Saturday November 10, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- On Sunday night, the Rev Tor Band and about 30 other Berkshire County musicians will gather for an encore staging of "The Last Waltz," a live re-creation of The Band’s classic 1978 concert film, at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.

The artists will share one night of song, but the music won’t stop there.

The evening’s effort is designed to benefit Music in Common, a nonprofit organization based in Sheffield, whose mission is "to strengthen, empower and educate communities through the universal language of music," particularly by collaborating with youths in the Berkshires region and the Middle East.

Local musician, writer and producer Todd Mack started Music in Common in 2005, inspired by the life and in response to the death of his friend and former bandmate Daniel "Danny" Pearl.

Pearl, a former reporter for The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript, was a musician and journalist working for the Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped and killed in 2002 while working in Pakistan.

To date, Music in Common (MiC) has toured more than a hundred communities across the United States, Middle East and Far East to stage free community concerts and youth education programs as well as multimedia productions and travel abroad programs.

Mack and MiC just finished two projects with students at Mount Everett High School in Sheffield and Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.

In a group no larger than 15 students, they’re challenged to work together to write an original song, perform and record it in a studio; storyboard, shoot and edit a music video for their song; and present both the song and video at a community concert -- all in a total of 40 hours over a five-day period.

"We’re just giving them a cool project to learn more important things about themselves, like their commonality and common ground, and how to respect each other," Mack said.

In three weeks, he’ll travel to Israel with the same concept, working only two full days to bring together students from Arab and Jewish schools.

"Just as in the U.S., they have to do the project together through very hands-on, very first-hand experiences. These are kids that live 15 to 20 minutes away from one another but most likely, under any other circumstances, their paths will never cross," said Mack, alluding to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"My take away, more than anything from this program, is hope," he said.

Wendy Casey, who teaches senior English and teen leadership classes at Mount Everett said her students were engaged by Music in Common and its connections with the Middle East.

Though MiC promises to fund at least 50 percent of the program costs, it works with schools and students to help them fundraise the difference. Over the summer, the group of Mount Everett students held a car wash to fund the program, which has since been established as an extracurricular club at the school.

In addition to participating in the intensive music and video production process, Casey said the club takes "Music in Common components to a deeper level with a slower pace." The idea includes having guest lecturers on music, hosting music film nights, doing community service projects and partnering with other MiC school programs, like the one they’ve already connected with in Torrington, Conn. Casey said in the future, she hopes students can virtually video chat with MiC students in the Middle East.

"It gives kids a chance to put some of their ideals into action," she said.

If you go Š

What: Music In Common presents "The Last Waltz Live," a recreation of The Band’s classic concert film. This event features the Rev Tor Band with special guests Meg Hutchinson, Carol and Steve Ide, David Grover, Rob Sanzone, Wanda Houston, Berkshire Mountain Rambler, Beth Rose, Bobby MacVeety, Caroline Mack, Charlie Tokarz, Chris Merenda, Curtis Kelley, David Hodge, Gina Coleman, Jeb Barry, Jeff Stevens, Jim Reynolds, Jordan Loder, Jordon Weller, Kip Beacco, Lukas Schwartz, Matt Tannenbaum, Peter McEachern, Robby Baier, Rodney Mashia, Sean Barry, Todd Mack and Tom Ingersoll.

When: Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St., Great Barrington.

Tickets: $25 ($35 preferred seating) and $15 for youths ages 18 and under. Tickets may be purchased by calling (413) 528-0100 or visiting www.mahai

we.org. Proceeds benefit Music in Common, a nonprofit education and music organization.

To learn more about Music in Common: www.musicincommon.org.

To see music videos produced by MiC students: www.YouTube.com/MusicinCommon.