MEMORIAL BENEFIT CONCERT FOR THE RHYTHMIC ARTS – 10-21-18
Memorial Concert To Benefit Shaking Ray Levi Society’s Work With The Rhythmic Arts Project
By Barry Courter
When Hunter White took his life in July, friends in the local music and restaurant communities flooded social-media sites wondering how someone who brought so much joy to others could have been hiding so much pain.
White, 36, was a popular musician who had gathered a wide circle of friends as a drummer in several bands and by working in the food-service industry, including at Tremont Tavern, where he was employed when he died.
He was well-known and well-liked, and friends began asking if they’d missed any signs or hints that something was not right with their friend. Why hadn’t he reached out? Were there others going through similar situations, they wondered online and among themselves. Many began posting messages offering a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a hug or any other help they could provide for anyone in need.
Many of those friends have been working together on a concert taking place tonight at Songbirds South to both honor their friend and to raise awareness for agencies and organizations that offer help for people with mental illnesses.
“First of all, we hope to bring attention to the physical and mental wellness needs of not only our creative class but also our service class needs,” says Jonathan Susman, activation and engagement specialist with the city, as well as a drummer like White.
“We wanted to take the life of someone who truly wanted the best for everybody and turn it into a legacy of something positive,” Susman says. “We want to keep Hunter’s memory on top of minds but also use that to hopefully make a real difference in other people’s lives.”
In Health.com’s list of professions that have a high level of stress, both musicians and food-service workers rank in the Top 10. White worked in both, and while the services to help people in those industries, or any for that matter, already exist, people aren’t always aware of them or avoid them because of a perceived stigma attached to seeking help for mental illness.
“If this event helps one person find help, that would be a very good thing,” says Mike Dougher of Songbirds. He got to know White over the years while booking bands at Rhythm & Brews and then Songbirds.
“He always came in with a smile, and I always wanted to say hello to him.”
Like any parent who loses a child, especially one to suicide, Fred White and Beth Moore would give just about anything to have their son back, and they have been asking themselves many of the same questions that Hunter’s friends have been asking.
“There wasn’t a warning,” Moore says. “It wasn’t like there was a tipping point that would have led us to believe this would happen. That’s not to say he was perfect. He had challenges like everyone else. He had bills to pay and worries.”
She says because of issues within the family, her son was aware that help was available, which makes his death even more perplexing to her.
But it does help ease the pain, sometimes, to know that seven of his organs were donated to six people and that the local music and restaurant communities have come together in their son’s name to bring awareness to mental illness and the help that is available.
Tonight’s concert will feature almost a dozen local acts, including Carson Smith & The Heat, Wimpee, Slim Pickins, Function with a C, BJ Hightower, Tiffany Taylor, Jordan Hallquist & The Outfit, Digital Butter, The Communicators/Doghouse/MDahts, Amber Fults, The Fridge and Dubconscious from Athens, Georgia. It will all take place at Songbirds South today from 4 to 11 p.m.
Also on hand will be representatives from Primary Healthcare Centers to talk about the variety of health-related services this group of nonprofit community health centers offers, and Bob Stagner with the Shaking Ray Levi Society will be there to talk about TRAP.
TRAP is program that uses percussive instruments as a learning tool for people with disabilities. Stagner has been an active teacher in the program for a number of years, and White says it would mean a lot to his son to benefit the program.
“It was something he talked about,” White says.
“We will also have a pamphlet with links to all of the services that we know about that are available to people. Things like dental care, medical care, mental wellness checkups,” Susman says.
“Eventually, we hope to have a website with links to all them, but the immediate goal is to get the word out.”
For White and Moore, today’s event, like the memorial service held at JJ’s Bohemia shortly after their son’s death, gives them a sense of peace knowing how many people their son touched.
“I had so many people that I didn’t know come up at the thing at JJ’s and tell me how when they were down, Hunter was the one who came up to talk to them,” White says.
For Moore, who lives out of town, social media became a way to connect with her son’s friends to try to make some sense of his death.
“Facebook became my connection to his friends,” she says.
Many of those same people spent two days helping White and Moore clean up the familyowned cabin where Hunter had been living.
“He was a bit of a hoarder,” White says. “We filled up a dumpster in about two hours and then about 10 pickup trucks of furniture and clothes we took to Goodwill. That was very meaningful to us to have their help. It was not something we could have done on our own.”
“It was real cathartic because it was a chance to spend some time with them.”
Just as she did during her son’s funeral, Moore says she will likely hold on to one of Hunter’s drumsticks during the event today.
“I don’t know why, but it helped,” she says.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.