Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: Going to see a band that really gives

It’s serendipitous that I get to write about a band, during the Thanksgiving holiday no less, which actually thinks about others and makes a special point to give back to their community.

By night, The Brothers Gow (pronounced Gou) tour the West coast under the guise of a rock band that likes to, among other things, take classic themes from movies like 2001 Space Odyssey and mesh it into Shakedown Street by the Grateful Dead.

But by day, the long-term friends (some have known each other since first grade) who relocated to San Diego, Calif, have formed a foundation and donation mechanism that provides musical instruments and other resources to schools that may not otherwise have been able to afford an extensive music program.

When guitarist Ethan Wade and his bandmates told me about how their non-profit organization grew from a friendship the band formed with a local guitar collector, there was definitely a sense of pride and accomplishment in the story he was telling. It was obvious that having access to music programs in the public education system was something every member of the band believed was the reason they were playing music together today.

Ethan explained it this way: “The program started when we met a guy in San Diego, Tim Johnson, who we call the guitar godfather. He’s got kids that grew up in the schools here, and he’s a guitar collector. He has this collection of instruments that put most music stores to shame and he became a really big fan of our music. He lets us tour with a lot of his gear, and he’s a really good friend of the band.

We were talking with Tim one day about how can we really win over the town. How can we get people, who wouldn’t normally come to the show or just to go support live music in general, how can we get them to pay attention to what we want to do.

“Immediately we started to think of ways to give back to the community. It was very important for us to want to, because there’s hardly any funding these days for music in public schools, and we were all products of public education.

“If it wasn’t for 4th grade band or jazz band in high school, if we weren’t given these opportunities, we wouldn’t know where we’d be today.”

The group finally decided to work on a program to focus on donating instruments to classrooms.

“Even if there’s not a music class with a full time music teacher, the students might have free time during school where they can get their hands on a tangible instrument, a guitar or a ukulele. Even if they just get to look at the instrument, it’s a great step,” Wade said.

The work paid off. The band was able to donate 22 instruments to each classroom at Ocean Beach Elementary School. The band is now expanding this foundation to another area school, and they are excited about the opportunities in music this will bring to more students.

“Kids really start to develop in the first and second grade — they find what they’re really into, and what makes them truly happy. For us, we thought it was the most noble thing we could do for our community. The amount of attention it’s brought back to us, as a band, has been astronomical. The feeling of knowing that your instruments are in some little kids classroom everyday is just like really nice,” Wade said.

Since touring the Northwest the last six years, the band knew about Hood River but their schedule wouldn’t allow a stopover. But last year that changed when they played a corporate party event for DaKine.

“We finally got to book a gig with the DaKine corporate party, which featured all of their international sales reps, so that was just a great experience for us. We distinctly remember that because all of our gigs after that show were super awesome, all due to that energy we got in Hood River,” Wade said.

Guitarist and trumpet player Kyle Merrill has family ties to Mosier, and remembers a day of rafting on the White Salmon.

“I almost drowned. It was a series of unfortunate events and I floated for a mile before my uncle caught up to me with his kayak. It was a crazy experience. We went into Hood River afterwards and ate at the Full Sail Brewery. That was a great end to a hectic day.” More with the Brothers Gow online at www.hoodrivernews.com

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