Sunday, March 8, 2015

"The Road Forward" Thea Dee Benefit (03.07.15)

Photo above courtesy of Mat Powers Matlack/The Follow.

Anyone who reads this blog has seen the name Thea Dee pop up on many occasions over the past four years or so. While I have plenty of great friends with whom I first became acquainted in the world of Second Life, that is not the case with Thea. In fact, I've known Thea for about 25 years, and it was because of a random birthday greeting and an offhand comment I made to her that she discovered SL at all.

Let me back up for a moment. Starting in 1989, I went to college at Cal State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA. It's not very far from where I grew up and where I live now. It's not a big school and not the most prestigious four-year university, but I found my eduction there to be excellent, with relatively small class sizes and, for the most part, instructors who really seemed to care about their jobs. In any case, I was a music major there, and all music majors had to have performance credits, regardless of what musical emphasis they chose. Since I was working my way through school, my schedule was ridiculously hard to navigate, so the performance class that best fit my schedule was singing in the University Chorus (which turned out to be great, and I got my first real singing training there which proved invaluable later, but that's another story). I was the leader of the bass section, which said more about the average quality of my fellow basses than anything great about me, and there was a cute redheaded girl in that chorus who sang alto. I came to know her as Rachael. Rachael was a theater arts major and a music minor, so in addition to the chorus class, I'd see her in other classes and around the hallways of the Humanities and Fine Arts building often. We became friends; she was a spunky chick who was fun to talk to, and we got along well for the couple of years we knew each other in college. After I graduated, we didn't keep in touch, though I did run into Rachael one other time, a random encounter on the streets of West Los Angeles while I was driving back to my office from lunch.

That was in 1994 or thereabouts, and then she disappeared. Roughly 12 years later, I'd discovered SL and started playing live music there right away. And then another four years passed. It was October 2010 that I saw Rachael's name mentioned by a mutual friend on Facebook, wishing her a happy birthday. I recalled her fondly, and dropped her a note to which she responded. I was good to catch up. She was married and living in Utah. She asked if I was still doing musical stuff, and I filled her in on the album I'd completed and mentioned that I did live music performances in this virtual world thing. I think it was that very day that she got into Second Life, appearing as an avatar named Thea Dee, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thea took to SL like the proverbial duck to water; I swear it was like two weeks later that she told me she was going to partner with someone and start a venue. Amazing.

Thea and I continued our friendship via SL and Facebook, and she was a great supporter of my music, appearing at almost all of my shows. One day, I got the news that no one wants to hear about a friend or family member: she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I don't have to mention that fighting cancer is a huge challenge to anyone, and if you're not in the upper echelons of financial status, it's even harder. Thea has gone through a complete regimen of chemotherapy since then, and signs point to the positive of her recovery. But the financial toll has been rough on her and her husband, so I was thrilled to hear that some of her friends had organized a benefit show in her name. The fact is that in the 4-1/2 years she's been in SL, Thea has been recognized as a huge supporter of the live music community there, and it's really no surprise that many people wanted to give back to her what she'd given them.

The Road Forward
I believe it was Meegan Danitz who organized the fundraiser called "The Road Forward - A Benefit to help Thea Dee as she fights breast cancer", which was held at the Rhi's Poem venue. It ran all day, from noon to 8PM, with most performers doing a half hour slot each. My set was at 3PM, but I'd been popping in and out of the place since the show began. After all, the schedule included some of SL's very best performers, all modesty aside. It was, in a word, packed. Over 60 avatars in a medium-sized sim, and the best news was that people were giving... seriously giving. I was seeing L$1,000 donations flying by all the time. That put a huge smile on my face as I prepared my own set. In addition to modifying a silly Flight of the Conchords song to include Thea and produce some grins in the midst of the sadness, I did a re-write of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's Grammy-nominated song "Same Love" so it was focused on Thea's plight (I called my version "Thea Love"). I have to say, my whole show went really well; perhaps I was inspired by being given a chance to help my close friend, as well as the other great performances I'd heard that day. In any case, laughs were laughed and tears were cried and all in all, it was a pretty amazing experience.

Thea Benefit set list...
If You're Into It - Thea Edition (Flight of the Conchords)
You've Got a Friend (James Taylor)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
*Thea Love (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis/Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

This is the place where I normally thank my fans who supported the show. Instead, I'll use this bold text to thank all the people who, in one day, raised over L$1,000,000 (aka over $4000 USD) which will go directly to Thea. I couldn't be happier for her, as well as all of the people who organized and performed at the benefit. You, in a word, are awesome.

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