Music Making A Difference

Text: T T

A re you living your passion? In today’s world of racing texts, imageless posts, fast food, and digital music…can a dream survive and outlast the test of time? Does anyone really live their passion anymore—or are we just doing our best to survive? We have bills to pay, kids, grandkids, husbands, wives, a mortgage, a car payment, a sick pet, medical insurance, rent, a new cavity, groceries, and the list goes on. Some of us sell our soul’s passion short, marching with the soldiers onto trains taking us to where we are stationed to overwork and under live. All of this just to survive. I can relate, can you? However, there were turning points for me in school when my teacher dared us to make our dreams come true and I’m glad I took the dare! This past weekend, I met talented writers and musicians in Queens who took it as well and are now living their passion.

Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD), performed to a head-bopping, finger snapping crowd Saturday, July 13 at LIC Bar’s rustic beer garden. MMAD handselects local musicians actively giving back to the community, helping to promote the causes each act represents during the festival. The first MMAD FEST took place in 2004 at CBGB’s Gallery, formerly in Downtown Manhattan, and featured many causes from environmental concerns to support for families who had lost a loved one to suicide. MMAD FEST creator Anne-Margaret Redding shares, “I wanted to create a community of like-minded musicians passionate about making a positive difference in this world. Music is such a powerful source of healing for people from all cultures, races and religions. When music is combined with conscious action and community, anything is possible. Each year this festival grows and inspires so many. Next year, we are aiming to host a festival in each borough.”

As the final featured performer of the night, Redding inspired the crowd with her honest spoken word, original music and powerful singing voice ( Each year, the MMAD FEST raises money for her own efforts at giving back: the Live Your Passion tour (LYP). Raised in Littleton, Colorado where the Columbine shootings occurred in 1999, Redding knew she had a calling to make a difference with young people. This tragedy, along with her belief that happiness is a result of living a passion-filled life with purpose, guided her onto this path. Live Your Passion began in 2003, while she was on tour with her first album and was invited to speak at her high school and university. “The schools asked me to share my story of how I was living my passion and I was overwhelmed by the response from the students. When I received letters from them sharing the courage they now had, to step outside the box and live their dream, I knew I had to continue this…thus, the Live Your Passion Tour was born.” Now in its 10th year, LYP is a workshop, infused with original music, nationally touring high schools and universities, inspiring young adults all over America to have the courage to live their passion. Through her workshop/concert, she opens a world of possibilities for students who are at a critical stage of their lives by working with them to identify their true passions. Through visualization and declaration, they move beyond their fear, and formulate a vision for their life, which in turn, gives them the courage to make choices that will affect them for years to come.

In addition to LYP, Redding owns and operates Astoria’s own Giving Tree Yoga Studio with her husband Anthony Wood ( Responsible for annually producing the MMAD FEST, The Giving Tree is a community oriented yoga studio compassionately committed to giving back and is located right across the street from the offices of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Vallone agreed with the message of hope that was spread through the crowd like sunshine, as he humbly rode over on his motorcycle, despite getting caught in the rain. He enthusiastically hopped on stage wearing his damp, red Locals Only T-shirt and played bass with Redding. “I was honored to play with such great local talent for a great cause,” said Vallone.

Both the councilmember’s mother and grandmother were teachers, and Vallone’s commitment to education and appreciation of the arts led him to become a member of the Advisory Board at the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy, where he used his skills as a professional musician to help autistic children with interactive music. Hearing him play bass, you quickly realize that there is passion in his art. Raised in Queens, Vallone has also supported young adults through local nonprofits such as the Astoria Performing Arts Center, Catholic Charities GED Program, and has passed new, tough laws against sex offenders and gun traffickers as well. Making a difference is in the family as his mom, Tena Vallone, was my flute teacher in sixth grade and helped start a music program at the Salah M. Hassanein Variety Boys & Girls Club, where she still teaches today. This was the same club where his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. was a founding member over 50 years ago. They provided children with a safe alternative to the streets where gang violence was becoming prevalent and their message to live your passion continues to impact lives for the better. Growing up in the mosaic of Astoria, their efforts personally contributed to my life as I am now living my passion as a teacher, actress, writer, and published poet.

Every step each one of us takes makes a difference when we inspire leadership in our children and provide safer places for them to thrive. Redding shares, “Although varying political views were represented in the festival, MMAD is a non-partisan and non-sectarian organization serving to bridge the gaps with a mutual respect for the way each artist positively makes a difference in the world. People tend to demonize an individual or organization if they differ on a political or religious view. If we have the heart to look a little deeper, our common ground is easy to find.”

Other musicians featured at the MADD festival included Jon Christopher (Mama Hope), 2/3 Goat (Mountaintop Removal), Vatan (Persian Arts Festival), Anthony Zenkus (Occupy), Charlene Lite (Dream Diaries), Johnny Hobbes (Zeitgeist), Jeneen Terrana (JT’s Artist Oven) and Silbin Sandovar (Rockethub) who sang a beautiful mash up of the Italian love song “O Sole Mio” and Elvis’ “This Magic Moment”.

A magic moment it was, towards the end of the festival, when Redding and Wood, shared the stage with her for a duet she wrote entitled, “The Truth About Me”, which they also had the opportunity to sing at the annual Global Youth Assembly at the United Nations. “True partnership is priceless, especially when you juggle as much as we do. I feel abundantly blessed to be creating a life with such a loving man, business partner, creative collaborator, who also sings duets with me!” Redding exclaimed. “To find all this in one person is an absolute dream come true. I am so incredibly grateful.”

So in today’s world where everything is at a push of a button, where it’s all at your fingertips, it seems as if there is not much personal effort made for our children. However, with Musicians Making a Difference expanding each year, and Live Your Passion continuing to tour our cities, there is hope. Through these efforts, our young people will be provided with tools to manifest their life’s vision by training them in the skills of effective communication, goal-setting and perseverance. In the end, our future generation needs to understand that they can create a life worth living that truly makes a difference in this world.

2013-07-24 / Features

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