Rock ’n Roll for Global Health
By Julia Kayser*
April 20, 2012—Pastors. They can inspire you to volunteer, and they can bore you to tears. They subsist on potlucks and fair-trade coffee. They usually land somewhere on the fashion continuum between frumpy and ethereal. They don’t usually rock out.
The Connections band
, based in Dallas, Texas, is turning that stereotype upside down. The band’s six founding members are all ministers, brought together by their love of classic rock ’n roll. They play famous songs from the 70s in tribute to the original performers.
The band has about 35 members, and in groups of 10 to 20, they play monthly shows fall through spring around the North Texas United Methodist Conference
. They don’t charge admission, but they take freewill “love offerings” at each show for Imagine No Malaria
or another project of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Since the band’s first show in March 2004, they’ve raised more than $200,000 for UMCOR—and $100,000 for Imagine No Malaria!
Eric Folkerth, one of the band’s founding members, says that their success in fundraising has been unprecedented. “At every show we pause a couple of times and pass the offering plates, and at one point in the middle of the first set we pause and show a video about Imagine No Malaria and talk for a minute.”
They always emphasize the Methodist connection between the band members and the cause. All of the band members are volunteers, so 100% of the money raised goes for charity. The outpouring of generosity continues to amaze Eric. “When we started out, we had no idea how much people would love it.”
People of all ages seem to enjoy the concerts. “Here’s what interesting about 70s music,” Folkerth says. “Many generations of people know this stuff.” For some audience members, it’s the music they grew up with. For others, it’s what their older siblings always listened to. For today’s young adults, it’s the music that their parents taught them to sing along to.
The 70s have “a real staying power that a lot of other decades haven’t had,” says Folkerth.
This year’s lineup included hits like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs.” Every audience reacts differently to each song, but one universal favorite was “Close to You” by The Carpenters. Most of the band members hated rehearsing it, and the music director Rusty King had to push hard. But Folkerth says that in concert, as soon as those first few distinctive piano bars hit the air, “you can literally hear the whole audience sigh.”
Folkerth says that he sees the concerts as an outreach opportunity, because many community members will come to concerts even when they won’t come to church. “These shows are a really great way to put church in a whole different light for people,” he says. After all, nobody expects to see ministers rocking out!
Connections will perform at 7:00pm on May 4 at Northaven UMC
in Dallas. Join the band in their fundraising efforts by donating to Imagine No Malaria, UMCOR Advance #3021190