In Perfect Harmony–The Angel Band Project and Edward Jones

Posted by Rachel Ebeling, Apr 29, 2015 0 comments

Our story culminates with beautiful music, healing, and hope. However, the origins of the Angel Band Project sprung from the depths of horror the night my best friend, Teresa Butz, was raped and murdered.

Just after midnight, on July 18, 2009, Teresa and her partner, Jennifer Hopper, were attacked at knifepoint in their Seattle home. The intensity of grief and pain was magnified by the fact that it happened suddenly and with such violence. Her death left an indescribable void for all who loved her–a virtual canyon of despair that summoned more than just making a casserole and telling her family we were sorry. But what act of kindness or charity was worthy of honoring her memory?

It came to me in form of a dream a few weeks after her death. I entered an imaginary bar called “Sweet Angels” –a pizza place with a band in the front window and Teresa was there telling us everything was ok.

Around the same time, my dear childhood friend, Jean Purcell, called me and said, “I know what we’re doing for Teresa. We’re going to make a benefit album in her memory.” Teresa loved music and, at that moment, the dream and the phone call collided in my brain.

Out of this tragedy, the Angel Band Project was born with the help of Teresa’s brother, Norbert Leo Butz, a two-time Tony Award winner and Wicked’s original Fiyero on Broadway. Norbert recruited dozens of talented singers and musicians to lend their time and talent to create a recording that raised $10,000 to promote healing, raise awareness, and create positive social change for survivors of sexual violence. But that was just the beginning.

Angel Band Project 1My husband, Sean, works for Edward Jones’ headquarters in St. Louis. He shared the story with a few general partners at the firm and ideas started flowing–a St. Louis concert was on the horizon.

Since leaving town 25 years earlier, Norbert had never returned to perform. The time had come. Edward Jones had it covered. As the presenting sponsor, the firm initially wrote a check for $10,000. And with that under our belt, more sponsors started rolling in.

Norbert and Teresa are from a family of 11 kids, and everyone had been waiting a long time for Norbert to come home to perform. Without even promoting it to the public, all 732 tickets for the first Angel Band concert sold out in a few days. Edward Jones asked me, “What else can we do?”

A second concert the following night was scheduled. Edward Jones picked up the tab for everything–hotel rooms and flights for performers and crew, the venue, program design, printing–you name it. All in all, 1,300 people attended the two concerts which raised more than $47,000–exceeding all expectations. We couldn’t have done it without Edward Jones.

Where there is music, there is hope.

Angel Band Project 3With the money raised, we partnered with Maryville University and launched a music-based therapy program for survivors of sexual assault at no cost to participants. Board-certified music therapists lead sessions that include drum circles, song-writing, lyric analysis, and other therapeutic programs. Each session is designed to encourage various forms of self-expression for those whom trauma has robbed their ability to cope, relax or express themselves. To date, more than 75 women have participated in one of our music therapy programs.

Angel Band Project 2Our latest project took place in November 2014 and was also underwritten and hosted by Edward Jones –a virtual concert, orchestrated by Scott Schoonover of Union Avenue Opera. The show featured videos of dozens of local survivors singing The Wailin’ Jennys' “One Voice” on screen together. A live choir also sang with survivors’ stories interspersed between songs. 320 people attended and we raised $21,000. About half came in from a crowd funding program called “Power 2 Give” and the other half from ticket sales and donations.

Next, we hope to grow the virtual choir coast to coast–including survivors from Seattle, WA to South Beach, FL. Edward Jones gives us the means to dream big. Their support is invaluable and allows us to survive.

After all, art is what we live and breathe and Edward Jones is no stranger to our cause. The firm is a long-time supporter of the St. Louis arts community and has donated more than $6 million to the Arts and Education Council since 1978, with nearly $4 million coming from its workplace giving efforts.

Like a great crescendo, in harmony with Edward Jones, The Angel Band Project can continue to use music to break the silence around sexual violence and help survivors, one note at a time.

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