Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Connecting The Stars

A few years ago I learned about a wonderful charity called Blue Star Connection (BSC). And I connected. BSC puts musical instruments in the hands of critically ill children. Many of these kids can’t go out in public because of compromised immune systems, so they miss music lessons and being with their friends. Electric guitars and amps are the most popular. They’re easier to play, and these kids are often weakened by their treatment, so it’s a good match. BSC has placed keyboards, drums, tons of harmonicas, acoustic guitars, and even a saxophone (very expensive, but this one was donated). Unfortunately, there is always more demand than supply.

Within weeks of my initial introduction to the organization, I held the first of what would become an annual fund-raiser. On my birthday. This December will be the fifth annual Honey Bee Birthday Blue Star Connection Benefit (that’s a lot of B’s).

For the first year, I simply told friends that I didn’t want gifts, just make a donation. We raised close to $1,000. We had the Delta Sonics playing, and Tempa Singer made a special trip to Boulder to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. It was unquestionably the finest rendition of that song in the history of birthdays. The following year I again had the Delta Sonics play the party, and again we raised close to a grand. Year three, I moved the date from my actual birthday (12/27), to the middle Saturday. We also managed to get auction items, and if memory serves, we raised close to $1,500. Again the Delta Sonics were playing, but they were backing Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin. I brought in a shredder and an icon. We had a much bigger crowd, and as this benefit was before the holidays, we sold a lot more auction items than the previous year. That’s when I made an executive decision: I would always hold this annual benefit on the first Saturday of December and bring in a national.

It was a wise decision. On December 4, 2010, none other than Ronnie Baker Brooks flew in for fewer than 24 hours just to play this party. Again, and always, the Delta Sonics were backing. It was one of the finest nights of music we’ve had. There were a lot of Colorado musicians in the house that night, and they sat in making it a jam unequaled to anything most of us had ever witnessed.

And that brings me back to the donated sax. When Ronnie got to the hotel, I helped him bring his gear to his room. He then handed me a case and said, “There’s a horn in there I’m donating.” I said, “Thank you,” and returned to the bar with the case. John Catt, one of the founders of this organization, was there, and I said, “Ronnie’s donating a horn.” To which John replied, “Any chance it’s a sax?” I said, “I don’t know.” But then our good friend Cricket, who had picked up Ronnie from the airport, said, “Yes, it’s a sax.” It had belonged to a dear friend of Ronnie’s who had passed away a couple of years ago. Fewer than 24 hours earlier, John had received an email from a nurse wanting to know if BSC had any saxophones. John had replied “no,” and informed her they are very expensive and the hardest instrument to get. BSC has several of these stories, when a request is suddenly met with a donation, serendipitously.

John Catt was at the Outlook Hotel the other night (where I am the Director of Promotions and Entertainment Coordinator) for a Trampled Under Foot show. He and I started discussing who I could bring in for this year. We have a list, and anyone of them will be a thrill! I’m going to start inquiries in a couple of weeks. With stars of this magnitude, we need to secure their calendar early. December 3, 2011. Mark your calendars.

Although mine is the original annual benefit for BSC, there have been many others, and I’ve been to a few of them. Very recently, I journeyed to Denver’s Oriental Theater for a huge show with some great Blues talent. The lineup: Johnny O. and John Tendell, Tempa Singer and Naor Nave, the 2011 IBC Band winners, the Lionel Young Band (who brought up Hazel Miller for a number), Tomara Conrad and Holly Holverson, and then the 2008 IBC Band winners, Kansas City’s Trampled Under Foot closed the show with a rousing, beautiful set. It was a tremendous night of music!

Two years ago, I flew to Dallas for 21 hours just to attend one of these fund-raisers. That lineup was one any Blues fan would have loved: Sean Carney, Zac Harmon, Albert Cummings, Tommy Shannon (of Double Trouble), George Rains, Bob Margolin, Jon Coleman, Diunna Greenleaf, Jonn Richardson, and Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King. A night of Blues Paradise at the Granada Theater. All the non-Dallas based musicians and those of us traveling from Colorado stayed at the same hotel, so there was very little sleeping going on. We stayed up talking into the wee hours. It was a heavenly 21 hours for me. It also brought a lot of media attention to this Colorado based philanthropy.

August 6, 2011, will be another event to garner much needed media attention. It’s the First Annual Blue Star Connection Festival, with a lineup that comes from dreams: Tommy Castro, Ana Popovic, Mike Zito, Zac Harmon, Deanna Bogart, and Jack Hadley have already been secured and there will be more. Anyone wanting to keep up with all that BSC is doing, here’s where you go.

Here is the mission statement: 

The Blue Star Connection mission is to provide access to musical instruments for children with life threatening illness through a personal instrument for home use or through sponsored Children's Hospitals or similar programs, primarily in the USA. To date we have reached hundreds of kids and funded 10 hospital programs, with 1000's of kids and 40 hospitals left to go. Please join us!

That’s one lofty mission! BSC takes donated instruments as well as funds, so ask your friends, colleagues, and neighbors if they have any instruments lying around, collecting dust. They can be put to very good use, helping a sick and frightened kid smile and create.

And now I leave you with a tongue-in-cheek message from John Catt:

Blue Star Connection started with one single act of kindness. If you can't help people who need help, then you need help!

~Honey Bee Sepeda~


  1. Showed you a little love over at www.musiconthecouch.com

    Keep spreading the word.


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  4. I would recognize Bob's thumb anywhere - even when he's wearing a red shirt.