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Dance to this AmeriCorps Alums – by Zach Maurin

October 27, 2009

What would happen if the passion of music fans around the country was connected to the needs of their communities?  Is that even possible?

In a recent Huffington Post article, Chad Stokes, a musician formerly with Dispatch and now with State Radio, and Matt Wilhelm, AmeriCorps alum & C0-Director of Calling All Crows, State Radio’s human rights organization, argue for a strategy to do just this.

Stokes and Wilhelm write:

Just as President Kennedy so convincingly captured the imagination of a generation and inspired our nation’s young people to join the Peace Corps in the 1960s, we need to appeal to more spokespeople across music genres and draw up a blueprint for how to best reach Americans. With an increase in AmeriCorps positions and a new Social Innovation Fund, we have the opportunity to leverage federal dollars to support music industry nonprofits to achieve their goals by empowering fans to serve.

This combination makes total sense and could be a serious force.  Music fans are as passionate as it gets.  They wait in line for hours to get tickets, camp out for music festivals, and do a variety of pretty wild things for the love of music.  If musicians start encouraging their fans — and lead by example — the millions who love music could also be turned on to deeper community activism and service.

Chad and State Radio have taken the lead on this and have rolled up their sleeves.  They don’t just throw it up on their website or promote service from behind a microphone.  They are in the communities with fans and organizations as they tour the country:

Nearly every other day while State Radio is on tour, Calling All Crows, the band’s human rights organization, coordinates pre-show service projects with local nonprofits and social service agencies. Members of the band, our crew, and area fans unite to address critical needs in each city. For instance, last week in Lawrence, Kansas, we cleaned out a storage space with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and next week we’ll kickoff the second leg of our fall tour with a beach cleanup at Long Wharf Nature Preserve with Save the Sound in New Haven, Connecticut.

We’re building sustainable, local networks of volunteers that can be mobilized through service to address communities’ most pressing challenges like hunger, homelessness, and an ever-neglected environment. Calling All Crows’ Action Leaders (super fan volunteers in each city) help to identify projects in their area, coordinate with local nonprofit partners, promote the event, recruit other volunteers, and then tell their stories of service through photos, video and blogs. The impact is tangible and the experience contagious for all involved.

State Radio is serious about this — which is what makes their efforts so powerful and such a tremendous example of combining music and service.  Matt, as a co-founder of and an AmeriCorps alumnus, understands what needs to take place to make this a worthwhile experience for fans and for communities.  Chad and the rest of the band are really committed to this — they see their job as more than to entertain, but also to inspire action from those who enjoy their entertainment.

In fact, when I served with them a few months ago, it was their commitment to the community that I found most inspiring.  Now I’m a fan of their music, too.

Note: This article was first published here.

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