Tuesday, October 09, 2007
by LUCIANA LOPEZ
Voices rise to support Uganda :
Portland singer-songwriter aids Mercy Corps'
programs for displaced families with concerts
What struck Stephanie Schneiderman about Uganda was the constant contrast: The celebration of hope and life, paired with the devastation of decades of conflict. The competence and ability of communities to help themselves, and the ways that the world can help, as well.
Schneiderman particularly knows something about that last one: Along with co-director Gordon Heady, the long-established Portland singer-songwriter has been the driving force behind the Voices for Silent Disasters concert series to benefit programs by the nonprofit group Mercy Corps in the east African nation. Internal conflicts stretching back decades have left up to 1.6 million people displaced and have resulted in tens of thousands of children abducted and forced to serve as sex slaves and child soldiers.
The series proper begins in November; a kickoff concert and film tonight at McMenamins Kennedy School not only celebrates the shows but also Uganda's day of independence.
Schneiderman recently traveled to Uganda on a learning tour with the W. Glen Boyd Charitable Foundation, which has supported Portland-based Mercy Corps' programs in the area. She didn't know what to expect; what she learned changed her thinking, she said.
"We are kind of accustomed to believing that people in Africa are in dire need of our help. And what blew that away was just how capable and confident and how professional and effective the elders of their own communities are," she said, also praising the youth. Much of what she saw in Uganda -- community, self-sufficiency -- reminded her of Portland.
An ongoing rebellion in Uganda since the 1980s has transformed the northern part of the country into what the United Nations in 2005 called a humanitarian crisis, noting that more than half the population doesn't have enough to eat. The organization called the area one of "10 stories the world should hear more about."
The young have been particularly vulnerable, as armed insurgents known as the Lord's Resistance Army press children as young as 8 into service as soldiers, the U.N. noted in 2004, adding that almost 90 percent of the LRA's soldiers are minors.
The conflict has left much of northern Uganda's population as IDPs, or internally displaced persons, living in camps far from their villages, which can create vicious cycles of donor dependency, Schneiderman said.
"They're living in tight, tight constrained areas, so there's no room to cultivate land. So they become completely dependent on the food that agencies are giving them," she said. "The dynamic socially that that creates in a camp is pretty devastating. They've lost the ability to fully express their own culture."
If the camps have undermined much of traditional Ugandan life in the north, though, Schneiderman saw celebration and hope there, as well. Much of the music that Schneiderman heard used bright, uplifting melodies, so cheerful in sound that she was surprised to learn that the lyrics translated into stories of grief and loss. The happiness of the melodies, she was told, helped them maintain hope in the future.
Schneiderman hopes to make the concert series not just an annual event but also an ongoing interaction with Ugandan artists.
"I really hope that we can make it more of an exchange," she said, "us doing something there that involves more people from Uganda, or some kind of collaboration."
Though she was gone for less than two weeks, the contrast with the United States on her return has been acute.
"We live very solitary lives (in the United States). This is something I realized when I was over there. We're very independent," she said. "I feel there is warmth to the community in Uganda . . . they're always together."
Still, some differences have been less about deep perceptions on the human condition and more about the conditions in which we live.
"The Internet works (here). That's bizarre," she laughed. "And I love my bathroom, I've never loved my bathroom more. I love everything about my bathroom."
Friday, October 05, 2007
KPTV.com (Portland's NBC affiliate)
(click here to view broadcast)
Local Musician Leaving a Mark in Northern Uganda: PORTLAND, Ore.
A Portland musician is making it her mission to prove that one person can make a difference, no matter how far away the cause may be.
Stephanie Schneiderman, a local musician, visited the northern part of Uganda in east Africa, where Mercy Corps is bringing aid to a crisis of epic proportion.
Despite the crisis, she said there are many examples of silent successes happening in the country.
A concert series will kick off next Tuesday night at the Kennedy School in an effort to raise awareness and money for Mercy Corps' efforts.
The series kicks off with performances from Art Alexakis, of Everclear, and China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale, of Pink Martini.
There are only 300 tickets available for the show, but the series will continue through the end of November.
VLOG: Stephanie Describes Her Experience In Uganda by candlelight.
Video: (click here to view)
VLOG: Stephanie describes what she saw at a resettlement site in Uganda.
Video: (click here to view)
Friday, November 02, 2007
by LUCIANA LOPEZ
United We Sing:
Voices for Silent Disasters concerts raise awareness
about Uganda and funds for Mercy Corps' efforts there
When Stephanie Schneiderman read about conflicts in East Africa last year, she figured she'd hold a concert to raise money. That way, she thought, she could use her popularity as a singer-songwriter to gather a few dozen people in someone's house, with proceeds going to a good cause.
But what started out as a smallish soiree has snowballed into a series of 10 concerts involving Portland musicians from a broad slice of the musical spectrum, to benefit the nonprofit Mercy Corps' aid programs in northern Uganda, where internal conflicts since the 1980s have displaced up to 1.6 million people, with tens of thousands of children forced to serve as child soldiers or sex slaves.
"The vision of it stretched bigger than I was thinking," Schneiderman said, crediting her friend and co-director, Gordon Heady , with helping the concert series, Voices for Silent Disasters, grow.
Heady, in fact, was involved from the beginning. Schneiderman's first plan included a concert at his home to benefit Darfur , the subject of the article that first caught her interest.
But conversations with Mercy Corps convinced Schneiderman that a humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda was the best fit for the concert series. An ongoing rebellion in Uganda led the United Nations in 2005 to call the area one of "10 stories the world should hear more about."
And as Schneiderman began tapping her considerable Rolodex for musicians to join her efforts, the enthusiastic responses made it clear there was enough interest to expand far beyond a single intimate show.
"Virtually no one said no," Heady said. "People felt this is something that Portland can really get behind."
One of the bands Schneiderman contacted was Climber, through their management.
"We wanted to do something bigger than just looking for adulation," said band member Michael Nelson. "When we talked about it, it looked like a no-brainer."
For Nelson, the concert's also been an opportunity to learn about Uganda .
"I'm fairly ignorant of those matters," he said, admitting that, before watching the 2006 movie "The Last King of Scotland," he hadn't known who Idi Amin was. Amin, who died in 2003, ruled Uganda as a dictator from 1971-79 and, according to the CIA World Factbook, was responsible for the deaths of about 300,000 opponents (see sidebar).
That kind of developing awareness, Schneiderman said, has been a big motivator for the concerts, in addition to the fundraising goals.
"I want people to be aware of this giant, devastating war that these people in northern Uganda have gone through," she said. "It's important that we're aware of what's happening in the world."
And beyond that, added Heady, it's important for people to feel "a sense of hope, that there's good news for the people of northern Uganda as they pull themselves out of adversity."
Despite the scope of the project, Heady said, things came together smoothly.
"The universe didn't really give us many stop signs," he said. Not only did artists such as Vagabond Opera, the Lions of Batucada, MarchFourth Marching Band, Little Sue, Dahlia and others come on board quickly, but McMenamins also waived the venue fees. Although most of the shows are in November, one early show, on Oct. 9, celebrated Uganda 's independence day.
Schneiderman hopes to make the series an annual event, benefiting different parts of the world each year, with sustained contact among the artists involved in the United States and abroad.
"There are a lot of things to connect Portland with Uganda ," said Schneiderman, who visited the country for the first time this fall. She noted the interest in both places to build sustainable futures. "There's just a lot of that kind of like-minded spirit, that village coming together to make a difference."
Friday, November 02, 2007
by LUCIANA LOPEZ
After upheaval, Uganda beginning to heal
In many parts of the world, traffic is to be deplored. But for Zoe Daniels, Mercy Corps' country director for Uganda, the increased traffic on the roads of northern Uganda means hope.
"Fifteen months ago, no one was on the road, no NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), no one," Daniels said. Now, as people gain confidence in the hope for peace, that's changing. "Week after week, people are out and about."
That's because the region has grown more peaceful since July 2006, when the government and rebel forces known as the Lord's Resistance Army began ongoing peace talks.
Though the rebellion that's displaced about 1.6 million people in northern Uganda began in the 1980s, the roots of the conflict go back much further. After Uganda 's independence on Oct. 9, 1962 , from British rule, tensions grew among the country's political parties. In 1966, five government ministers were arrested and the constitution suspended by the prime minister, Milton Obote. Idi Amin, then a colonel, led troops to quell domestic violence and seized power himself in January 1971.
During Amin's dictatorship, all Asians without Ugandan citizenship were expelled and their commercial establishments were given over to military officers for exploitation. Opposition forces were slaughtered, and the economy broke down. Amin fled the capital after a 1978 war with Tanzania , with a series of short-lived governments beginning in 1979 and ending with Obote's return in 1980.
After Obote's overthrow in 1985, another short-term government gave way to the 1986 presidency of Yoweri Museveni, who continues to hold the office, and life grew more stable through much of Uganda . In the north, though, the Lord's Resistance Army continued to fight, enslaving children along the way.
No one has to tell Julius Achon about the LRA's brutal tactics. Achon, who has twice represented Uganda in the Olympics, moved in 2003 to Portland as part of the Nike-sponsored Oregon Project, a group of elite distance runners.
At the age of 13, Achon was one of 19 youths abducted from his northern village by the LRA. The rebels forced him to serve as a soldier. "I was given a gun," he said. "I was the escort to a big boss." Over the weeks, nine of his fellow villagers were killed.
Three months after he was taken, a government helicopter flew over a group of rebels, including him. The rebels scattered, and Achon and his village mates took their chance; they walked 100 miles in three days to return to their village. His parents were not at home; they had taken to sleeping in the bush to avoid the rebels. The next morning, they reunited.
Achon went on to international athletic glory, winning a gold medal at the 1994 World Junior Championships in Lisbon , Portugal , and competing at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. He hopes to represent Uganda at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing , as well.
Though he lives in Oregon , Achon still supports 11 orphans in Uganda , from ages 7 to 18, paying for their livelihoods and school fees, and always looking for people who can help support the children.
"I talk to them once a month (on the phone)," Achon said. "They call me 'Uncle.' " To donate supplies for children in Uganda via Julius Achon, please contact the Nike Employee Store at firstname.lastname@example.org, 971-207-4112 or at email@example.com, 503-752-6552.
The Portland State Vanguard
Thursday, November 01, 2007
by RYAN M. MCLAUGHLIN
Whole Lotta Love: Back home from tour, 30-plus member
March Fourth Marching Band wants to rock you
When most people think of a marching band, the image that comes to mind is a gang of pimply high-school kids obtrusively clamoring for attention at some ridiculous sports event or sickly sweet parade. But, when Portlanders make a marching band, it manifests the strangeness of our city: through a rag-tag assemblage of fire-dancers, stilt walkers, unicyclists, foxy burlesque dancers and damn fine musicianship.
Those band geeks you used to know have grown up, adopted a fine punk-rock mentality, moved to N.E. Portland, and started the March Fourth Marching Band. Now they are the cool kids, and you my friend, are still reasonably lame.
The March Fourth Marching Band originally started as collaboration of artists and musicians who got together to play at a friend’s party, and since then, have grown enormously in both size and popularity. Last year’s historic performance at the Iraq war protests led a voracious crowd of over 10,000 people on a funk-filled journey through the downtown streets and culminated in a massive Park Blocks dance ceremony, one of the best Portland has ever seen.
The March Fourth Marching Band is finally returning to mother Portland after nearly two months on the road, and they couldn’t be happier. This Sunday, Nov. 4, they are playing not one, but two homecoming shows at the Crystal Ballroom: an all-ages matinee gig benefiting charity, and a 21-plus evening record release party.
At the later show, they will be debuting their new album, entitled Live, which encompasses their best live recordings from 2007. This week, The Vanguard e-mailed the beautiful stilt-walker and dancer Nayana Jennings, as well as drummer Heather McGarry.
Where are you right now, and how is your tour going so far?
Nayana Jennings: The band is in Oregon and will arrive in Portland on Halloween. The tour was great.
Have you ever had any serious accidents involving fire dancers or stilt-walkers?
Heather McGarry: Not that I can think of. Although, once, one of our dancers conked a pedestrian in the nose pretty good with her cane, there was threat of a lawsuit, but it never came. And just at the beginning of this tour, at the Hollywood Bowl, the bass amp got out of control on a hill and rammed into a BMW!
What is the strangest place you’ve ever performed?
HM: Ahhhh…there are so many. To pick just one? One that comes to mind is a Governor Kulongoski breakfast at the Hilton in downtown Portland at 8 a.m. You should have seen the looks on the barely awake constituent’s faces!
Are band members allowed to date each other?
HM: We don’t have any rules governing that. We have married members, couples and everything in between. At times, you might say, it borders on incestuous.
For the record, what actually happened on March 4?
HM: The first and infamous March 4? We got together for a one-off show for Mardi Gras 2003 at a club in Old Town called “The Level.” We had five or six drummers, four horn players, a few dancers, stilt-walkers and the all-important bass guitar to glue us together. We had learned five or six cover tunes over a three-week period of time and we put on quite a memorable performance. A few weeks later the war started, and we led a huge processional from the Hawthorne Bridge all around the city. I think that solidified us as a force. We’ve been doing it ever since. Incidentally, it's also the day the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
Your shows can be extremely wild. Do you think that it’s physically possible to dance your face off?
HM: I’ve seen it done…multiple times.
How long will it be until you put out a new record?
We are releasing a new CD on Nov. 4 at the Crystal Ballroom. It is called Live and is, you guessed it, a live CD of tracks recorded in 2007. We will have our studio album out sometime this winter.
One of these shows on Sunday at the Crystal Ballroom is for charity, right? Who, or which organization is it benefiting, and how did you get involved with this project?
NJ: The all-ages afternoon show is the benefit (not both) and all proceeds go to Mercy Corps. “Voices for Silent Disasters” is an annual humanitarian concert series that benefits the Silent Disasters fund at Mercy Corps. This year's concerts bring aid to the crisis in Uganda . March Fourth has supported Mercy Corps for years.
Righteous. Are the songs you perform mostly originals or cover songs?
NJ: At this point, it’s about half and half, I'd say. Though the band plays well over 50 songs, and I haven’t counted recently.
How do you fit such a large group onto one tour bus?
HM: Lots of various types of lubrication.
Any plans yet for a repeat performance at next year’s Iraq War 5th Anniversary Peace Protest in Portland?
How does the band perform indoors, where there is no room to march?
NJ: We usually march into a room, take the stage, then perform a stage show, which varies depending on how much space we have.
What role does audience interaction play in your live performance, and have you ever seen a crowd lose control?
HM: I would say we are like an energy amoeba. We absolutely feed off of the energy; we love the give and take you can have with a really great crowd. I have witnessed, up close and personal, things like girls ripping off their shirts, bras, people thrashing into trance-like frenzies and other bacchanalian actions. There’s a fine line between losing control and riding the edge. M4 likes to call that place home.
What are some of your favorite performers to share a stage (or street) with?
We played with Balkan Beat Box in Philadelphia , and they were great! There’s a good chance we'll be playing with them in Portland in the spring, it’ll be their first time here.
Does the band make enough money to live off of, or does everyone still have day jobs?
NJ: Most people in the band have jobs (or are between them). Several are self-employed so they have more flexibility in their schedules. We are getting closer to paying the 35-member payroll a living wage. That’s the goal this year.
Is the band planning to do anything special to celebrate Halloween?
NJ: Most folks will be snuggling with their sweeties and sleeping in their own beds for the first time in almost two months!
Do you have any advice or thoughts for the good people of Portland?
HM: We LOVE YOU! You are the best people on the planet, in our travels, so far. We are always ecstatic to come home and play for the beautiful, generous, smart, savvy and sexy people of P-TOWN!
You can’t possibly be five places at once, so you’re bound to miss something, but other shows worthy of your attention on a crisp November evening include The Good Life <http://www.saddle-creek.com/bands/goodlife/> , Jonathan Rice <http://www.johnathanrice.com/> , and Art in Manila <http://www.myspace.com/artinmanila> at the Doug Fir; and Amelia <http://www.ameliaband.com/> , Richmond Fontaine <http://www.richmondfontaine.com/> , the Stephanie Schneiderman Band <http://www.stephanieschneiderman.com/> , and the Joe McMurrian Quartet <http://www.joemcmurrian.com/> all play the Mission Theater in the first of a series of concerts <http://www.voicesforsilentdisasters.com/> benefiting Mercy Corps <http://www.mercycorps.org/silentdisasters/ugandadisplacement/?source=7930> .
Voices for Silent Disasters
Friday, November 2, 2007
A weekend of significant events that gives a lot a great reasons to get out to something just a little bit different.
Yesterday <http://jimsmusicnotes.blogspot.com/2007/11/siren-nation-festival.html> I mentioned the Siren Nation Festival that is going on through Sunday.
Also this weekend, and continuing for the next three weekends are some fine shows that are part of a humanitarian concert series for Mercy Corps' Voices for Silent Disasters <http://www.voicesforsilentdisasters.com/about.htm> . Organized by Stephanie Schneiderman <http://www.stephanieschneiderman.com/> , these concerts will raise money for Mercy Corps efforts in Uganda to help combat "one of the most overlooked humanitarian crises in the world today; nearly two million people are displaced as a result of a generation of war."
Stephanie has done an amazing job of bringing members of Portland 's music community together for a series of shows at the Mission Theater, the Baghdad Theater and the Crystal Ballroom. This is a broad community effort to bring attention and financial support to one of Mercy Corps <http://www.mercycorps.org/> many worldwide relief efforts. Check the show schedule <http://www.voicesforsilentdisasters.com/calendar.htm> , buy tickets, contribute <https://ssl.charityweb.net/mercycorps/giftbasket/uganda.htm?Custom15=SPEV306> to Mercy Corp and always remember just how fortunate we are. Big applause to Stephanie and everyone who's part of this effort. 'nuf said.
Voices for Silent Disasters Concert Series
Over the past two decades, Uganda ’s civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of families to flee their homes. These refugees are forced to exist in cramped, squalid camps. As peace talks continue in the region, Mercy Corps is there to help families return to suitable homes and restore their way of life.
We are big supporters of Mercy Corps and encourage you to make a direct donation <http://www.mercycorps.org/> to them for their work in Uganda and elsewhere. And if you like great music, Stephanie Schneiderman, of Dirty Martini, and Gordon Heady have founded an incredible fund-raising concert series that begins on November 2!
Between November 2 and November 16, a great set of concerts will happen at the Mission , Bagdad , and Crystal Ballroom. Featured artists include Climber, Jackstraw, Linda Hornbuckle, Vagabond Opera, Storm Large, Dirty Martini, and more! For families, The MarchFourth Marching Band will be performing an all ages show at the Crystal Ballroom on Sunday, November 4th at 2 pm .
All the musicians taking part in the Voices for Silent Disaster Concert Series are donating their time and McMenemins is donating all the venues for this series. The result? 100 percent of the concert proceeds will go directly toward Mercy Corps’ response to the disaster in Uganda !
Great music for a great cause, definitely check it out. Click here for more info. <http://voicesforsilentdisasters.com/about.htm>
Well-connected musician packs the stages for Uganda Music
By Barbara MItchell
The Portland Tribune, Nov 2, 2007
Stephanie Schneiderman doesn’t look like a crusader. The gentle-looking singer-songwriter (who’s one-third of popular local supergroup Dirty Martini) looks like she’d be more comfortable carrying a guitar than a torch.
But freshly back from a 10-day fact-finding trip to Uganda with Mercy Corps and on the verge of launching a nine-show benefit concert series, Schneiderman has found a way to use both.
Killing time while on tour with Dirty Martini, Schneiderman read a Rolling Stone article about the various crises in Africa. She was inspired to act.
“I felt I was in a great position to put a concert together and try to pull in other artists as well,” the veteran Portland musician says.
That was last December. The idea quickly morphed into something much larger, now called Voices for Silent Disasters. A concert featuring the Stephanie Schneiderman Band with Richmond Fontaine and the Joe McMurrian Quartet kicks off the series tonight.
The next two weeks of shows could serve as a who’s who immersion lesson in local music: Performers include Tom Grant, Storm Large, 3 Leg Torso and Vagabond Opera.
Schneiderman’s friend Gordon Heady agreed to help out with the event. The two approached local nonprofit Mercy Corps with the idea. They were encouraged to focus their efforts on Uganda, one of the countries in the organization’s “Silent Disasters” fund.
With a specific cause – aiding those displaced by Uganda’s violent civil war – in mind, what started as a simple idea “grew jets, wheels, legs, wings, you name it,” Schneiderman says.
She and Heady approached local performers and businesses. Soon McMenamins had volunteered its venues, the Portland Roasting Co. was on board to import and sell a special blend of Ugandan coffee, and more than 30 of the region’s talented musicians had agreed to donate their services.
The focus on community that Portland and Uganda share is something that excited Schneiderman.
“Our community has come together in a way that matches what I saw on the ground in Uganda,” she says. “This event is unprecedented in regards to everyone donating performances, venues, coffee, etc.”
And with Voices for Silent Disasters on track to becoming an annual event, Schneiderman hopes that their efforts will inspire others.
Heady points out that the cost of an average concert ticket helps train two farmers to reclaim their land, as well as providing seeds and tools to support their own families and others.
“Everyone is capable of making a difference,” Schneiderman says. “It just takes one person to start an idea, to start something. People can have their own version of what that looks like for them. They can do bake sales and garage sales or book sales. There’s a lot of different ways to be involved and to spearhead something even really small. That would be the one thing I hope people take out of this, that they can do something on their own.”