Benefit Concert Reviews

A Holiday Benefit Concert Recap

The Canal Room was packed last night for the second annual “A Holiday Benefit” concert series. Featuring 13 New York performers playing over 30 songs, both original tracks as well as their own holiday favorites, the album release benefit show surely got concertgoers into the holiday spirit.

Sponsored by Rebel Spirit Music, all proceeds raised from the album and silent auction during the night will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. With the mission to provide workshops and tutor students with their creative writing skills, being a writer myself, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my money this holiday season.

Most artists played between two and three songs during their set. Additionally, many of the individual sets drew former acts back to the stage to help out with numerous holiday classics. Not your typical show, you could tell that every musician truly loved being onstage and the community between each performer was evident throughout the night as each introduced every member onstage, whether it was from their band or previous performers.

Derek James started out the night with an incredibly fun and energetic set. He’s been called “a bluesy, ballsy Buddy Holly for the iPod generation” and I can see why. Beginning with his favorite Christmas song, the Hawaiian “Mele Kalikimaka,” complete with ukulele, James’ performance was just a glimmer of the great night ahead. A bit reminiscent to a mix of Jason Mraz’s quirky lyrics and Tyler Hilton’s vocals, James is definitely an artist to watch as his sultry vocals and catchy lyrics are sure to be stuck in your head long after the last word is sung. Ending his set with “What’s That Sound,” a memorable track with a kazoo feature, James had his band dancing and swaying along throughout the song, enticing the audience to do the same.

Jamie Leonhart took the stage next as Benjamin Wagner, host and creator of the annual concert series, introduced her as “one of the finest voices I know and one of the finest people I know.” Leonhart’s vocals are heavenly as she blends jazz, pop and soul together, making for a truly impressive set. Playing three songs off her debut album, The Truth About Suffering, Leonhart wowed the crowd. Comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin can be heard throughout Leonhart’s classically elegant tunes. (You can listen to some of her MP3’s here to see what I’m talking about.)

Another solid vocalist, Kelley McRae played two of her more heartfelt songs. Her set began with moving number, “Johnny Cash” having concertgoers feel the emotion of the song as she sang each word while softly strumming her guitar.

Brent Shuttleworth has one of those familiar voices, as if I’ve heard his song in a movie or popular television show and for him; I think that’s a good thing. My favorite song of the moment is his ballad, “When I Reach California.” As he repeats the chorus, “You will never be good/Never be good for me/Wake me when I reach California” he captures the listener’s attention wholeheartedly. His rich vocals and deep lyrics have the listener coming back for more. Title track off his debut album, Witness, showcase the honesty and sincerity throughout Shuttleworth’s lyrics. Singing, “When I’m broken and I’m fading/I need a witness/When I’m beaten and I’m bleeding/Love give me a witness” you can’t help but want to be there for him. Another strong set, I’m extremely interested to see where Shuttleworth will be in a few years.

Rosi Golan, Deena Goodman and Blue Fringe all played one song each as well as collaborated on Hanukah song “Maoz Tzur.” Beforehand, Golan played “Think of Me,” an airy ballad that vaguely hints to Sheryl Crow’s early days (think “Soak Up the Sun” era). An angelic voice to listen to, Golan contributed to many of the artist’s sets throughout the night as did Goodman and Blue Fringe frontman Dov Rosenblatt.

Goodman and Wagner rotated introducing each band throughout the night as well as informed audience members the purpose of the concert — donating album pro
ceeds to the kids of 826NYC. “I know times are tough,” Wagner said, “but times are tough if you’re an eight-year-old kid too.”

The remainder of the night presented energetic sets from Ian Axel, (having a striking resemblance to Ben Folds down to the lively keyboard playing and glasses — see two photos above) Casey Shea (an incredible singer, easily rocking the Canal Room throughout his set) and Chris Abad (a contender to most energetic performer).

Before playing one note, Shea told the crowd, “[Tonight] is for a good cause. I’m happy to be a part of it.” In fact, he was so happy to be a part of the cause that he wrote “A Very Merry Christmas” specifically for the event. He’s had rave reviews from “Casey’s stage persona is equal parts James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Bono” as well as NME: “Casey Shea is an artist operating at the very top of his game and, by comprising the very best elements of Lennon, Davies and Stills, has captured a sound long since past” and I couldn’t agree more. The way he got the crowd dancing throughout his set is proof in itself that as a musician, Shea is here to stay.

A toss up for most lively performer of the night is a tie between Abad and Bryan Dunn. Another lively act, Abad had everyone on the floor around me dancing to his astounding rendition of Wham!’s signature hit “Last Christmas.” While Abad had the dancers’ attention, Dunn made every guitar player proud as he rocked his guitar harder than I’ve seen any guitarist in concert do before, all while playing his holiday song of the night, “Father Christmas.”

Last up before each singer reunited onstage for “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was host Wagner. Extremely animated, jumping up and down with his band before he even started his set, Wagner was truly in his element Monday night. Leonhart joined him onstage for their rendition of “Blue Christmas,” definitely an enjoyable song with their voices blending perfectly together.

With the holidays in full swing, Monday night was a stellar night of music at the Canal Room. Every artist that graced the stage last night impressed and brought his or her own unique flavor. Lucky for New Yorkers, many of these musicians continuously play shows throughout the city so definitely check out their MySpace’s and catch a show when they’re in town! And, be sure to purchase the CD here or order it on iTunes where all the proceeds go to 826NYC.

Photo credit: Benjamin Wagner. For more photos of last night click here.


December 1st Holiday Benefit Concert

I wanted to let you know about an album release party and benefit concert I’ll be attending this coming Monday night and invite you to come along! This year marks the second annual concert and release of A Holiday Benefit, Vol. II, which will be held at the Canal Room in New York Monday night from 8 p.m. until midnight. I attended the inaugural concert last year where many New York-based musicians played and raised nearly $3,000 for 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

Creator of the now-annual A Holiday Benefit series, singer-songwriter Benjamin Wagner, spoke to me last year about his concept for the yearly showcase and album release. Having been a creative writing major himself, Wagner talked of the importance that kids of all socio-economic backgrounds understand and develop writing skills.

“It’s how we communicate and express ourselves,” Wagner said. “I wanted to do something local and something for kids. I wanted to do something bigger than me. Life is about meeting people and doing things together, not about doing your own thing. I just wanted to do something together with other people that I love — make the world a tiny bit better.”

Wagner explained that he was trying to provide a “think globally, act locally” concept, which is the idea he pitched to his fellow musician friends last year. You can read my write-up of the concert and more of my interview with Wagner from last year here.

This year’s show will feature 15 performers and showcase many tracks from the album. It’s for a great cause and will definitely be a night of amazing performances. Hope to see you there! For more information check out the MySpace page and Facebook event page.

Benefit News

Compassionart Article Featured on

Earlier this year I posted a Q&A; with Martin Smith of U.K. band Delirious? about his upcoming project, Compassionart, where songs written by him and many of his fellow singer/songwriter friends will be donated to various charities throughout the world. You can read a more recent article about it here.

Also, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from friends wanting to know more details about my life on tour, the guys I interviewed and any craziness I encountered that I may not have posted on my blog for the whole world to see. Do I have you intrigued yet? I promise to come up with a more detailed tour diary soon. Still working on editing all the interviews to post in MP3 format as well as fully transcribed, so check back soon! Thanks for reading!


Compassionart Donates Songs to Charity

Compassionart founder Martin Smith of U.K. band Delirious? will be gathering 12 of his singer/songwriter friends in Scotland next week with the plan of writing 10 – 12 songs, all of which will be donated to charity. Some of these notable artists include Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, and Steven Curtis Chapman as well as fellow Delirious? band member Stu Garrard.

“All of us as artists have been doing what we’ve been doing for many years – releasing records, writing songs, touching the earth in some way, but the fun of it is what we do when we come together,” Smith said. “I thought, let me get some of these guys together under one roof for a week. And let’s write some strong, killer songs, but more than that, let’s try and give these songs away and really sew into some of these social problems around the world.”

From touring throughout India, Rwanda, Cambodia and Indonesia over the years with his band, Delirious?, Smith has seen “amazing things, things that really shouldn’t be allowed in our day in age,” explaining that these experiences have deeply affected him and his band. “We’re just trying to do a little bit and really use the microphone that we have been given to make some noise about these issues.”

Fifty percent of the proceeds from each song will go to a charity of the individual artist’s choice while the other half will be donated to another charity decided amongst the group. “I want those conversations to happen around the dinner table and for us to get an idea together that we really feel as a team we can put our time and money into. And that may be anything. I want that to come from all the people gathered there and not just from me,” he said.

While it’s still too early to see how and when the songs will be released, whether on iTunes or Compassionart’s website,, Smith said he hopes to eventually release a compilation album of all songs written.

So how exactly does one get 12 people to write a dozen songs together in just five days? Smith explained each day, the artists are going to get together and throw ideas into the pot. “We’ve got four writing rooms/studios set up and we are just going to go crazy for a week and just bring ideas. Then we’ll meet up after for an hour and a half. We’ll play each other’s ideas; see who wants to write a lyric for that. It’s going to be crazy. It’s a great experiment and we hope it takes off.”

While it’s uncertain how the week will turn out, Smith said his hopes for the project is that 12 fantastic songs are written which people can start performing in their own gigs, shows and churches as well as earn money, which will be given to charity and be distributed to many different projects. “Who knows what the future is? What’s amazing is when you gather people together, then that’s when the fun starts. It’s when you sit around and you have an amazing group of people dreaming up new ideas and I think that’s where the future is.”

The group of singer/songwriters will be meeting up Jan. 7 – 11. Smith says the concept behind Compassionart is to do something together, remembering that the sum of all the parts is going to be greater. “That’s definitely going to be what we can give back to the music world and also to many, many thousands of kids out there that are struggling to get through the night.”

***Special thanks to Rick Hoganson for setting up the interview with Martin Smith and the photos above of Martin Smith in Cambodia, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith.***

Benefit News

Update: Switchfoot Raises Over $100,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity

“We felt we were helping in the best way we could – in light of the fact that this tour was about rebuilding and working in Habitat for Humanity,” Switchfoot drummer Chad Butler says of being on tour while the fires were raging in hometown San Diego.

The “Appetite for Construction Tour” means a lot more to San Diego natives Switchfoot taking the unfortunate fires in California into account.

“It’s surreal to look at the streets where you grew up on CNN from the back of a tour bus . . . I really feel for the people who lost so much,” drummer Chad Butler said. “I’m sure Habitat will be helpful in aiding those families. It’s a reminder that you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.”

Having just wrapped up their tour, “Appetite for Construction” has been very different from past Switchfoot tours, Butler explained. With $1 from every concert ticket going to benefit Habitat for Humanity, over $100,000 has been raised for the organization. All three bands on tour have been helping out at Habitat builds throughout the country while Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Matt Thiessen of Relient K have written a song, “Rebuild,” which fans can purchase at, donating the money directly to Habitat. Possibly the highlight of every show, each night of the tour all three bands come out on stage and perform this song together.

“Our goal is to encourage people to donate time locally in their own city. One of the most amazing things about Habitat is you don’t need to have any prior experience or expertise . . . they’ll put you to work and you make a difference. I’ve been really excited to see our audience come down to the sites and help out,” Butler said.

Matt Thiessen of Relient K agrees. “One of the best things of this tour is the meaning behind it,” he told the audience at the Nov. 17 NYC show at Hammerstein Ballroom. “One dollar of every ticket goes to Habitat for Humanity. We want to encourage everyone to check out their local chapters and go to some sites. It’s a lot easier than you think. We’re never completely content with where we are in life. We need to be compassionate. Being compassionate is what makes us feel alive.”

Habitat builds aren’t the only thing keeping Switchfoot busy. Their seventh album is already in the works and is expected out late next year. Singer/songwriter Jon Foreman is also working on four solo EP’s, the first entitled Fall just released last month. He’s also collaborating with Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek, calling themselves The Real SeanJon. Foreman explained the EP’s are six songs each and can be purchased on his Website,

“A lot of these songs are the more personal songs that don’t really belong on a band record,” Foreman said. “I’ll be doing four EP’s. They’re going to be called Fall, Winter, Summer and Spring. I’m working on Winter now. I haven’t even thought about Spring yet. I’ll think about Spring when it starts getting warmer out.”

Foreman explained the inspiration behind his music as “the specific place where I’m at in life. For me, most of my songs come from the problems in my life. When I’m happy I hang out with my friends and go surfing. That’s not when you write a song. You write a song when you’re depressed, angry and bitter and you’re trying to figure out the world.”


A Family Holiday Album to Benefit Young Writers

Silver lights and snowflake decorations dangled from the ceiling of the lower level of The Delancey as an eager crowd gathered Wednesday for a night of live music, drink specials, giveaways and raffles. Candy canes could be found on tables for guests while candles dimly lit the room, giving it a comfortable ambiance where friends and musicians came together for the release of A Family Holiday – a holiday album where all proceeds are donated to 826NYC – a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

Nearly a year in the making, singer/songwriter Benjamin Wagner explained how every year he releases a Christmas song on his website. Inspired by the 1984 Band Aid song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” featuring Sting, Bono, Duran Duran, Paul Young among others who helped out and contributed to the track, all to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. A few years later, holiday album A Very Special Christmas was released, again raising money, this time for the Special Olympics, where well known musicians, including U2, Sting, and Run-D.M.C. as well as many others had a track featured on the album.

Wagner explained that the song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” had all his favorite singers on it. “Its not the greatest song on the planet, but at the time no one had ever done that before,” he said. The idea and concept to release a song solely for charity was unheard of until then.

“I thought I’d get Casey, Chris Abad and Jeff Jacobson together to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and play it on my website and was like wait, that’s not big enough lets raise some money,” Wagner said. “Along the way I was like, why don’t we get everyone to chip in and do their own songs? Instead of A-list artists, its my friends. They’re A-list in my heart.”

Fast forward to Wednesday night at The Delancey, a joint concert/album release party where many of the artists showcased on A Family Holiday performed a few songs of their own. Kailin Garrity started the night off with her track on the album, “Silent Night.” A beautiful version with her soft vocals and guitar accentuating the song well.

Jeff Jacobson was up next, performing his song on the album, “Frosty the Snowman.” Definitely a new take on the holiday classic, but very enjoyable. Other performances included El Jezel’s take on “Working on Christmas” as well as Wakey! Wakey!, Wynn Walent and Seth Kallen performing his rock version of “Dreidel 2.0.”

Jennifer Snow, representative of 826NYC explained that the basic premise of the organization is that writing is important, including songwriting.

The Flying Machines definitely brought a lot of energy throughout the room during their set. They had some strong guitar riffs during their performance and had the crowd screaming to “Right Around Christmas” during the well-played keyboarding and guitar intro.

Chris Abad also had a lot of energy, keeping the crowd lively throughout his set. I unfortunately missed the last act – Benjamin Wagner and his band. Being a Jersey girl and having to catch the last bus home at 11:15 is extremely frustrating at times, but lucky for me I bought the album and he filled me in on what I missed – a few of his songs, including his track on the album, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and the joint track with all the artists performing “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

Wagner explained that he was trying to provide a “think globally, act locally” concept, which is the idea he pitched to his fellow musician friends back in August. They all saw his vision and got together and recorded the album in November, which includes everyone performing “Do They Know It’s Christmas” together, as well as contributing one track from each artist.

“I was trying to make the idea that we are all stronger when we work together. Everything is better when you do it with somebody else’s help. I could do something myself, but it would be 15 times better if I got 15 other people together. The whole point is to do something bigger,” Wagner said.

As for the choice of album proceeds going to benefit 826NYC, Wagner explained that he is a big admirer of writer Dave Eggers, especially his memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. With the money Eggers earned from auctioning his memoir into becoming a film he started the youth literacy drop-in tutoring centers in Berkeley, Chicago and New York, eventually expanding to various locations throughout the nation.

Having been a creative writing major himself, writing matters to Wagner and he feels it’s important that kids of all socio-economic backgrounds understand and develop writing skills. “It’s how we communicate and express ourselves,” Wagner said. “I wanted to do something local and something for kids. I wanted to do something bigger than me. Life is about meeting people and doing things together, not about doing your own thing. I just wanted to do something together with other people that I love – make the world a tiny bit better.”

While currently having broke even from the production costs of the album, Wagner said his hopes are to raise $1,000-$2,000 for 826NYC.

Albums can be purchased on the MySpace site,


Breast Cancer Benefit Concert

Statistics show that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer some time in their lives, said speaker Anna West Ott, a breast cancer survivor, at Sunday’s breast cancer benefit concert. That’s incredible to even imagine. At this point, everyone either knows someone directly who has struggled with breast cancer or a has heard of a friend or co-worker who knows someone who has.

Sunday’s concert at Rutgers University was where many gathered, despite inclement weather, for a good cause – donating money to Sharsheret – an organization that links young Jewish women in their fight against breast cancer. Performers of the evening included Ms. Shira, a retro hip hop/burlesque singer, ShockWave, the Rutgers all-female a capella group, and the Sarah Aroeste Band, a Ladino Rock band which showcases Judeo-Spanish music, both traditional Ladino folk songs with contemporary influences.

All three performances were incredibly entertaining and so different from each other. The entire night all in attendance were kept energized, whether it was snapping along during Ms. Shira’s set or dancing to some Ladino songs at the end of the night.

The first performer of the night, Ms. Shira, performed 8 songs from her album, Come to Class. Despite not having a live band and instead performing with background music, her set was very engaging as she interacted well with the audience – having them snap along to one of her songs and listen to her narration of each song throughout her performance. She explained her album as encompassing the core dynamics of love, from first meeting someone in “Get Close” to finally getting over a breakup and being on the rebound. One song, “Mischievous Lover,” showcased an entirely different love dynamic and those in attendance could see the change in persona from the way she sang the song. In a way, it felt like I was watching a show because you could see the change in character in each new song she sang, each song showcasing a different aspect and feeling of falling in or out of love. Overall, Ms. Shira has very strong vocals accompanying the music with each song. While some songs have a more soulful feel, others have catchy hip-hop beats that accentuate her voice and style of singing extremely well. To get more of a taste of Ms. Shira check out her MySpace here.

The second act to perform for the night was Rutgers’ own all-female a cappella group, ShockWave. I’ve seen varoius a capella groups perform over the years, but these ladies really blew me away. And by the crowd reaction, I wasn’t the only one floored by the amazing talent this group of students had. From beat boxing to high falsetto singing, these girls didn’t miss one note. They wowed the crowd with covers of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right,” and most fitting for the night, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” Check them out at

Last performance of the night was headlining act, Ladino Rock band, the Sarah Aroeste Band. I never heard Ladino music before and was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Sarah explained that Ladino is Judeo-Spanish music which is made up of a blend of Spanish, Hebrew and some other languages within each song. Despite the music being in another language, Sarah explained the story behind each song, many of which were written over 500 years ago. Just by listening to her narrative behind each song and listening to the beats and flow of the music I could understand what the song was saying which is amazing. But then again, isn’t that what music should always do to its listener?

“It’s amazing to me that the same topics written about back then are still written about today,” Aroeste said. “Ladino rocks and a lot of people think its dying out, but we’re here to tell you its not,” she continued.

Members of the band played more traditional instruments, including the Flemenco guitar and the oud. Playing 11 songs for a little over an hour, the Sarah Aroeste Band brought new music and culture to Rutgers Sunday night, all in support for an important cause. I talked with Monica Rozenfeld, organizer of the benefit concert, about her inspiration behind putting together the event and I’ll post that interview below.

Why did you decide to take on the task of hosting the benefit concert?
Throughout my last couple years of college, I really wanted to do some sort of volunteer project that I would feel really good about. But as we all know, we have many reasons why we can’t get to it — classes, parties, gym, etc. — and so it just never happened. But when I graduated in May, I made a pact with myself to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. And so I spent two months traveling and when I got back it just felt like the right time to undertake a project that I could have fun with but also feel that I’ve finally given back. I had two goals in mind, 1. to get girls more involved in charity and volunteerism and 2. to raise money for a charity I cared about. And so after some brainstorming, a breast cancer benefit concert was a great way to get girls to come out and support a great cause. And while they’re already there, to offer them future volunteer opportunities whether with breast cancer organizations or other organizations that were tabling at the event.

What was the process involved in getting funding for the event?
Since this was an individual project and I’m not a part of any specific organization, I didn’t have any money to play with. So I really had to get the funding for this event from scratch. We received all the funding through individual donors through the help of Lee Livingston, the president of the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County. After he read the proposal I wrote up, he became very supportive of what I was trying to accomplish and then reached out to funders who all made this possible.

How did you choose the three performers and why do you feel
it was important to have these performers?
I chose these performers based on the audience I was mainly hoping to attract, which is female students. I felt the performers each had a unique musical style to bring to the event and the three of them together made for a great mix for the night. Each of their styles portrayed strong, sexy and talented women and our hopes were that they would relate to the audience and show them that it can be fun to get involved. Sarah Aroeste, who was our headlining performer, is really big on her Ladino heritage and we felt she was a great spokeswoman, so to speak, on taking pride in Jewish heritage and involvement which represented two of the organizations co-sponsoring the event — Rutgers Jewish Experience {] and Hillel.

How much money was raised?
We raised just over $700 for the night. Considering the snowy/rainy weather that day, this was a huge success for us. We are expecting to get further donations from people who couldn’t make it out.

How do you feel about the concert now that it’s all over?
I feel relieved. I feel really great that it got pulled off. The entire experience was just amazing. The organization we raised money for, Sharsheret, was just thrilled with the turn out and that’s what makes us really happy. I met the most generous people from this experience. From the guy at a bar who saw the flyer and said he couldn’t make it but gave us a $20 donation, to all the strangers who saw my vision and chose to help support me in it, to the woman who called me when she said she heard about the event and would like to donate hand-crafted jewelery for the cause. This concert opened me up to this new world where people care. I’ve made some amazing friends through the process that will be my friends beyond this project. This experience, as frustrating as it might have been at times, gives me motivation to step even further from my box and see what else I can do.

I will add that whatever the reason people came out for the concert, they all should feel really good about themselves. Even if it was for the band, or because I made them, or because they had nothing better to do, they each did something great by supporting the event and I hope they went away with the feeling that they too did something for charity. I have to add a special thanks to all the volunteers and friends who came out and helped! Everyone just showed how amazing they are and it’s all to help strangers with this disease that we might not ever understand why it happens to anyone, but it does, and we each some how helped.

If anyone is interested in donating to breast cancer organizations, go to and

To learn more about the projects/organizations Monica is involved in, contact her at

Benefit Features

November Recap/December Picks

While I’m still getting adjusted to the whole blogging thing I’m trying to start a few topics to follow through with each month, such as a monthly “recap” that I’ll hopefully post at the end or beginning of each month as well as monthly “picks”or suggestions for an upcoming month. Here’s a recap of some cool things that went on in the month of November:

Pandora Radio
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been living under a rock. To pass the time at work I’ve been listening to music. Anything from various YouTube videos to listening to random HD radio stations that stream online. However, there are only so many radio stations you can listen to throughout the day and I haven’t figured out how to play continuous music on YouTube yet. A bunch of the people I work with kept talking about Pandora radio and I had no clue what they were talking about, so I decided to check it out. And let me tell you – it’s the coolest thing ever! I mean, iPods are great and everything, but how many times have you listened to the same songs? With Pandora you just type in an artist and it comes up with all this music that is similar to that artist and continuously plays it for you and you can skip to the next song if you don’t like it. However, if you do like the song just click the thumbs up sign so the player knows to play it again at a later point. I tried a bunch of different artists and got a pretty interesting combination of songs to listen to throughout the day. Music really makes the day go by so much quicker, I think it helps with the stress too. Pandora just added classical music to their collection as well as a variety of holiday tunes to listen to. Just go to to check it out and see for yourself.

Paste Magazine
For two weeks this month, Paste Magazine let readers decide how much they wanted to pay for a one-year subscription. This idea is unheard of in the magazine world, but thanks to Radiohead’s recent success with letting fans pay whatever they decided for their recent album, Paste thought, why not give it a try? I’m sure they’ll be seeing an increase in subscriptions. I just subscribed. Check out the article here.

New York Women in Communications
I went to a talk this month at the Hearst Tower with Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, hosted by New York Women in Communications. I’ve attended one other event which featured Jancee Dunn, former Rolling Stone writer and MTV 2 veejay who discussed her book, “But Enough About Me, A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous.” Attending these events really inspires me to keep writing and do what I love. Jancee, especially, was so great because I admire her and aspire to become a writer like her one day. Cathie was so great to listen to because it seems like she really is able to handle such a major responsibility – overseeing so many magazines as well as have a healthy family and social life. She talked about her book, “Basic Black,” described as the essential guide for getting ahead at work and in life.

It seems as if every month the albums released get better and better. Two of my favorites just released are Alicia Keys’ As I Am and Jon Foreman of Switchfoot’s Fall. They both fall more into the easy listening, which I think everyone needs to listen to just to unwind and forget about all the stressful things in life.

Bands Making a Difference
I don’t know if this section will be in every month’s post but I really hope it is. This month I was blown away by Switchfoot, Relient K and Ruth’s efforts in giving back to their communities. Not only did these three bands donate $1 from every ticket sold on their fall “Appetite for Construction” tour to Habitat for Humanity – raising well over $67,000 – but they also went out on Habitat builds throughout various tour stops, building alongside homeowners and fans that decided to join Habitat and help out. I was lucky enough to chat with Chad and Jon from Switchfoot and they are definitely some of the nicest and most down to earth guys in the music industry today. Their entire crew and fan base are just something special that bands should look up to and epitomize.

December Picks
There are a bunch of great concerts coming up this December – 3 of which are happening just next week that I think everyone should consider going to.

Sharsheret Breast Cancer Benefit Concert
Sunday, December 2
Multipurpose Room, Rutgers Student Center
College Ave. Campus, New Brunswick, NJ
7:30-10:30 p.m.

My friend Monica is putting on a benefit concert and helping raise money for Sharsheret, a national breast cancer organization. It will be a night of live music by female performers including Rutgers’ very own all-female acappella group Shockwave, Hip Hop/Alternative performer Shira, and headlining the show, Ladino artist Sarah Aroeste. Ticket prices are $5 for students and $12 for the public, and are a minimum donation to Sharsheret.

New York Musicians Release Benefit Holiday Album
Wednesday, December 5
The Delancey
168 Delancey St, NY
8 p.m. -12 a.m.

Just in time for the holidays, The Delancey will be hosting a holiday album release party next Wednesday. All proceeds from album, A Family Holiday, will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The night will include performances from some of the artists showcased on the album as well as feature DJ sets from Hot Rocks’ Jenny Piston and Underrated Magazine’s Rachael Darmanin.

Singer/songwriter Benjamin Wagner began the project with the help of Family Records. Albums can be purchased the night of the release party or on the MySpace site, There is no cover charge.

Army of Me with Liam and Me
Thursday, December 6
Union Hall
702 Union St., Brooklyn, NY
Doors open: 8 p.m. Show: 9 p.m.
Tickets $10

D.C. rockers Army of Me will be hitting up New York Thursday night playing some of their old fan favorites as well as songs from their debut album, Citizen. You may recognize their single, “Going Through Changes,” from being featured on various MTV shows. Check out their MySpace page for more of their sound.