After three successful concerts at Arts United Center, the League for the Blind and Disabled increased this year’s challenge for its annual benefit concert by taking on a bigger venue and scheduling its largest show to date.
In recognition of Disability Awareness Month, the organization is hosting five-time Grammy Award-winning gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama, who will perform at Embassy Theatre on Saturday.
Proceeds from the concert will help supplement funding for the organization’s programs.
There are programs here that we know every year we’re going to have raise money for, says David Nelson, the league’s president and CEO.
Nelson says it is often the most beneficial programs that require the most fundraising. He hopes the money made from this concert will provide funding for such programs as Summer Youth and Adaptive Equipment.
We had a real strong year last year, Nelson says. We project to at least triple or quadruple the League’s net (assets) this year. With a concert like this, that’s very achievable.
In the past three years, the organization has had its annual Blues Bash, bringing in nationally recognized musicians such as Duke Robillard, Bill Lupkin and Nick Moss. This year, the concert will divert from its blues roots to the legendary gospel group, whose career spans more than 70 years.
Nelson says it was important to bring in a concert this year that would have a larger draw for the 2,500-seat Embassy.
Fort Wayne has a great heritage in blues, but it’s a smaller audience, he says. Unless it was a huge name, we had to be open to other ideas.
Nelson says it took his oldest son to remind him that he has been listening to the Blind Boys of Alabama for more than 30 years. The gospel group formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. Over its career, the group has performed with artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Randy Travis, k.d. lang, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel. Jimmy Carter and Clarence Fountain, the only two surviving members of the original group, tour with current members.
It’s a great way to kick off a larger event, Nelson says. The Blind Boys and the league have a lot of mission match.
The concert series began when a benefactor of local organization asked if he could sponsor a concert in its honor. As a musician himself, Nelson says he enjoys that the event not only provides for the organization financially but offers entertainment.
You can have your fun and support the league at the same time, he says.
Nelson says the organization has more than doubled its marketing efforts to generate attention for the show. He says that as the performance draws near, he feels confident that the league will have another successful concert.
We’re seeing the energy build, and that’s what you want to see happen, Nelson says. When you go out in the community, you can feel a little buzz. Listening to the buzz that’s starting to build, I’m getting really excited about it.