Grammy Winners Use Music to Uplift the Heart On Memorial Day

let-the-sunshine-inMay 23, 2009 I love the fusion of media and marketing when we can epitomize positive uses to merge the two and glean celebrity role models to boot. I haven’t heard this much buzz in musical circles since the ‘Playing For Change’ crew hit town!

GRAMMY award-winning producer, songwriter, and musician Narada Michael Walden knows the powerful potential of music to reach youth and change lives because as one of Billboard Magazine’s Top Ten Producers of all time, he’s lived it.

“Let the Sunshine In” is an apt tribute to honor the fallen on Memorial Day, including youth on the urban battlefield like 11-year old Christopher Rodriguez paralyzed by a stray bullet while taking a piano lesson.

As a casualty of violence, Chris is also a living inspiration of peace. Narada Michael Walden himself was so profoundly moved by the child’s circumstances, he’s producing one of the biggest all-star concerts in support of music education in the Bay Area!

Proceeds from the Memorial Day event benefit Chris Rodriguez, and also fund a scholarship at the SF Conservatory of Music. What better way than to rise up with hope, action, conviction and renewal than an event to Let the Sunshine In!?

nmw-photo2Narada has always believed music can play an important role in bringing harmony and inspiration into the lives of young children so they grow up embracing love versus guns and violence…

In fact, his entire NMW Foundation focuses on delivering sustainable improvements in music appreciation and education…so this is no ‘one trick pony.’ Faaaaaaaar from it. He walks the walk in a way few do…

He’s served as Music Director for the Rain Forest Concert at Carnegie Hall for six years straight, lends his talent to causes ranging from the Cancer Society to the schools, and his own NMW Foundation endows college scholarships for emerging young artists and aspiring musicians from around the world access to recording facilities, coaching and production support. (since 2004)

At the primary school level, he partners with a non-profit network of orgs that provide instruments, music education, and mentoring to kids. The site says it well,

The Narada Michael Walden Foundation respects the “light” and potential in every person…

Music is our vehicle for enabling youth to experience creativity, love and delight, and make a productive contribution to our community, our nation and our world.”

How is he going to pull off this massive concert when times are tight, pockets are threadbare and many folks are ‘staycationing’ the national holiday at home?

Let’s just say he ‘gets by with a little help from his friends.’

The Concert at Louise M Davies for Christopher will feature Sting along with Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis of 5th Dimension Fame, Mary Wilson, Earl Klugh, David Grisman, Bob Weir, Gerald Alston of the Manhattans, Lisa Fisher, Tevin Campbell, Shanice Wilson, Jeanie Tracy, Ralphe Armstrong, Dale “Satchmo” Powers, an orchestra of students from The San Francisco Conservatory of Music conducted by Michael Morgan of the Oakland East Bay Symphony along with pop-in surprise performers who can’t resist a good jam.

And let’s not forget…The Narada Band!

Thirty + years in the entertainment business clearly means you can call in some markers, all notably honored to be a part of Narada Michael Walden’s magical gift of ‘paying it forward’ and doing great things. (okay, and being the ‘go to guy’ to create breakthrough hits for superstar songstresses like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey probably help out the ‘ask’ a bit too…)


It’s frustrating to me that kids know ‘Britney’ but may NOT know this kind, gentle soul who has given so much of himself to so many, impacting music from pop, rock, soul, hip-hop, jazz, fusion, world and country with such a diverse range few can touch.

Today while I was writing this, I had the audio player on his site loop through some of his hits, and mumbled to myself, “whoa, THAT one, too?”

And yet, I realize, Narada Michael Walden isn’t about the ‘flavor of the day’ fickle fame, so he could probably care less about the acknowledgment when his gift is intrinsically about transformation and authenticity. Still…it’s part of our mission at Shaping Youth to uplift and applaud the ‘creme’ to ‘let the sunshine in.’

Check out NMW’s videos here…and Facebook group here…Have you ever seen musicians get in that ‘zone’ where the world seems to freeze frame around them and they just relish the energy and spirit of the session? That’s ‘the real deal.’

I heard one of the music students on the news comparing music to sports in terms of it being like a ‘pick up game’ where you have your skill sets and people just ‘find each other’ and ‘it happens.’

That’s such a concise, heartfelt description to me; evocative and so true. It’s right up there with that adage, “music is what feelings sound like.”

p.s. Small social media world: One of my co-contributors in the Age of Conversation book (237 marketing hotshots) is a longtime friend of Narada Michael Walden, who is helping him get the word out in these final days before the concert…

We’ll hear from Neil Vineberg tomorrow in an e-interview on the role social media can play in cause-marketing, promotions, and instantaneous ‘Twitter-vision’…along with an update of AOC2 which is now on Amazon too! Stay tuned!



  1. Thanks for all you are doing for young people Amy. Nothing can uplift and empower more than music and the arts.

    Drue Kataoka’s last blog post..Top Women in Tech – Backstage at Anita Borg Institute Vision Awards

  2. Coming from YOU, Drue, that’s a classic. btw, I’m in love with the ‘Sumi Surf Session’ painting in your collection…we should chat about ValleyZen overlap sometime. Thanks for the kind words–Amy

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Celebrity Star Power To Benefit Urban Battlefields

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