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Doctor Ben

Ben Folds – an alumnus of “one sad semester” at the University of Miami – will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree as he delivers the commencement address for the Schools of Architecture, Communication, Education and Human Development, Marine and Atmospheric Science, Nursing and Health Studies, and the Frost School of Music at the U on May 14.

Ben’s still in Australia, unable to travel because of restrictions imposed by the pandemic, but has recorded his address for presentation during the ceremony.

Best known for his piano work, his studies at UM were in percussion, where we earned a music scholarship but did not complete his studies. He returned to Miami in 2015 for a performance of his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.

Folds livestream to help musicians’ mental health effort

Ben Folds will contribute a streaming set to Set Breaka livestream fundraiser by the Backline project to support its mental health and wellness access efforts for musicians, particularly those affected by the pandemic.

The event takes place Saturday, April 10 on The Relix Channel, which streams on TwitchTV, and features sixteen musical acts along with immersive wellness experiences and public service announcements from music industry professionals. (more…)

New Darren Jessee album now out

Darren Jessee, former drummer, songwriter and vocalist for Ben Folds Five, has another new work of his own. Available today, Remover is described as an album that “redefine[s] the significance of quiet moments with grand consequence.” Indeed, the leadoff single of the ten tracks, Never Gonna Get It, is a quiet ballad about separation and loss, laced with dreamy orchestrations and gentle melodies.

You may recall that Remover was a name for a band that Darren put together in 2003 but was changed to Hotel Lights because another band already had that name. The title stuck with Darren, though, and resurfaces as the title of this latest work.

Remover is available through the usual digital channels and on vinyl. For more info, visit darrenjessee.com.

Folds to host, perform at ArtsVote events

As he did in 2016, Ben Folds will once again be advocating for the arts at both national political conventions. On Thursday, August 20, 2020, he’ll host a one-hour free virtual event prior to the closing night of the Democratic National Convention. Also speaking will be actors Annette Benning and Brian Stokes Mitchell; Megan Bayer, the co-chair of the Biden Arts Policy Committee; and Shepard Fairey, noted graphic designer, skateboarder and founder of the OBEY clothing line. Another live event is slated for August 27, the closing night of the Republican convention.

ArtsVote, a service of Americans for the Arts, is a cooperative effort among musicians, artists and others involved in the arts. The organization advocates for all Americans to register and vote. Those who pledge to vote and encourage others to do the same can have access to artwork, performances and merchandise offerings. There’s also information on how to register and vote in each of the fifty States.

Registration for the event is free but is limited. A recording of the event will be available two days following.  For more information, visit the ArtsVote site.

Folds cancels shows for the rest of 2020

Ben Folds today announced the cancellations of all his shows until at least the end of 2020. Here’s his statement:

This is the official announcement that my touring for 2020 is now canceled and will be rescheduled at the first opportunity in 2021. That’s the important part. But if you’re interested, here’s why I’ve made that decision now:

Infectious disease specialists tell us that COVID-19 will be here for a while, swirling around the globe until it is stopped by a vaccine, and that it is astronomically unlikely that we will develop and distribute that vaccine this year. In fact, we have never before developed a successful vaccine against any coronavirus. Well. That’s all I really need to know.

Just leaving shows on the books, going with wait-and-see until the last minute, is not in the best interest of ticket buyers, promoters, crew and even businesses near venues. It just adds to our endless list of uncertainties. What is needed in a time of such uncertainty, when a historic pandemic is killing people, erasing jobs, and disrupting life as we know it, is to shed as much of that uncertainty as possible, and to take stock of that which is certain.

Health and safety come first. That is certain. The well-being of my audiences — from 12-year olds whose parents cover their ears when I forget not to cuss, to couples their grandparent’s age singing three-part harmonies — is too dear to me to be put at risk. Not to mention those whose paths we might cross once the show lets out. Until this virus is in the rear view — and again we’re told this will not be in 2020 — we cannot be certain large gatherings won’t re-ignite the spread just as it’s been contained. I’m sure that some cities, states and venues might technically allow our concerts much sooner than others. But remember that the USA is a massive country. One city may experience what seems like complete recovery just as another in a neighboring state is seeing an uptick in cases. It would be irresponsible to incentivize music fans to travel from where there was a cancelled show in an infected area, to attend a show in an infection-free area.

Our federal government leaders have decided to let the states and cities fend for themselves, making decisions like these all more stressful. It’s a little like when traffic lights are out during a storm. (Nobody ever complained of the government coming between them and a car accident, did they?) Absent clear direction, we’re all left to rely on what the car ahead of us did, hoping that nobody gets run over in the process. Honestly, absent federal guidance, I took my cue from Taylor Swift who also cancelled all her touring for 2020. A decision like that takes guts, so thank you President Swift. And I’m grateful to have a booking agent, manager, and crew with broad shoulders.

Of course, this is a huge disappointment to me personally.  I’ve never gone a whole year in my two decades plus as a performer without seeing you all from the stage regularly.

Here’s what I say. Let’s get through this and look forward to a time when we can begin the next phase of that long road to recovery. When we can party like it’s 2021 and not like it’s 1918. When we can sing those three-part harmonies with healthy lungs. That is when live music will be able to step in and do its part to heal and inspire. Until then, please stay safe, and remember, no matter how bad it gets, the most comforting certainty is that all this too shall pass.

Ben