THE STORY :: by Stephanie Schneiderman, Voices for Silent Disasters, Founder and Director
I had an idea to do a house concert to benefit Mercy Corps. One house concert! I was on tour with the Dirty Martini girls and I was reading in Rolling Stone about what was happening in Eastern Africa. The more I learned the more I felt a strong pull to do something that involved artists from Portland’s music community. Having been involved with the local music scene for the last decade, I knew I could pull in some amazing bands from many different genres. A couple weeks after that tour, I played a benefit concert for Darfur and one of the coordinators got up and spoke about how it only takes one person to start a movement; one person with one idea.
The idea grew from only one house concert to ten, involving other local songwriters each accessing their own fan base. I spoke with a buddy of mine named Gordon Heady who was rumored to be a marketing genius. He loved the idea and offered to host one of the concerts. Gordon and I decided to team up and pool our resources together. With my contacts within the music community and Gordon’s contacts with local media outlets we made a great team! Gordon added his vision to the idea and it grew into being Portland’s first annual humanitarian concert series.
We decided to make this a benefit for Mercy Corps and to focus on the celebration of Portland in all its grass roots glory. We met with a team of Mercy Corps representatives who shifted our focus to their “Silent Disaster” fund, specifically on their efforts on the ground in Northern Uganda. I had no idea about the crisis that had been going on for over 20 years in Uganda. It had been virtually overlooked by the media here in the US.
Over dinner with a few local Ugandans, we began learning about the conflict first hand. It was incredibly moving to hear personal stories about the war and it began to sink in what an honor it was to be connecting with and learning from people from Uganda.
And so the “Voices for Silent Disasters” ball began rolling. It has been a 9-month ride full of excitement and serendipity! From the beginning we set out to create a concert series that would define Portland. But as it turns out, Portland is defining the concert series from its head to its toes. Every musician is locally based, every venue, company and organization is locally owned. Everyone is donating their time, talents and resources and it’s been amazing to witness how generous Portlanders are.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be traveling to Uganda for ten days. (I received a generous offer from a local Mercy Corps donor to join them on their trip.) I’ll be visiting Mercy Corps’ headquarters in Pader as well as cities throughout Central and Southern Uganda. Throughout the process of planning this concert series, I found myself solely focused on the silent disasters that I’ve come to know about. While I’m there, I’d like to gather stories of the “silent successes” that are also taking place so I can broaden my own view of people from Uganda and pass the knowledge on.
Thank-you for taking the time to check out the website!!
THE STORY :: by Gordon Heady, Voices for Silent Disasters, Co-Director
When Stephanie came to me last December about hosting a house concert (where she alone would perform), I had no idea that a simple house concert would blossom into a concert series at various venues, with dozens of artists, a phalanx of volunteers, and such credible sponsors. I thought we might be able to cobble together something in the high three figures and now, with the help of so many, we are on track to raise over fifty times that amount.