Artist Talkback: Ben Rudnick & Friends' Family Works Initiative

Ben Rudnick & Friends have been bringing families, music and fun together in their own unique style from their first release, Emily Songs, in 2000 to their recent Love is a Superpower.  With countless kudos to their credit, including seven Parents’ Choice Awards, the band considers its main focus to be providing a common ground where all family members can, without compromise, enjoy a shared musical experience. This is best exemplified in their live shows, a slice of time where families relax and enjoy each other’s company.

With the simple goal of trying to make the world around us a better place, Ben Rudnick & Friends has partnered with Waban-based non-profit Catching Joy! to start up their Family Works initiative. Family Works provides opportunities for families to help specific charitable organizations in the Boston area during events held an hour prior to performances. We caught up with Ben recently to learn more about this charitable partnership, as well as their latest release, Love is a Superpower. For more information and tickets for their upcoming 1/25 show, visit the Ben Rudnick & Friends event page.

Q. Tell us more about Family Works, and what sort of activities are part of this initiative?

Well, the gist of it is, I've always wanted to leverage the band to do good work for the community. A favorite band of mine and John's (BR&F mandolin player, John Zevos) is the Grateful Dead. They had a very strong history of helping communities in need and ultimately started the REX Foundation which pioneered giving small grants to many organizations that caught the interest of band members and their board of directors. We are are or course living on a much smaller scale but still... we've been able to provide support for all kinds of organizations from Cradles to Crayons to Helping our Troops MA that do good work for members of our community who need some help.

The Family Works events precede specifically denoted shows and you never have to participate in the event to see the show. We supply materials for kids to make an art project and always let folks know what the target organization is hoping to get for distribution to those in need. A key part for us is the part we never see! The part where the parents explain to the kids why they are bringing something to give away; how they're helping others by taking part and getting them used to the idea that helping others is a good thing to do. What we do see is parents happy to help and kids thrilled to have an art project to do before the show. There is a quiet peace which pervades these events as the kids do the project and the parents are ecstatic that the kids have something to do and are content. Coffee is generally a big part of these events as well!

Q. The 1/25 performance is a benefit for Circle of Hope and is being administered by Catching Joy. Can you tell us more about these organizations?

Yes! We've been working with Catching Joy for several years now. The connection originally started at the band's Tenth Anniversary show when I raffled off a guitar and needed an organization to give the money to! I knew Joy Surprenant from Catching Joy and their mission of promoting volunteerism beginning with young children and their families made sense to me. When I started up the Family Works program, Joy was the first call I made. She really helped me get my idea off the ground and has been such a great supporter of Family Works. It's been a great partnership. Lately with my daughter Emily in college, my wife, Diane Gordon, has been running the Family Works events because she LOVES to be around the kids. On top of that, it's been fun to have her at the shows more often.

At the TCAN show, we'll be collecting used winter coats of all sizes for men, woman and children for a Needham, MA based non-profit organization called Circle of Hope. (http://www.circleofhopeonline.org/) Their mission is to serve people in need, promoting their dignity and well-being when they need it most. 

Q. What can ticket buyers do to participate when they attend the show?

For this event, participation involves going through the closets and basements and finding all those old winter coats that are going unused and bringing them to the show! It's cold outside! People really can use the warmth. The event runs from 10:15am up until show time which is 11am. Catching Joy will be there with art supplies for kids to make cards to go along with the donations. The kids get to keep cards too if they like!

Q. Here at TCAN, we love Love Is A Superpower! (and we love that it’s available en español, ole!) Why did you decide to record a Spanish version of this album?

Thanks! The idea was to have the song sung in just about every language on the planet. The first choice was Spanish for two reasons. To start, Spanish is spoken by 392 million people. True, it follows Hindustani (497 million) and Mandarin (1 billion+) but it was easier for me to wrap my head around Spanish than those languages. The second reason was that it enabled me to collaborate with Brian and Rosi Amador from the band Sol y Canto. Rosi was kind enough to sit down with me and answer questions when I first put my band together some fourteen years ago. Brian did the translation and they both sang. Working with them was a pleasure!

Q. Thank you, Ben! Anything else you want to share with your TCAN fanbase?

I think the secret is that we love playing in Natick. From the earliest days of the TCAN storefront to our summer shows at the Natick Common, we've always felt comfortable in Natick and consider it our MetroWest home.  AND... our website is benrudnick.com. Our youtube channel is youtube.com/user/BenRudnickAndFriends.

For more information and tickets for their upcoming TCAN performance on January 25th, visit the Ben Rudnick & Friends event page.