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A Volunteer Gig...


I may have got myself—finally—a volunteer gig, and it will be fun and exciting. And it’s doing stuff I think I’m good at.

The difference a month makes… When I went to the Bay City Arts Center’s board meeting in February, everybody was energetically and enthusiastically getting everything done—and then some—after the departure of their executive director. By last Monday night, they had all managed to get seriously burned out. But four people were there—three besides me—to tell them, “You guys really need a full-time staff” and “Look, we can do this for free for a while and maybe bring you in some money.” One of the outgrowths of the Failed Economy is there are rather a lot of people with high-end professional skills who can’t get jobs because there aren’t any.

So we asked the board to appoint the girl with the most grant-writing experience as executive director, and the rest of us as her deputies, all with fancy titles (I’ll be “Public Relations Manager”); we’ll divvy up the job of keeping the doors open, bills paid, and phones and e-mail answered—split four ways, it’s not a lot of work for any one person—and work on the organization’s visibility, programs, and bringing more money in. (All this may be premature speculation; as this is written, we’re still waiting on a formal decision by the Arts Center Board. I just have a feeling they’ll do it, because they do need the help and we can provide it.)

I got the public-relations job because of my advertising and lobbying and graphic design background—all of the “Gang of Four” (my term) have experience like that. I’ve designed us business cards, and survey postcards we plan to hand out at Friday night’s open mike (offering a chance at a prize—free tickets to a concert a week from now—in exchange for getting on our mailing list).

We’re doing the same thing I and several others did 25 years ago with Columbia Gorge United, the little non-profit that took on some of the biggest environmental lobbying groups in the country (and some of the highest-placed members of Congress) in the 9-year fight over turning the Gorge into a Federal park. We almost won (some would argue that we did win). We had a big staff (none of them paid), an office building (rent free), the best promotional materials (all donated), and could deliver a dozen trained lobbyists (all volunteer) to Washington, D.C. at the drop of a hat. If you’re playing with the Big Boys, and you’re acting like the Big Boys, nobody ever asks what you’re being paid.

We will play the same game here. As “Brother Bill” Howell, lead singer for the Dodson Drifters (and an attorney) put it, “It’s all performance.”

On other fronts: Blues harp player “Doc” Wagner is in, I think, for the April 24 benefit concert for Val Folkema; he’ll be available for practice after the beginning of April. I don’t have an answer yet from lead guitarist Mike Simpson. Our impromptu quartet—piano, guitar, blues harp and vocals—practiced March 2 for our Monday Night Musical performance March 8; we’ll do the best two of four songs, “Please Release Me” and “Today I Started Loving You Again,” both of which “Doc” and I have played a lot of times before. Practice took only about an hour, and was mostly a matter of getting everybody used to everybody else.

And the open mike at the Arts Center is Friday night, not Saturday (so I’ll miss music at City Hall); the date was changed, but very few people know. That informational gap between decisions and events is one of the things the “Gang of Four” will be fixing. I still need a real job—rather desperately, in fact—but the odds are any real job is going to be relatively mindless grunt work, because I don’t have the armload of college degrees to “prove” I can do what I did for a living for 15 years. This volunteer gig at least will be challenging, and fun.


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I think you should drag out something from your dust-bearing back catalogue and re-christen it:

"Please Re-Release Me"


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