Group Theory/Organization Rocks Awareness

by Nathan Oravec

“Where there is music,
there can be no evil.”
- Cervantes

As a music instructor, education is key to Matt Thompson. Not only the bass guitars, percussion and music theory that comprise his classes, however, but increasingly, the way others view the world around them.

Whether war, hate crimes, the environment, or any number of social concerns above and beyond, “One of the biggest problems today,” says Thompson, “is that people need to be better informed about things that are going on in the world.” Awareness proved the impetus for the grassroots Music 4 Unity, a Frederick, Maryland benefit organization providing local rock & rollers looking for a place to play with an outlet while fostering humanity by raising funds for area non-profits whose efforts contribute to the betterment of society.

Founded by Thompson and fellow Duet with Music teachers, Hannah Vo-Dinh and Paul Grabenstein, the launch of Music 4 Unity was multi-dimensional. Initially, the idea arose from the trios’ shared opinion that far too many of their peers remained unknowledgeable of conditions in and outside of the country.

Often, discussions had also centered on Frederick’s lack of a decent forum for local musicians. “There wasn’t one,” says Thompson. “Bands were hard-pressed to find a venue of any quality.” Youth, too - high school students and pre-teens - were without an outlet for their own creative energy.

Additionally, at a time when uncertainty was wide-spread throughout the globe, the group was aware of several organizations, such as nonprofits The Hartley House and The Frederick Community Action Agency, whose hard work and diligence was making an impact on a local level. “A lot of good was happening in the community. There were people who were trying to do worthwhile things.”

The question, Thompson says, soon became - “How can we bring all of this together?”

The answer, of course, was in the music, with the goal of creating a hub for entertainment that would be non-political, but educational, while at the same time - through concert events - raising operating funds for worthy causes. Musicians themselves, the educators knew of several rockers who could potentially lend a band to the project, while their students knew of even more. “We began to sit down with local bands and ask them what kind of event they would like to see happen.”

The first official Music 4 Unity event was held June 14, 2003 at the William R. Talley Center in Frederick, Maryland. Orchestrated by Thompson, Vo-Dinh and Grabenstein, a total of ten bands, hailing from Frederick to Baltimore, Maryland, gathered to play, ultimately raising $1,000, which was donated to Oxfam, a group of doctors performing relief work abroad.

Fueled by the success of its maiden voyage, plans were soon underway for a second concert. Busy with outside commitments, but continuously 100 percent supportive, Thompson’s associates amicably withdrew from the sophomore effort, while he moved forward. “That event was completely me,” he recalls. “I would say ninety percent of it, I arranged... Juggling paperwork and scheduling acts.” Bowing on November 1 of the same year, the second event garnered an additional two bands to its roster and raised a cumulative $500 in food and monetary donations benefiting the Frederick Community Action Agency.

Since, Thompson says the organization has gained a small, but passionate, following - amassing a number of volunteers and a board of directors. “People saw how hard I was working and jumped on board.” Many of whom, he notes, have brought their own proficiencies - running the gamut from web design to sound engineering - to the table, generously lending their individual skills and talents, ever-expanding the organization’s reach. Volunteers are always needed to assist in the operation of shows. “We can always use more people - especially those with particular skills or those who simply want to learn more about music.”

The William R. Talley Center, too, has become an unofficial HQ for Music 4 Unity events, the site for each of its concerts, previous and upcoming. “The Talley Center people have been just wonderful to us.”

The core of Music 4 Unity - the bands - is ever growing, consistently attracting new talent. “After the first two shows, I asked all of the bands involved, if they knew any others who would be interested in helping out, to tell them about us,” Thompson says. “I now have over twenty demo tapes and I’m still getting more. It’s great... There are people right in our back yard who are doing amazing work.”

Two Music 4 Unity events are currently scheduled in the near future. The first, slated for May 1, 2004, will benefit Hagerstown’s Community Free Clinic, which provides treatment for the medically uninsured. The year’s second performance will be held on June 19, with a benefit organization to be announced.

Currently, Music 4 Unity is in the process of achieving non-profit status itself. “Forms are being mailed out as we speak,” says Thompson. The designation, he explains, could open the door to increased collaboration between M4U and other nonprofit entities. Organizations are invited to hand out information during respective events, furthering the goal of awareness by presenting youth attendants with potential service opportunities. “A lot of people generally do care about what’s happening in their community.”

Concerts, Thompson stresses, are safe and secure. “We want parents to feel comfortable when they drop their children off at a M4U event. We have security and insurance... And it’s an alcohol free environment. We’ve never had a problem at any show.”

“We also want people to know that we’re not pushing any political ideology,” he continues. “Our goal is to help bring the community together - especially youth, who we hope to provide with productive activities outside of school.”

“And we want to get people talking.”

And rocking.

And concerning both, it seems Music 4 Unity is on a roll.

Music 4 Unity’s next show will be held May 19, 2004 at the William R. Talley Recreation Center, 121 North Bentz Street in Frederick, MD. Admission is based on suggested donation. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Duet With Music in Frederick’s FSK Mall for $3 or for $5 at the door. For more information, visit

Confirmed Performers for the May 1st 2004 Event:

* A Tragedy Theory
* Dreams in Fear
* Indemnity
* Death to Superstars
* Chasing Chase
* Rookie Driver
* Blue Nevada
* The Mevs
* The Venkmans
* Rain Made Innocence
* 2birdstone
* Backseat Tragedy
* More than a Monument