Musicians visit Rochester to benefit local organizations
Michael Feinstein, Branford Marsalis lend clout to local fundraisers
October 9, 2009
Two accomplished musicians will make goodwill appearances this month in Rochester to benefit area organizations.
The classic American song interpreter, Michael Feinstein, a five-time Grammy nominee, sings a solo show at Hochstein on Sunday for the George Eastman House, and notable jazz musician Branford Marsalis, a two-time Grammy winner, performs with his quartet next Sunday at the Eastman Theatre as a benefit for the Lifetime Assistance Foundation.
Marsalis, a jazz saxophonist and cultural icon whose generosity has included the Musicians' Village, a large relief effort with singer Harry Connick Jr. to help displaced musicians in New Orleans, says he does about three or four benefit concerts a year, "the ones that seem the most sincere in their mission." The Lifetime Assistance Foundation assists people with developmental disabilities.
Additionally, he has a newfound respect for the students of the Eastman School of Music after performing earlier this year with the Red Line Saxophone Quartet, a group of recent Eastman graduates who won this year's Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
"Man, those guys can play," he says. "It was a nice humbling moment."
Marsalis will be the 13th recipient of the Lifetime Assistance Foundation's Inspiration Award, joining such socially conscious celebrities as Maya Angelou, Itzhak Perlman and his brother, Wynton Marsalis.
Feinstein's tie with the Eastman House is much closer.
A historian and archivist for the classic Broadway and Hollywood songs of early and mid-20th century, often called the Great American Songbook, Feinstein donated artifacts acquired over the years, including historic photographs of George Gershwin.
When he was in his 20s, Feinstein worked for Ira Gershwin to catalogue a collection of phonograph records; he's now considered one of the top Gershwin archivists in the world.
"When he buys materials, he doesn't keep the photographs," says Pamela Reed Sanchez, director of development at the Eastman House. "He makes sure they come to the Eastman House."
For Feinstein, it's just a matter of where the materials will be best preserved.
"The Eastman House is a parallel to what many people are trying to do with music preservation," he says. "They are a model facility for creating an extraordinary home for artifacts that would otherwise be lost."
His efforts for preserving the Great American Songbook have often required vast research into film, which is sometimes the only record of a particular song. Such was the case when Feinstein was looking into the history of "Too Marvelous for Words," a Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting standard.
"As a kid, I saw some old movie, and I remember hearing extra lyrics," he says. He went out in search of the extra words and stumbled on a still photograph from the film that showed people dancing on a huge typewriter. On the typewriter were the extra lyrics. But it was too hard to copy down.
So he contracted Warner Brothers, which eventually helped him track town the original Dark Passage, with the original lyrics, through a private collector.
To celebrate the tight connection between film and the music that Feinstein has worked hard to preserve, the Eastman House will honor Feinstein as an Eastman Honorary Scholar on Sunday with film clips and stills from Feinstein's repertoire.