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Music4Martin Spreads A Message of Peace, Hope

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After 15 years, Music4Martin is continuing to accomplish the dreams organizer Ken West had from its inception: first, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream; second, to support youth; and third, to advance music.

“It combines all the things that are important in my life,” said West. Percussionist Ross Robbins plays during a rehearsal for Music4Martin. Independent Photo by Ken Farver

Music4Martin, a showcase, featuring musical and artistic expressions presented by local artists, will take place at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 12, at Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road. No admission will be charged, but a freewill offering will be split between Community Connections for Youth and The Break, a Crystal Lake-based teen center that serves the youth of McHenry County.

Various musical numbers will be interspersed with spoken word pieces including quotes from Dr. King and explanations of why certain songs were chosen. The multi-generational group of performers has lined up a collection of 11 musical collaborations including a rendition of  Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and Bob Dylan’s “Lord Protect My Child.”

The Woodstock Community Choir, under the direction of Cassandra Vohs-Deman, will perform two numbers, and the Barefoot Dance Company, directed by Kim McLaughlin, will perform a dance to the spiritual tune “Down in the River to Pray.” 

Livvie Potje, 16, Woodstock, finds it inspiring to be part of Music4Martin. This is her first year participating and she is a reader for one of the spoken word parts. “I like what it’s all about,” she said.

In his quest to support youth and music, West likes to offer young musicians a chance to be part of Music4Martin, encouraging them to work alongside seasoned veterans. “Young people are fun,” he said. “They bring lots of energy.” 

Rhea Garbis, Richmond, is in her fifth year with Music4Martin. The 17-year-old – encouraged to participate by her first guitar teacher – has built on that experience, taking it all the way to an upcoming booking at the House of Blues in Chicago April 10. 

Garbis has a special place in her heart for Music4Martin, however, and she keeps returning each year to perform saying, “It was my first gig ever.”

Bass player Tyree Bell, Elgin, is one of the established area musicians who has performed with the group for five years. He said, “I like seeing young kids doing something positive. It’s an opportunity for me to mentor them.”

West reiterated that Music4Martin has always been a celebration with song, reinforced with spoken word, striving to show how the words of Dr. King still apply today, emphasizing the peaceful and hopeful side of his message.

“There are always reasons to discuss what King had to say,” said West.

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