Ben Tufts and Friends, the Craig Tufts Annual Fundraiser, is a much anticipated day of music here at Jammin' Java-- and we do mean day. August's show featured more than 15 artists and raised over $2000 in its 4th year running. Ben shared his story with us and with you, and provides insight on how it all got started:
Five years ago, my father lost a year long battle with glioblastoma multiforme. Brain cancer. Craig Tufts was the Chief Naturalist of the National Wildlife Federation for over 30 years--but for even longer, he was my dad. Naturally, my dad taught me a lot about the outdoors, but he also taught me how to teach. He showed me that it's not enough just to know stuff, you have to demonstrate WHY it's important to know stuff. You need to possess the wonder, the curiosity to know more, and the ability to use that knowledge to make the world better. My dad did that. I learned from his example, and now I myself am a teacher.
I teach music because I play music. I want others to share in the joy that I get from performing. My first contact with music was my parents' record collection. My Dad would pull a record out from the shelf, carefully removing the vinyl from the sleeve, sharing vignettes that weren't in the liner notes. He showed me that these musician folks were important people to know about, that they should be valued and revered. I wanted to be one of those people.
After my Dad's passing, I struggled with a way I could honor his memory. What could I do? Before long, the pieces slowly fell together.
There was a scholarship fund that had been set up for any moneys donated immediately after his death. The Craig Tufts Educational Fund was used to provide a scholarship for students to study nature. Almost every summer, my dad would serve on the faculty at a Family Nature Summit--a sort of eco-vacation for the whole family--and I usually tagged along. It was so wonderful to be around so many people that wanted to learn about the natural world. It was my Dad's wish that this fund would be used to send kids to these summits. The problem was, after the first year of donations, money stopped trickling in, and the fund was shrinking. I wanted to help, but how?
For some time, I had been in the habit of hiring a few of my friends to play at my house for my birthday in August. One day in late 2010, the proverbial lightbulb flickered on--why not just book a show for my birthday, invite all my friends and family, and raise a bunch of money for the fund? The first Ben Tufts & Friends show was held at Jammin' Java in Vienna in 2011, and it was a smash hit. We've held one every year since, and this past summer's event raised the most money yet--over two thousand dollars.
For me, this event feeds me in almost every way. I get to see my friends and family, celebrate my birthday and remember my Dad by hearing some great music from my favorite local and regional artists. It brings together so many different communities--not just people from the music scenes that scattered across the metro area, but people from the conservation community, families of my students--it makes my heart double in size to see everyone singing along and giving to a great cause. At the end of the day, we have a huge pile of cash that we can pour into the fund, so we can keep sending kids to the summits. I think about my Dad every day, but on those days, I like to imagine my Dad standing, like he did at so many of my shows, his back to the wall, hands in his pockets, smiling and tapping his foot to the beat.
You don't have to wait until next August to learn more about the event, and donate! The Fund has a social media presence, and the event has a website. You can also find a link to the Family Nature Summits below--I encourage anyone who loves nature to attend, it's a life changer. Thanks for reading!
Check out his video recap of last year's events and the links below to learn more about the Craig Tufts Educational Fund and the annual Ben Tufts and Friends fundraiser!