnic Studies curriculum being developed for 2008-09. Now, we’re excitedly moving ahead on parallel tracks to demonstrate the power of the arts to teach, to raise greater awareness about the Universal Declaration, and to shape the public school curriculum.
I am not a fan of the $600 tax rebate we will soon be receiving. I think it is going to cost a lot of money that could be better spent on other things, and it will not accomplish the stated goal of stimulating the economy. Since I don’t plan on returning it, I needed to find a way to use it in a way that can help stimulate the American economy and still be something I can feel good about.
Spending it on consumer items will only help the economy of the large corporate CEOs who already have enough of my money. It also has a good chance of helping to exploit a worker in another country while taking jobs away from Americans. A donation to the Rex Foundation does none of those things.
I know the money will be spent here at home, helping someone on the grass-roots level who can use the help in some way. I trust the Rex board to donate the money to organizations whose work I will most likely approve. So the decision is easy: Give the money to a foundation that has a history of good works done in a great spirit. What more can I ask from my $600?
The Rex Foundation is Furthering a Tradition of Grassroots Giving by completing the 2007 grant cycle designating recipients for its three major foundation awards and grants.
Rex is proud to announce the Jerry Garcia Award to Jazz Masters Workshop. In memory of Grateful Dead guitarist and founding Rex board member Jerry Garcia, this award is designed to honor and support individuals and groups that work to encourage creativity in young people. Since 2000, JazzMasters Workshop has held 2,000 workshops for children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. The program has a host of accomplishments, from assisting with admittance to schools, conservatories and summer camps, helping find scholarship assistance for needy students, acquiring musical instruments for talented young people without the resources to procure one and providing numerous performance opportunities.
Rex awards the Ralph Gleason Award to Allen Toussaint. This award is in memory of music journalist Ralph J. Gleason, a major figure in the advancement of music in America in the 1960s, whose openness to new music and ideas transcended differences between generations and styles. Allen Toussaint’s work and art have never gone out of style and he has continued to mentor musicians and represent New Orleans in the finest fashion. Producer, songwriter, arranger, session pianist and solo artist, Allen Toussaint represents artistic excellence. His music crosses multiple generations and inspires new generations.
The Rex Foundation’s Bill Graham Award has been designated to The Cambodian Children’s Fund. In memory of pioneering producer and founding Rex board member Bill Graham, himself a refugee, this award is for those working to assist children who are victims of political oppression and human rights violations.The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) services Cambodia’s poorest, undereducated and most vulnerable children by providing them with the care, education and training they need to reach their full potential. CCF seeks to create a safe, open place for children to thrive, learn and grow and to provide protection and support needed to overcome the barriers that prevent human development.
In addition to the three major awards, the Rex Foundation provided grants to thirty-two non-profit organizations. The list and description of grantees is at the web site linked at Rex 2007 beneficiaries.
The Grateful Dead was always known for generosity and the performance of numerous benefits. In the fall of 1983, the Rex Foundation was established as a non-profit charitable organization by members of the Grateful Dead and friends to further this tradition. The Rex Foundation enabled the Grateful Dead to go beyond responding to multiple requests for contributions, and proactively provide extensive community support to creative endeavors in the arts, sciences, and education. The first benefit concerts for the Rex Foundation were held in the spring of 1984 at the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium. Since 1984 the Rex Foundation has granted $8.2 million to some 1,000 recipients.
Continuing to embody the spirit of generosity and concern that evolved in the culture surrounding Grateful Dead concerts, the Rex Foundation is on a new path that seeks to include and engage many people. With activities that honor the spirit of community, service and creativity, Rex is building the funding necessary to carry out our mission. Thanks to the resounding response of so many generous supporters, since December 2001 we have granted $911,000 to 171 programs, across the United States and internationally. We plan to multiply our grant making each year so that we can once again support many grassroots programs across the United States and beyond that might otherwise be overlooked by mainstream funders, yet work in innovative and bold ways to bring about helpful solutions to challenging situations.
Rex Foundation Board President
Saturday night, watching people happily dance to the music, pose as Caravan Riders next to the Rex bus, and smile as they connected with others, was truly inspiring.
We’d love to see your entries that describe your thoughts on The Music Never Stops to help continue the celebration.