With public schools throughout Massachusetts closed until at least early May, Rev. Dr. Garrett Smith of Newton Covenant Church approached the superintendent of Boston Public Schools with one simple question: What can I do to help? The answer: a benefit concert. Hosted via Zoom on Thursday, Newton Covenant Church spearheaded the initiative to raise money for the Boston Resiliency Fund and the Newton COVID-19 Care Fund with music.
The live virtual concert, which started at 7:30 p.m., featured musicians such as Paul Speidel on jazz guitar, Nelli Herskovits and Julia Connor on violin, voice and guitar duo Sophie et Adam, and Jessica Cooper on viola. The musicians performed remotely in their homes. The concert garnered a total of 120 viewers on Zoom, according to Smith.
Throughout the concert, Smith promoted links to both the Boston Resiliency Fund and the Newton Covid-19 Care Fund. The Boston Resiliency Fund provides remote learning technology for Boston Public Schools (BPS) students, food for children and seniors, and support for frontline health care workers, according to its website. To date, the Boston Resiliency Fund has raised over $23 million. Meanwhile, the Newton COVID-19 Care Fund focuses on Newton residents, helping local families that struggle to pay their bills due to the impacts of the novel coronavirus.
For Smith, the benefit concert was about raising awareness of the funds rather than having a lot of people tune in.
“It was all over Facebook, all over social media,” Smith said. “To me, whether people are at the event or not, you know, what you’re doing is you’re creating awareness … It’s funny, you think of the event being the ultimate purpose, but in some ways, the marketing of it is as much of the purpose as the actual event.”
The concert came on the eve of Good Friday, a celebration during Holy Week before Easter. All in-person religious services are prohibited in and around Boston—Newton Covenant Church cannot hold services to celebrate Holy Week or Easter.
“Easter Week is a celebration of joy over hardship and suffering, and we’re inviting the community both to encourage these musicians and join us in serving Boston students on the other side of the digital divide,” Smith said in a press release.
Anders Brownworth, who has attended services at Newton Covenant Church for over 10 years, tuned into the concert via Zoom. The event was pulled together relatively quickly, Brownworth said, and provided a way to raise money in a different way.
“Here’s an avenue for [musicians] to sort of show up in your living room without them actually being there,” Brownworth said.
Brownworth wouldn’t have known about the need for Chromebooks for BPS students without the concert raising awareness, he said.
“What was interesting is that, you know, we’re gathered together to have sort of a very new and different musical experience,” Brownworth said. “But, it still wasn’t just for that or wasn’t just for the musicians, it was to purchase these Chromebooks for Boston Public Schools.”
According to the press release, BPS is hoping to provide a total of 20,000 Chromebooks to students without technology. Margaret Farmer, executive director of development and partnerships for BPS, acknowledged the efforts of Newton Covenant Church for BPS students.
“Access to technology is critical for students to continue learning and remain competitive for future employment,” Farmer said in a press release. “Thanks for this effort on behalf of BPS and our students.”
Featured Image by Johnathan Ye/Heights Senior Staff