The Moss Hunter

Visitors to artist Henry Clarke’s outdoor gallery are treated to a healing tour and a fresh take on “going green.”

Written by Susan Baldani | Photographed by Joe Worthem

When you think about moss, if you think about it at all, it’s probably that soft, squishy ground covering you see in shady yards or growing up the side of a tree. Most of the time, it’s not even noticed or appreciated. But moss actually has a lot of benefits — to the environment, to our health and even in art. Yes, art.

Henry Clarke, a master ceramic tile glazer and artist from Oxford, Mississippi, felt that something was missing from his wooden carvings. He wanted to infuse more natural elements into his designs.

“Being out in the woods brought out my creativity, and when I saw all the moss, I decided I wanted to put that in the forefront,” Clarke said. “So, I started putting it on top of my wood carvings, and after that it was off to the races.”

Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically form dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. According to, there are approximately 12,000 species throughout the world. They grow in damp places and don’t require a lot of sunlight, preferring the ground around trees and other taller plants. They clean our water, clear our air and prevent erosion.

“What people don’t realize is that moss takes carbon out of the air,” Clarke said. “If you’re in an area with a bunch of moss, you’re getting nothing but clean fresh air which will make you feel euphoric.”

Clarke, who calls himself “the Moss Hunter,” searches for moss all around Oxford and Lafayette County; he’s been at it now for over three years. He’s been known to stop on the side of the road, put on his bright orange jacket and get busy digging up the moss he spotted there. His backyard collection includes fern, tree and toothpick mosses, among others.

The yard is an outdoor gallery; a fairyland filled with wooden creations covered in moss.

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Among them are a carved head with moss for the hair, mustache and beard; a wooden bench totally covered in a vibrant green moss; and a moss-covered carved man lying on the ground. He sometimes incorporates small ferns as well.

“Children love to run around and touch everything,” Clarke said. “I have some moss that I glued onto little wood animals, and they love that. It looks a little like a zoo when you first walk in.”

Clarke’s wife, Toni Coleman, whom he met while living in New York and followed to Mississippi, supports his hobby wholeheartedly. Coleman came up with the name, House on the Hill Enchanted Oasis, to describe their home and grounds.

“She loves when I’m outside doing my thing,” Clarke said.

Visitors who come to House on the Hill for the free moss garden tours are from all walks of life and of all different ages. Many of them have never been around moss before, and Clarke said they always find it fascinating.

While touring, guests are encouraged to walk on the moss in bare feet. Clarke wants people to be close to the moss, to touch it and be able to differentiate between the different types of moss.

He also teaches people how to attach moss to wood using mud, and he will sometimes give them moss to take home, to start their own moss gardens.

At the very end of the moss trail, Clarke created a little beach that he calls Betty Beach, after Coleman’s mother. It’s an all-white sand beach with a 20- by 27-foot pool.

“It’s like a little lake,” Clarke said. “I want people to get immersed in all the elements of life here. They can feel the sand, get in the water, and then come back and feel the moss. It’s a place of total enjoyment. After the tour, I let them be free to wander around to see what they want. I let the moss take control of them so they can let their minds flow.”

A cancer survivor, Clarke says he is grateful for every day, and that the best things in life are usually free. He strongly believes that the moss, along with spending time in nature and working in his garden, were as much a part of his recovery and survival as his medical team. He notes that Native Americans and the Japanese have been using moss for many years to treat all kinds of illness.

“Since I’ve been playing with this moss, it has taken me now to a whole different level with dealing with nature and people,” Clarke said. “It’s calming, more like a meditation thing now, as opposed to art. One of my goals now is to have people come to the moss garden and meditate and be healed.”

Clarke admits he sometimes gets lost in nature and in his garden. But then again, he said, there is nowhere else he’d rather be.

To visit the House on the Hill Enchanted Oasis, email Henry Clarke at, or call him at 662-715-9597.

Written for Invitation Oxford Magazine in Mississippi.

Let’s Celebrate our Independence Day

By Sue Baldani

Now that COVID-19 infection rates are coming way down, this 4th of July we will celebrate a different kind of freedom. A freedom from having to wear masks inside and out, from the fear of stepping outdoors, and from the barriers to being with the people we love. Of course, we still have to practice some caution, but it’s now possible to celebrate a holiday in a way that resembles the “good old days.”

Fortunately, a lot of 4th of July celebrations will take place outside, in the warm, sunny weather of summer, which is still considered the safest way to congregate. We can don shorts, flip flops, hats, and of course, sunglasses, without that dreadful mask steaming them up. This Independence Day will be a time to gather again with friends and family, cook juicy burgers, eat corn on the cob slathered with butter, and grill barbeque chicken and ribs to sticky perfection.

Children can splash around once again in pools, in lakes, or in oceans with friends, while parents lounge on beach chairs waiting for the fireworks to start. Cool drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, will be made by the pitcher, and ice cream in cones and cups will be doled out in abundance. Ahh, what a wonderful image!

Let us rejoice in our health and celebrate the chance to live life to the fullest, and let’s give thanks that our country and the world is bouncing back from the horrors of this pandemic. It’s time to be optimistic that there will only be happy and healthy surprises moving forward.

Happy 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Written for The Country Register distributed across the US.

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Tip of the Month – For optimal health, schedule routine exams

We all know it’s important to keep up with annual physicals and medical screenings to catch any health issues early on. Often, early detection save lives. Due to  COVID-19, many of us have postponed getting these crucial checkups. Don’t delay any longer – schedule those appointments!

During an annual physical exam, your doctor will most likely order blood work to check for, among other things, glucose, cholesterol, iron, and vitamin D levels. Blood pressure, pulse rate, weight and other vital statistics will also be assessed.

During these visits, your doctor may also refer you for medical screenings that are age, sex, and risk appropriate. Here is a list of the more common ones:

Colonoscopy – If you’re 50 or older and at an average risk of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years (or sometimes more often) to screen for colon cancer. 

Mammogram – At age 40, many women begin having mammograms to check for breast cancer, and then have them every one to two years. Professional groups differ on their age and frequency recommendations, so speak with your doctor to see what he or she recommends for you.

Prostate cancer screening – Men in their 50s should discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening with their doctors. This discussion should include a review of your risk factors and any preferences about screening.

Total body skin exams – Yearly or more often depending on risk factors for skin cancer. Can begin as early as the teenage years.

Osteoporosis screening – Women are usually at higher risk for osteoporosis and will be screened more regularly. A baseline is usually taken at 65 years old.

Don’t let COVID-19 put you at risk for other health issues. Speak with your doctor and find out what screenings you may need right now, and then go ahead and get them. Just because you’re not experiencing any signs or symptoms of an illness or disease, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Stay on top of your health, stay safe, and do whatever’s necessary to live a long and healthy life.

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Capturing the Play

The art of defining moments in sports and music history

By Sue Baldani

Artist Mark Kannell of Florham Park has captured almost every iconic athlete in paint on jerseys, footballs, helmets, and even sneakers. Some of these athletes have bought these amazing paintings for themselves.

“I used to draw athletes while in college and liked to get them autographed at card shows or autograph signings, so that’s when I started getting into sports,” says Mark.

He never really thought of it as a career until he received a commission from Sports Express, a store that was located in Livingston, for a painted jersey featuring Patrik Elias, who played for the NJ Devils at the time. After others saw his work, he started to get more and more sports commissions.

“Tom Brady is one that I’ve painted many times, and he owns one of the painted jerseys,” says Mark. “Shaquille O’Neal is another who owns one. I’ve also done a lot of paintings of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.” Other pieces includes Derek Jeter, Patrick Mahomes, and Eli Manning.

When Mariano Rivera, a former Yankee, saw the two paintings Mark wanted him to autograph, he told him he had to have one. “He was the first athlete who directly commissioned me to do a painting,” he says.

Before that original commission, Mark never thought of painting on mediums other than canvas or paper, but after that, people in the sports memorabilia industry started commissioning him to paint not only on jerseys, but on autographed footballs and helmets as well.

“I started doing some research about it,” he says. “I used different paints to see what would work best. For example, I use a leather paint because it’s more flexible.”

While painting, Mark uses extremely high-resolution images of moments in history, like Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, as his guide. “People tell me I have the ability to capture every detail. For example, if I’m doing a painting of a player and see little holes in his jersey, I’ll add those in, whereas many artists may not. And people also tell me I’m able to capture faces really well.”

Besides athletes, Mark has also painted music personalities, such as Carrie Underwood, on another unique medium. “I started selling a lot of music paintings to charity auctions and was commissioned to paint on guitars,” he says. “I did a few Taylor Swift guitars last summer and was told that she was going to autograph them. I’ve also painted Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Mick Jagger, all on guitars as well.”

Mark also does live painting. “I’ll bring an easel and set up a jersey and paint live at an event. People can come up and see it and if they want to commission something, they can do that.”

You can see Mark’s incredible pieces at Legends Gallery in Chatham, on Instagram and in videos on TikTok. His work has also been featured in a story on Entertainment Tonight and has been shared on many major social media pages such as the Bleacher Report, Complex, and CBS Sports. He has also been hired by EA Sports to create original paintings of football players for Madden NFL’s social media outlets.

To learn more about Mark or to commission a piece, go to

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

June is Men’s Health Month

By Sue Baldani

Let’s face it. Men don’t always take the best care of themselves. Common excuses are “I’m too busy” or “I feel fine. Why should I see a doctor?” Even when they think something may be wrong, some are still hesitant to visit a medical professional.

Since June is Men’s Health Month, it’s a great time to be proactive about health and wellness. So guys, get started on the path to good health, and women, let’s encourage the males in our lives to live and feel their best.

We all know that eating right, exercising, and getting proper medical care can lead to much longer lifespans. Follow these guidelines in June, and then continue to make these same choices throughout the year and every year:

  1. Make an appointment with your doctor: This is the first step. Your blood pressure and weight will be checked, and blood work may be ordered to test for issues such as diabetes, liver function, and cholesterol.
  2. Get screened to identify, treat and prevent diseases: Depending on your age and risk factors, your doctor will recommend appropriate screenings. For example, if you’re 50 or older and at an average risk of colon cancer, your doctor may prescribe a colonoscopy every 10 years. Your doctor may also suggest having prostate cancer screening and other important tests. Yearly skin exams by a dermatologist are also critical to check for skin cancer.
  3. Eat healthy: Include lots of vegetables, fruits and lean proteins in your diet, and drink plenty of water. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation.
  4. Quit or avoid smoking: Lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious health issues are much more common in smokers.
  5. Exercise: Like all of the muscles in your body, your heart needs to stay in shape. Get moving. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll look better.
  6. Do a mental health check: Depression and anxiety can cause people to miss out on some of life’s most enjoyable moments. Seek help from a mental health professional if you feel the need.
  7. Pamper yourself: Play golf, get a massage, take a nap, go for a hike – whatever it is you enjoy, do it. And then do it some more.

The blue ribbon is the symbol of Men’s Health Month, so get busy and take home that winning ribbon. Do it for yourself and for those who love you.

Written for Suburban Essex Magazine in New Jersey.

The Route to Impacting Lives

Delivering so much more than newspapers

By Sue Baldani

When COVID-19 shut down the world, Greg Daily, the owner of Frames on Main in Chatham and a long-time West Windsor newspaper delivery man, put his unexpected free time to good use.

“It all started with a simple phone call I received from one of the seniors on my route,” says Greg. “She called to ask if I could throw the newspaper closer to the house. A couple of days later I happened to be standing in my local grocery store and she popped into my head, so I called to see if she needed anything.”

After that, he put a note into every one of his customers’ papers offering his shopping services for free.

“Before COVID, I never went to the grocery store, so I took on something I was very unfamiliar with,” he says. “The first person to call me was Linda Contiliano, and this is how I knew this was meant to be.” When he was a teenager, her husband Ross was his baseball coach and gave him the stability he needed at a difficult time in his life. It was his chance to pay it back.

At this point, he’s not even sure how many families he’s helped; he stopped counting at 145. He now has 12 volunteers, including those from his own family. He even continued helping after losing his mother to COVID-19 in December.

For his tremendous service to others, he was named one of Time magazine’s Heroes of 2020. “I get so much more out of this than the people I’m helping. It completes my day on a very positive note.”\

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Get on Track

High-performance racing experiences puts you in the driver’s seat

By Sue Baldani

For Father’s Day, think outside the box and onto the track. Monticello Motor Club, located in Monticello, NY, offers adrenaline-pumping driving experiences on its premier automotive playground. MMC has 4.1 miles of driving track and a “Full Course” track which is 3.6 miles long with 18 turns and 450 feet of elevation changes.

“People love it,” says Marketing Manager Suzanne Forni Gonzalez. “It’s so unlike anything they’ve ever done. A lot of people haven’t had the experience of driving on track, and many like high-performance vehicles.”

Taste of The Track and the Porsche Taycan Experience are two great packages they offer, and no experience is necessary. “Taste of the Track is a full-day experience and is a perfect glimpse of what it’s like to be a member of MMC because you get to try all different parts of the club,” says Suzanne. “You’re on the track for quite a bit of the day with a private instructor, and then you’ll do some go-karting. You’ll also get a tour and have lunch.”

The Porsche Taycan Experience is a half-day offering where participants get to drive a fully-electric Taycan on track. As drivers, they’ll learn how to handle the car’s potential, which can reach 60 mph in under three seconds. As passengers, they can experience a full-course hot lap with a professional driver at the wheel.

Monticello Motor Club has a variety of vehicles for use, such as a BMW 240i, a BMW M2 Competition, a Porsche 911, a Mini John Cooper, and a  fully-equipped M2 racing car. The Club also allows people to use their own high-performance vehicles.

The on-site clubhouse serves breakfast and lunch, and also has a make-your-own sundae bar. “We have a kitchen staff who work magic and our chef is Culinary Institute of America trained,” says Suzanne.

“We have a full locker room with showers and a members’ garage for storage of private vehicles. We also have concierge services so if our guests need help with where to go or what to do, we can assist with that.

“Most of our clients are very busy people, and when they’re here, they can just let go of everything. All they’re thinking about is the car and what their next move is going to be.”

MMC is typically open from mid-April through mid-November, and shuts down for the winter except for members taking part in snow driving and off-road activities. The Club is popular with people of all ages, and members include a good amount of women and teens.

“We’re like a new-age golf club; we have our own driving range, which is the track.”

To find out more and to give dad a thrill this Father’s Day, go to He might just end up becoming a full-blown member.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Celebrate on the Island

A destination point for weddings

By Sue Baldani

Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) in Northern Michigan, has been a popular destination for years for generations of families staying a week or more and for day trippers taking advantage of a rare day off. But, it’s also a dream location for couples planning a wedding and/or a honeymoon.  

“We’ve had brides say, ‘I started coming to the island with my parents when I was three and I always knew I was going to get married here.’ And they do!,” says Liz Ware, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Point resort hotel, and the owner’s daughter.  

“The island is truly beautiful and the water is crystal clear, like the waters of the Caribbean,” she says. Everyone has flowers and a garden; we have a lilac festival every year. It’s just a different way of life.”

Her parents, Denny and the late Suzanne Ware, bought Mission Point six years ago when the former owner wanted it to stay a family business. Today, Liz helps her father run the resort along with four of her five siblings.

“Working for a family business is so different and the owners are really involved,” says Michaelena Waite, manager of wedding sales. “They really know about any challenges our staff faces so they make sure they set us up for success. And I think guests like knowing that the family is right here.”

Mission Point, voted one of the top resort hotels in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2020, is located on 18 acres right off of the lakefront overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Liz calls the décor rustic elegance. “Our lobby has these big logs that were floated over from the island across from us when it was built.”

There are two buildings with a total of 241 guest rooms, and of those, 72 are two-bedroom family suites. Its Lakeside Salon & Spa is the largest spa on the island with its 5,000 square feet. It offers the full complement of body and hair care – anything one would need for a wedding.

To get around the island, which is a Historic National Landmark, you walk or bike, or you can take a horse drawn taxi; there are no cars allowed. Food for their restaurants comes from local area farms and is brought over by a ferry and put on a wagon. It’s then pulled by horse and brought to the hotel.

“We believe in our farm to ferry cuisine and locally-sourced foods,” says Liz. “Northern Michigan has a lot of small farms and produces a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have a cocktail garden where we grow a ton of mint, lavender and a bunch of other ingredients that are used in our fresh cocktails.”

Mission Point is well known for its great lawn, where guests can stroll around, enjoy the view of the lake, and breathe in the fragrant scent of flowers. There are also plenty of Adirondack chairs where they can sit back and relax.

Mackinac Island is a seasonal destination, and the season generally begins the beginning of May and goes through the end of October. Mission Point opens its doors on April 30, and weddings are held all throughout the season.

“The charm of the island is a favorite thing,” says Andrea Crawford, senior manager of Conference Services, which also handles weddings on property. “You feel like you’re in a different place. Time stops. My absolute favorite thing here is when they have the horse and carriage bring the bride, or pick up the couple. No matter how many times I see it, it’s just the most amazing thing ever.”

Due to COVID-19, the focus is on flexibility of space and bringing celebrations outdoors since the outdoor restrictions haven’t been as severe as the indoor restrictions. “What we’re finding, in most cases, is couples who are planning on getting married want to get married,” says Liz. “They’re not interested in postponing, so it takes a really strong team on a property like ours to work with couples to go through Plan A, B, and possibly C. You can’t just plan on one set of restrictions. You have to plan for multiple versions.”

“We do everything and anything that we can do to make their day as special as we can while still abiding by the restrictions,” says Andrea. “We have to communicate with our couples and crew to keep them informed, and they trust us to do that.”

“With COVID, our whole world has flipped upside down,” says Michaelena. “Thank God we have an amazing team who all jump in together to make things happen. It’s definitely not easy. I give you an idea of what will work best to make your wedding dream come true, and then do the handoff to our Comfort Services team, which is just amazing and flawless. Then that trust and that relationship is built even more while planning all of the details with them.”

For an outdoor ceremony, says Andrea, there are a couple of choices. They can set up white chairs on the great lawn facing the water, and have an arch that is beautifully decorated with flowers for the couples to be married under. Or, there is also a gazebo on the great lawn, which is separated by beautiful landscaping to give it a more intimate feel.

“We have a lot of outdoor space,” says Liz. “We have a 38,000 square foot conference center and the rooftop area of that is a deck area, and we just built this beautiful pavilion on it. It opened last May, and the views of the water are spectacular.”

Pre-COVID, Mission Point could hold receptions for up to 350 people. Now, the number allowed this coming season is up in the air. “There’s not the shock this year as there was last year,” says Liz. “We’ve lived through a year of COVID, and everyone has learned to become flexible and pivot, and so couples are pretty calm about it and pretty adaptable to any situation. Which is really good, because there’s a lot of stress with a wedding to begin with, and then you have possible restrictions on top of it. But all in all, we’re very positive about this season.”

Many couples who get married at Mission Point stay on for their honeymoon. Others come just for their honeymoon. “We offer several packages and we can create custom packages as well,” says Liz.

Packages include round-trip ferry tickets, and champagne and chocolates upon arrival. They also include a five-course dinner in Chianti. “This is a restaurant I would call a great place for foodies and wine lovers,” says Liz. “We have a five-course prix fixe dinner that is served every night and it is outstanding.”

There are several signature suites in which a couple can stay, based on availability and budget. There is the 1,200 square foot Presidential Suite overlooking the water. There is the Tranquility Suite with two double doors that open up to a view of Tranquility Point, which overlooks Lake Huron.

“It is extremely beautiful and has its own little patio,” says Liz. “Brides love to get ready in there and have photos taken.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Since Mission Point is a very popular destination for weddings, Liz recommends booking large weddings a year in advance. And thinking outside the box. “With so many people having to rebook from last year, Sunday weddings are becoming popular along with weekday weddings. If you can do a weekday wedding, do it. Your destination isn’t likely to be as crowded and you’ll find you’re going to get a break on your pricing. Your wedding guests can make it a vacation for themselves as well and stay more than one day. And this way, you can spend more time with family.

Guests can even bring their dogs. Liz says Mission Point is the only resort on the island that allows pets. Nick, the resident Border Collie, loves greeting guests when not helping keep the geese off the great lawn He’s very popular with children (and adults), who love getting their picture taken with him.

Mackinac Island is located 4.5 hours north of Grosse Pointe. To find out more, or to book a day trip, a spa day, or a wedding or other event, go to

Written for Grosse Pointe Lifestyle magazine in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

Saving Lives, Supporting Families

It takes a village (and a lot of love)

By Sue Baldani

On June 24, a lucky winner will find out that he or she will soon be living in a dream home! Now in its fourth year in Topeka, the 2021 St. Jude Dream Home campaign launched this past April with a goal to raise $750,00 by the time it wraps up this month (and a whopping $2.8 million for all four years.) Along with the home, other fabulous prizes will be given away as well.

The funds raised from this campaign will help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital continue its almost 60 year mission of finding cures for childhood catastrophic diseases. While doing this, it will also support the families who are battling right alongside their children.  

This campaign would never have been possible without the support of the Topeka community. The number of people involved, from the builders to the subcontractors to the designers and retail establishments, is phenomenal, and they’re all passionately committed to the cause.

“One person can’t do it on their own, so if you have enough people get together, you can make it happen,” says Mike Drippé, owner of Drippé Homes, who built the first and fourth homes. Mark Boling Construction built the second and third.

As this latest home was being constructed, Brandi Whisler, lead interior designer for Drippé Homes, was busy planning how to make the inside as worthy of a dream home as the outside. “We definitely wanted to do something a little bit more mid-century modern,” she says. “I thought it would be a fun opportunity for us to bring a new style to Topeka.”

Her favorite part of the house, she adds, is the really amazing fireplace with porcelain tile and a floating hearth. It’s the first thing people see when they walk in the door and gives it that “wow” factor.

Brandi was also daring in her color choices. “I love using black and I think people are sometimes scared to do that. We have some accent walls that are black and some cool geometric trim detail.”

Brandi worked closely with Jennifer Dodge from Furniture Mall of Kansas, a family-owned-and-operated business that has been involved in the campaign all four years. For this home, it’s supplying all the furnishings for the entire first floor.

“Some of the finishes they used in this home have a mid-century modern inspiration to them and that’s what inspired our design as well,” says Jennifer. “We wanted to play along those lines and have those elements in it.” Her mother, Joyce Winter, is also helping with the design.

“First and foremost, our goal at Furniture Mall is to help bring happiness through helping our guests create more beautiful and comfortable homes,” she says. “That’s really our mission and I hope we accomplished that through the design of this house and making it feel like a dream home.”

One of her favorite rooms is the master bedroom. “We are bringing in a beautiful bedroom set which has live-edge detailing as well as black steel elements.”

Everyone involved in the campaign feels it’s an honor to support St. Jude and its mission. “I know some parents who have gone to St. Jude with their children, and they described it as if you’re in this tunnel of darkness and sometimes St. Jude is the only bit of light you feel that you have,” says Brandi.

Adds Mike, “Anything we can do to alleviate that suffering and that stress they’re going through – this is a way to help show love for other people’s kids. I can’t cure their cancer, but I can do this little part to help.”

He stresses that many of his and Mark Boling’s subcontractors have been involved all four years. “They consistently donated over $10,00 every year in labor or materials, so that’s an important part of it. And they are thrilled to do it.”

“Supporting St. Jude in its lifesaving mission of ‘Finding Cures. Saving children’ allows our entire Furniture Mall family to be part of making a real and positive difference,” says owner, Jeff Winter. “I would encourage any business that desires to grow and inspire their team to get involved.”

To learn more about St. Jude and the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in other cities and states, go to

Written for Topeka Lifestyle magazine in Topeka, Kansas.

Music to Our Ears

Giving to those who fill our world with sound

By Sue Baldani

Music adds an extra layer of joy to the background of our lives, whether it’s while we’re driving in a car singing along to the radio, looking for that extra boost while exercising, dancing with friends at a party or club, or just hanging out at home. The lyrical sound of vocals and the rhythmic thrum of instruments enters through our ears and fills our souls. Whether soft and melodic or hardcore metal, life just would not be the same without music.

MusiCares® makes sure that the people behind this magic are able to live their best lives. “MusiCares is the leading music industry charity; helping the humans behind the music because music gives so much to the world,” says Debbie Carroll, a Nashville native and vice president, health and human services. “MusiCares was established in 1989 by the Recording Academy to provide a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. We provide a variety of health and human services and focus our attention on the human service issues that directly impact the health and well-being of the music community.” 

Whether these needs are monetary or pertain to mental or physical health, addiction recovery, hearing loss, or other issues, MusiCares can help. As of today, it’s served over 200,000 people in the music industry who have reached out for assistance.

“As the pandemic continues to keep venues closed, cancelling music festivals including Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival and Bonnaroo, it’s clear music people need our support now more than ever,” says Debbie. “MusiCares had to quickly determine what music people needed most, which is why we established our COVID-19 relief efforts in partnership with the Recording Academy. We’re honored and humbled by the support we’ve received, allowing us to distribute more than $22 million to more than 24,000 music people across the industry since March 2020.”

The organization relies on donors to fulfill its mission, and is hosting Music on a Mission, a virtual event that will honor the immeasurable number of music industry professionals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’ll be held on Friday, March 12, two nights prior to the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards® telecast. Tickets are available on its website and all sales will go to support MusiCares, and its COVID-19 Relief response.

“The Music on a Mission virtual event will feature never-before-seen interviews with musicians, live and virtual performances from artists like H.E.R., HAIM, John Legend and Lady Gaga, plus previously unaired performances from Person of the Year tributes to Dolly Parton, Aerosmith, and others,” she says.

If you or someone you know in the music industry is in need of financial or other types of support services, reach out to MusiCares for the help it so generously offers. Songwriters, musicians, engineers, producers, bus drivers, crew, guitar techs, label employees, make-up artists, and beyond are all eligible.

“Additionally, we have a list of COVID-19 relief online resources, which now includes a food insecurity hotline (1-800-5HUNGRY) and Find Food search with WhyHunger,” says Debbie.

A 73-year-old singer and songwriter said the following about the assistance received from MusiCares: “Such a relief. I have managed to make it through the month, [with] ‘gleaning’ and food stamps. Was about to sell a treasured guitar for far too little…So grateful. Crying with gratitude.”  Another artist wrote: “Dear MusiCares, I received an unexpected love offering this year from your grant program, and I wanted to let you know how much it meant to me. I, as a touring musician, am so happy that there are agencies out there supporting the arts in these darkest of times. Happy 2021. My soul wears a smile as wide as the Pacific Ocean.”

To find out more, volunteer, or provide financial support to this worthwhile organization, go to Help those who share their talents and make our lives more memorable and joyful, and let’s keep the music playing. After all, how quiet and less meaningful our world would be without it.

Written for Belle Meade Lifestyle magazine in Belle Meade, Tennessee.