While millions of people are becoming accustomed to virtual gatherings and live streaming of music events during the current coronavirus pandemic, for the non-profit Melodic Caring Project (www.melodiccaring.org), it has been a way of life throughout its nearly 10-year history. The Seattle-based 501c3 charity has been bringing personalized live music performances by a wide range of touring artists directly to the hospital beds of sick children in various forms of isolation or quarantine since 2011.
Co-founded by recording artist Levi Ware and his wife Stephanie, the organization first tapped into the array of local concerts in the Seattle area, livestreaming artists’ scheduled shows from local clubs to local hospital wards populated by severely ill children they have dubbed rockSTARS. During each live broadcast the artist on stage calls the patients out by name, offering love and support to each child and their families. The organization slowly expanded its dominion to add shows originating from much larger venues—some in other cities—by high profile artists, among them Coldplay, Hozier, Lukas Nelson, Black Eyed Peas, Fitz and the Tantrums, Andy Grammar, Jason Mraz, Amos Lee, X Ambassadors, Brandi Carlile and many others.
The onset of the COVID19 crisis and its earliest U.S. epicenter in the organization’s hometown of Seattle has broadened Melodic Caring Project’s view of its objective. “Our mission from the beginning has been to break down the walls of isolation, specifically for children who are hospitalized for long periods of time,” explains Levi Ware. “Now, suddenly, all of us around the world are faced with the same social distancing and ritual handwashing that is already a way of life for these very sick children and their families. With the fear and isolation that this incredible crisis is creating around the world, our mission has never been more crucial. Ironically, nobody is better at dealing with this extraordinary and abnormal situation than the children we have supported for years.”
Melodic Caring Project has essentially brought the outside world directly to children too sick to leave their hospital beds. With live concerts furloughed during the current pandemic, MCP has used its existing technology to pivot and create original content to bring to its already captive audience and beyond, including health care workers, first responders and those now living in isolation the world over. They just launched the new series called MCPConnects to bring music to those communities. As example, MCP alum artist Michael Fitzpatrick (Fitz of the American neo pop and indie soul band band Fitz & The Tantrums, connects with MCP’s rockSTARS watching from hospitals and home-care facilities around the world here: https://vimeo.com/408189090
New episodes in the series, comprising a short Facetime conversation conducted by Levi Ware with an artist, some that have previously participated in MCP events, followed by a performance of a song by that artist, are posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. MCPConnects episodes are already in the queue from artists such as Tyrone Wells, Eva Holbrook (SHEL), Tim Wilson (Ivan & Alyosha), Ethan Anderson (Massy Ferguson), Brandon Ghorley (The BGP), Rob Drabkin among others. Many more will be shot over the coming weeks.
Additionally, Britain’s National Health Service requested that MCP create original content to be shared with its hospital workers and first responders on the front lines of the crisis there as well as another isolated community. “The NHS in the United Kingdom reached out to us requesting programming specifically to support senior communities in addition to the healthcare providers battling battle COVID-19,” explains Ware. “They are using these episodes, which are similar to the MCPConnects episodes but with more music performances, in senior hospice care facilities. We are also planning to bring these segments to senior facilities here in the U.S., but the U.K. has been a quicker start.”
Melodic Caring Project began in 2010 when 11-year old Kaydee Curbow was diagnosed with cancer. Unable to attend her own benefit concert in Seattle due to recent chemo treatments and a low immune system, Levi Ware decided to stream his music performance directly to her in her hospital room where she could see, hear and feel all the support gathered miles away in her honor. Afterwards, Levi called Kaydee and her mom in her hospital room, and they were both crying because it meant so much to them. Realizing this was a void that could be filled with music, Levi and his wife Stephanie founded the charity shortly thereafter and have since impacted the lives of over 15,000 children and family members watching from hospital rooms around the world.
Even MCP’s 7th Annual Raise a Record Gala fund-raiser was impacted this year by the coronavirus epidemic. Scheduled for Saturday, March 21 at The Neptune Theatre in Seattle, the State of Washington by then had mandated “Stay at Home” guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, effectively banning all large gatherings until further notice. With tickets sold out in advance, the Wares used MCP’s online model to relocate the event online with musical performances and rockSTAR stories livestreamed to both their supporters and the public at large.
“The rules for large gatherings kept changing in the days leading up to the Gala,” explains Ware, “but, suddenly, it became apparent that we could not go forward with an in person event. Everyone told us we needed to cancel the gala and move it to a later date, but Melodic was created specifically to care for people in quarantine and isolation. We felt it was more critical than ever to live our mission. The process of moving it from an in-person to online event was a fire drill. We came up with the concept of an evening talk show style event, wrote, produced, captured and streamed it all in 6 days. I performed a song with our team member Tanesha Ross, who is a Board Certified Music Therapist, and we held our silent and live auctions online. It was an incredible experience and probably the one decision that will keep our charity alive through 2020.”