The idea of artists supporting other artists within the community is nothing new, so when local guitar player Marty Schechter passed away recently drummer Gary Schwartz organized Little Marty’s Big Blues Fest Volume 1 at Katie Mac’s in Mount Kisco to help the Schechter family with expenses. Schechter, a gifted guitar player, singer, and songwriter among his many other talents, died after battling cancer at age 60 in December. Family, friends, colleagues and fans were all eager to take part in the fund raiser that was also a tribute to the memory of this beloved member of the music community
who was a passionate enthusiast of blues music. Like other benefit concerts, a line-up of several bands began in the afternoon and played long into the night for a large crowd of friends, family and fans. A silent auction with thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise and services on which to bid was held too. Guitars and musical equipment, original artwork (including tee shirts with a logo designed by Marty himself) as well as countless other items were donated to raise money. This event was one of the most successful of its size.
The local music scene has a family-type atmosphere as many of the same paths cross when they perform together within the same bands or at open-mic jams; friendships and professional relationships form and when the time comes to pull together and help someone in need, help comes from a wide network of sources. Regular patrons, bartenders, and music fans from all over connect to lend support.
Based on the overwhelming success of Little Marty’s Blues Fest Volume 1, Schwartz’s friend and colleague Lawrence Albus along with others in the community hope to create a foundation to support artists with low-cost health care and life insurance as well as non-medical financial assistance. Holding benefits as needs arise is one way to help, but having regular fund raisers and a permanent organization to which donations can be made would be a much-needed asset to the community. Both Albus and Schwartz have always found it natural to help colleagues and artists of all types when in need. Because the scope of this vision is so vast–much administrative work is needed and finding people to fill those positions is not easy–Albus feels it will take two or three years to have enough funds available to make a difference. The paperwork is in motion however, and he hopes to have the second benefit concert by April 2012. Unlike Little Marty’s Big Blues Fest Volume 1, Volume 2 would not be a day-long event but likely four bands performing at a local venue at night.
Performing arts are well-supported in Westchester and Albus and his colleagues are reaching out to artists in neighboring counties throughout the tri-state area to raise funds for his new organization, the working title of which is The Martin Schechter Play it Forward Foundation. Once the foundation is established, donations may be made online, at fund raising performances and with designated tip jars at area music jams. We look forward to the next event benefitting this important organization that, when it comes to fruition, will further strengthen and support the artists in our community.
Miriam Longobardi is a freelance writer, first grade teacher and single mother of two daughters living in Westchester. A breast cancer survivor, she also volunteers for the American Cancer Society and has completed four marathons. Also, check out her weekly New York Modern Love column at Examiner.com.