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Phish & The Mockingbird Foundation
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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Name your poisson
Phish is a Burlington, Vermont-based guitar, bass, keys, and drum band formed in 1983. Its members met in college in Vermont and since those early days, the quartet has attracted a cult-like following of 'phans'.

Like you didn't know.

Phish says its/their style is eclectic with originals covering fusion-funk-blues-and-classical-inspired psychedelic rock; swing and jazz (from covers such as "The 'A' Train" to originals such as "Magilla"); rock (from covers such as "Highway to Hell" to originals like "Lucy with a Lumpy Face"); bluegrass (from traditionals such as "Paul and Silas" to originals such as "Poor Heart", to the 10-31-94 cover of "Don't Pass Me By"); showtunes (including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", both with the Dave Matthews Band and with Page on the theremin); odd 1980s pop (like "Melt the Guns"); crooners (from the original "Lawnboy" to the 12/31/97 cover of Sinatra's "New York, New York"); punk ("Anarchy"); hardcore ("BBFCFM", or the 5/8/89 "I Didn't Know"); heavy-metal (e.g. 2-21-97 Wilson); reggae ("Makisupa Policeman", "Yamar", and the 4-16-92 NICU or 11-19-92 "Lengthwise"); and fugues. [credit:]

For more, try

The Mockingbird Foundation is, in turn, a non-profit organization of Phish fans founded in 1997 to generate $$$ for charity. There are no salaries and no paid staff and Mockingbird exists almost entirely online, meaning it avoids real-time travel and other expenses usually associated with grant-making bodies.

Funds come from sales of its voluminous Phish Companion and the double-CD Phish tribute, Sharin' in the Groove, each produced by Mockingbird. And all the revenues from the book and CD support music education for children.

So far, the Mockingbird has awarded grants amounting to more than $170,000, including eight new grants awarded last week, to low-income, minority, and gifted children, "from California to Connecticut and Kentucky to Kosovo." The money will bring new instruments, instructors, curricula, and professional development for teachers, to a wide range of settings and musical genres.

And if you doubt that, consider the following as examples:

Round One (March 2001): $10,500 broken down as a grant of $5,000 was awarded to the Athabascan Music Program of the Yukon-Koyukuk School District in Alaska. The idea is to reintroduce traditional music and instruments to needy villages of the Yukon and Koyukuk River Valleys. It focuses on instruction in 11 rural and isolated schools, and combines a travelling professional fiddler/guitarist with the involvement of village elders. The Mockingbird Foundation's grant will help purchase instruments for the younger children - percussion, rhythm, and small-necked Athabascan fiddles and guitars;

$3,000 to the New Mexico Jazz Workshop in Albuquerque. Part of the Workshop's five-program education series is a Summer Jazz Camp for children 6-12. The Mockingbird Foundation's grant will re-instate, for 2001, scholarships for low-income students to participate. Specifically, it'll allow 15 students to attend the camp at a discounted tuition rate for two weeks this summer; and,

$2,500 to Art Sanctuary and the LIFE After School Program in Philadelphia. Art Sanctuary is an African-American arts organization housed in the Church of the Advocate. The LIFE program serves 50-80 elementary and middle-school children, to whom Art Sanctuary has introduced an artist-in-residency project to teach traditional drumming techniques indigenous to West African cultures. The Mockingbird grant pays for the instructor, assistants, and drums needed for the six-month program. And there are plenty more grantees listed on the Mockingbird web page at

It's nice to see how a real charity works. And it's especially nice to see a component of the music industry contributing to kids' needs without using it as PR tool.

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