Musicians band together to help ill stage tech
| By BROOSE TULLOCH, SUN MEDIA |
This project has the seeds to grow.
So says Howard Mandshein, director (and Friday night emcee) of the Musicians Help Project, capturing the vision, the optimism and the need for a non-profit group that can assist local musicians, crew members and roadies with temporary support for their health related issues.
The Musicians Help Project kicks off tomorrow at the Garrick Centre, featuring a Who's Who of the Manitoba music scene: Harlequin, Kenny Shields (Streetheart), the Pumps/Orphan, and Greg Leskiw (Swing Soniq, Kilowatt, Mood Jga Jga, and the Guess Who) have all represented 'Peg City on the world stage.
"I had the idea for years," says founder George Belanger of Harlequin, "but things happen for a reason and a friend in need is a friend indeed. So I said, 'Let's do it!' "
That friend is stage technician Blair Webber, who was diagnosed in 2004 with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The rare nerve disease has left Webber in constant pain, has no known cure or treatment, and makes everyday tasks difficult. The three-and-a-half-year ordeal continues to drain his savings, with mountains of medications and weekly hospital visits being the only means of managing the pain.
Doing what friends do in Winnipeg, Belanger picked up his little black book . "It was so easy," he says of the level of co-operation. "The music community always responds immediately."
Manitobans, according to the Fraser Institute report, are the most charitable Canadians on record, and Belanger says he's humbled by their spirit of giving as he reads a shopping list of donors.
"All they want to know is how can they help. And it comes from the goodness of their heart," he says.
Mandshein, who hosts a weekly live music showcase at Mona Lisa Ristorante, shares a similar experience.
"People always come up to me (and ask), 'Do you know so-and-so? They need help?' Any time that happens, nine out 10 musicians just ask, 'When and where and what do you need?' And they don't know these people! What does that tell you?"
Kevin Donnelly, senior VP at True North, quickly stepped up to the plate with a boatload of prizes. He also brought along heavy-hitting "friends" Ticketmaster and Centerplate to provide tickets and concessions.
"I have known Blair for a long time -- both personally and professionally -- and know Blair to be a salt-of-the earth, solid guy," says Donnelly. "As someone who has family in the music business, I am aware of the lack of a formal safety net."
Musicians are among the estimated 70,000 self-employed in Manitoba, many of whom are often unable to afford insurance. And even with over 700 members, the Manitoba Audio Recording Industry Association still finds medical coverage doesn't come easy.
"We did investigate a group medical plan," explains Sean McManus, volunteer co-ordinator with MARIA. "But we were not able to find a plan that was both effective and affordable for the members."
Doors at the Garrick open at 6 p.m. tomorrow, with music set to get underway two hours later.
For more info, see www.musicianshelpproject.com.
Musicians Help Project
Where: Garrick Centre
When: Fri., June 20
With: Harlequin, Kenny Shields, The Pumps/Orphan, Greg LeskiwTickets: $30 @ Ticketmaster; admission $40
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