Melody Harding on The Bridge School Benefit: 25 Years of Good-for-Humanity Music

Well folks, another festival season is drawing to a close.  We’ve seen another year of Lollapaloozas, Jazz Festivals, and Edgefests, only to drift into the reality of autumn – back to school, back to work.  Although I tend to ignore the fact and wear sandals straight into November (I may be intelligent, but I’m not claiming to be sensible), I must admit to myself that the balmy festival days of summer are once again behind me.  There’s still an annual two-day event that I wish I could fly away to, however: The Bridge School Benefit.

The Bridge School Benefit, a charity organized by the great Neil Young and his wife Pegi, is an annual gathering of many famous musicians and bands.  Previous performers include (but are definitely not limited to) Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and R.E.M.  Mr. Young himself performs too – every year since its inception in 1986.  In 2011, the all-acoustic and non-profit benefit will celebrate 25 years of supporting the Bridge School – a Mountain View, California school (co-founded by Young’s wife) which supports and develops skills in children who have extreme physical disabilities, and advanced communication needs.  This year’s festival takes place on October 22nd and 23rd – first time performers on the roster include Young’s fellow Canadians Arcade Fire and Diana Krall.  Also new to the festival this year is 2011’s break-out stars, Mumford & Sons.   Returning artists include Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam), Beck, and Foo Fighters.

Having two sons with cerebral palsy, and a daughter who lives with epilepsy (like himself), Young no doubt has a soft spot for causes that are focused on making things a little bit easier for those who live life with physical and mental difficulties.  His dedication to this charity is heart-warming, and another example of his life-long concern for social justice issues.

For those of us who have not (yet) been able to attend the well-known event, we’re in luck!  No, our good buddy Neil isn’t flying us to see the show on his dime, but this is still pretty cool.  On October 24th, a 2 CD/3DVD collection celebrating the last 25 years of the Bridge School Benefit will become available.  Especially awesome is the fact that ALL proceeds from sale of the collection will go to the Bridge School.  3 DVD’s and 2 CD’s of incredible (and rare) performances, plus a donation to boot – how can you go wrong?  Besides performances, the DVD’s also contain a “behind the scenes” look at the production of the benefit, interviews with the artists, as well as a look at the school itself.  Educators and students are seen communicating (whether by voice, signing, or supported by technology) with various musical heroes – smiles all around.  This footage is only further proof of what the music community can do if they put their heads and voices together.

More information regarding the collection (including pre-order information) can be found here.  If you don’t think you’ll be jetting off to California to attend this year, feel free to “keep on rockin’ in the free world” (ok I had to) at home or on your iPod with this collection.

Melody Harding – a born and bred Bluenoser and honourary Newfoundlander – spends her days dreaming of fame, fortune, and global domination. Ok not really, but a little recognition from time to time would be nice. You can find her in various Toronto coffee shops, and all over the interwebs (first step in global domination), including twitter (@melodyharding) and NEW! on Tumblr (!

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