JoyLabz recently did its bit for charity by donating 100 Makey Makeys to a Hollywood fundraiser marauding as a punk rock festival.
Think of Nantucket Island and you’d be forgiven for conjuring mental images of eminent politicians rubbing shoulders with captains of industry; all sporting box fresh preppie finery aboard a fleet of luxury yachts…
Few would consider this summer retreat for the super rich a cause for financial concern; or anywhere near underprivileged. But for the poorer kids living there year-round, crime and drug abuse are easy temptations.
Musack is a charity dedicated to giving these kids, and others across the US, an alternative -- a way to express themselves through rock music.
“The idea is simple,” explains Dave Finkel, who sits on the charity’s board. “Give a kid a guitar, tell them they’re welcome anytime, and ask them to commit to a programme.
“The point of what we do isn’t about making kids into rockstars; it’s about teaching them to vent their emotions through music instead of through other outlets.”
It was started by Nantucket native; TV producer and writer, Donick Cary. Today, there are 200 kids taking part in the program in Nantucket, and four new classes running in South Central Los Angeles, where school funding for the arts is minimal.
In keeping with Musack’s objectives, each year the team organises The Rock and Roll Carnival; a one day, ticket-only event.
As writer and executive producer on hit TV comedy series New Girl, Dave Finkel, like his fellow board members, has managed to secure some high profile acts in the past. Still, that doesn’t necessarily make organising the event any easier.
“We bleed trying to make this happen (!),” he says. “What started out as a low-key ‘give what you can to charity’ birthday party at Donick’s house five years ago, has morphed into a 450-person punk rock music festival.
“It’s truly a labor of love. We beg, steal, and borrow everything: from bands, instruments, rigs, lighting… all for free. In Hollywood.”
But it seems persistence continues to pay off. The Rock and Roll Carnival is now in its fifth year. The 2015 line up includes John Doe of LA band, X, as well as Fishbone, Wrecking Crew, Deluxe, No Age, and international punk sensation, Rancid.
At several hundred dollars per VIP ticket, as is customary at Hollywood events, paying guests get a goody bag. But as Dave explains:
“We didn’t want people to take home a bag of crap that they’ll ditch before the night is out! As I’m in charge of what goes in, I try and fill them with stuff I think they’ll find useful: conversation starters; something to do; to share with their own kids.”
Which is how Makey Makey made its Hollywood debut (kinda). Already a Makey Makey fan, Dave emailed JoyLabz with admittedly low expectations. So he was pleasantly surprised when we responded an hour later with the promise of 100 Makey Makeys -- one for each gift bag.
Other stuff in the bag included a custom skateboard deck with the event line up on it, and some family-friendly board games; even clothing from some major lifestyle apparel companies, and much more.
“The festival is kid-friendly too; it’s a real family affair,” says Dave. “Musack and Makey Makey are walking the same line, ultimately. The core of what we do is different, but we both promote the same ethos. Letting kids know that you need to put in effort and experiment with ideas to make stuff happen is a good learning curve for life.
“Whether you’re learning to play guitar or learning to make a circuit, it’s ok to not know, as long as you’re always wondering. The world is an open sandbox; there are no right answers.”
Learn more or get tickets at musack.org
Former Musack Performers
A previous version of this story incorrectly listed 100 kids taking part in the program. The real number is 200. Way to go, gang!
Here are some photos from the event.