God Made Me Funky, Elwins & Guests Lee Aaron & Simone Denny Headline First Standalone MusiCounts Concert

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Canada's music education charity MusiCounts has been around for 19 years pairing up with the nation's music industry to provide young people across the country with musical instruments and opportunities.

The charity, which is shepherded by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the same people who oversee the Juno Awards, has teamed up with partners on endless campaigns over the year, but there's one thing the organization has never done until now — host its own concert.

Improbable as it may seem, when MusiCounts presents "A GTA Music City Funk Rock & Pop Spectacular" on Jan. 28 at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre it will be the first time the charity has ever presented its own standalone show.

Headlined by God Made Me Funky, the show will also feature Bucket List and The Elwins along with Joey Landreth (The Bros. Landreth), Simone Denny and Lee Aaron doing special cover songs during the evening. The event will be hosted by CP24 Breakfast's Steve Anthony and CBC Radio 2's Talia Schlanger and tickets are available for $25 plus service charges.

Samaritanmag spoke to MusiCounts director Vanessa Thomas to find out more about the event.

For people who don't know, could you explain what MusiCounts is?

We're Canada's music education charity. We're under the umbrella of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) with the Juno Awards. We have been around 19 years. We have given $9 million in musical instruments into schools and community programs of kids that need it most. We're a needs-based charity so it's really focused on those places in Canada that don't have a lot of arts, or where funding has been stripped from the curriculum, and of course arts is the first thing to go. We put instruments back in elementary schools and secondary schools in all the school boards across Canada. Plus, in more recent years we've developed the after-school program with TD, the MusiCounts TD Community Program that's just fantastic.

What's going on with this concert you're having?

It's actually our very first standalone concert fundraiser for MusiCounts in 19 years so it's pretty exciting for us. It's at the Phoenix, the doors open at 7, we have three bands: God Made Me Funky, The Elwins and this band called Bucket List, which is made up of a bunch of tech guys and CEOs of different companies who are session musicians who worked in the music industry for years and are now working in the corporate world. And then we have three special guest who are going to do covers with the bands. We have Joey Landreth from The Bros. Landreth. We have Simone Denny from Love Inc. And then if you're old enough to remember from the '80s we have Lee Aaron, the metal queen.

You mentioned this is the first standalone MusiCounts show in 19 years. I find that really surprising.

We've done so many different things but they're usually connected to the Junos or some sort of activation connected to the Canadian Country Music Awards, so we were always connected to someone else. We realized it's time we've got to shift our focus away from the music industry and open up our awareness to other groups — corporate, tech companies, Bay Street — so it may not be a huge moneymaker for us at the end of the day, who knows, but we're going to have a whole new audience who knows what MusiCounts is and that's what counts.

For a long time MusiCounts has been a bit of a secret club, a charity supported by the music industry. With this concert is it fair to suggest this is an event where you're expanding your focus?

It's really to spread the word, both so that people who need our help can find us, and so that people who can help us deliver those instruments and fund us can find us. Because you know the music industry [in general] is not in its booming phase.

A lot of our funding comes from the Canadian broadcasters. We fall into a bucket as "music education" so they've been very generous in their support, but that's not necessarily going to grow any time soon because of a lot of amalgamation in a lot of the different companies. So to your point, I think it's a marketing evening and it's a fundraising evening as well.

What are some of the other concerts or events MusiCounts have coming up?

We have a lot of activations at the Junos this year so that'll be our next focus after this concert on Thursday night. We're planning some Band-Aid celebrations to go into the schools with artists and give instruments to the kids — one with Bell Media, one with Sirius XM at the Junos, one with the Slaight Family Foundation, who've given us quite a bit of support over the years. We surprise the kids and those are great, the Band-Aid celebrations. We have four different events at the Junos, Junior Junos Concert with all the children's music nominees, we have the Juno Cup, where the NHL guys play the music industry. All of these are fundraisers for us so we'll be working on that. Then we have partnerships coming up with Field Trip festival and the Wayhome and Boots And Hearts festivals, so there's always something going on, but this thing on Thursday is beyond the music industry, which is really exciting and we're getting quite a bit of support from not only media, but a whole new audience so it's great.

Is there anyone you're specifically looking forward to seeing on Thursday night?

Yeah, I haven't seen God Made Me Funky before and I heard they're a really fun band to watch. I love The Elwins music and apparently they're going to be pulling me up to do a little number with Bucket List, so we'll see how that goes. I'll need a couple beers before that one.

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.