Photo: Kelly Kerr
The nonprofit fund began as a way to provide a financial safety net for musicians and their families who have fallen on hard times. The fund raises money through concerts in order to offer grants to musicians affected by natural disasters, health concerns and other various needs. With funds raised through a concert in February, the relief fund was able to provide supplemental income to local musician Mike Hosty while he recovered from open heart surgery earlier this year.
On March 25 and 26, over 15 musicians and 50 singers joined the Red Dirt Rangers to record “Stand (Let Your Voice Be Heard),” an adapted version of a song written by singer-songwriter Chuck Dunlap.
Producers and Red Dirt Rangers band members Brad Piccolo and John Cooper had less than two weeks to get the word out to the musicians who would participate: John Fullbright, Parker Millsap, Kevin Welch and others. They were joined by David Smith’s gospel choir and the other Red Dirt Rangers band members (Ben Han, Randy Crouch, Don Morris and Rick Gomez).
“I’m looking at it in a historical perspective,” Piccolo said. “This will be capturing a slice in time of Oklahoma music.”
The Rangers have been together for 26 years, and the two-day recording experience was like a tearful family reunion, Piccolo said; many of the musicians who gathered for the project hadn’t seen each other in years.
Red Dirt Relief Fund President Cooper and fund member Piccolo want this project to educate those who are self-employed about their healthcare options and the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s not perfect,” Piccolo said, referring to the act. “But it’s a good step toward what I think a civilized society should do: take care of its citizens.”
And through programs like the relief fund, Cooper and Piccolo want to encourage musicians to stay in Oklahoma and continue to contribute to the local music scene.
“[Red Dirt] is Oklahoma music,” Cooper said. “It’s just heartfelt, original. It’s nothing to do with a genre specific. It’s a blend of all kinds of music that have come through Oklahoma. It’s not really a music; it’s more of a scene. It’s more of a brother or sisterhood.”
Band members Cooper, Piccolo and Han survived a helicopter crash in 2004, and the experience was an early inspiration to begin the relief fund.
“[After the accident], there was such an outpouring of love and emotion for us,” Piccolo said. “That just opened our eyes to what the power of a community pulling together can do.”