Making music for charity
Put your Hands Together for our own Kenn Machin
“I started singing and playing guitar at coffee house ‘open mike nights’ about 15 years ago,” says Kenn, who lives and works on Long Island. “
At first I was deathly afraid to go on stage. But now I host shows, formed a 250-member ‘Organization of Open Mike Performing Artists’ called OOMPA, and am either playing or emcee-ing a lot when I’m not at work. It really helped me open up, meet new people and make new friends.”
Kenn, who’s played acoustic guitar since he’s 17, is also putting his talents and motivation to work to make music for charity.
“We got the idea to raise money during Japan’s nuclear disaster a few years back,” he explains. “Not that many people were coming to the shows to support the causes, which is when it hit me – We have to go where the people are’!”
Kenn was most interested in feeding the hungry, a passion his wife, and sometimes back-up singer, shares. Kathy had been volunteering at their local Central Islip food pantry and would talk about how badly they needed donations. Kenn contacted supermarkets and shelters across the Island, and now has bands play in front of Waldbaum’s groceries every third weekend. In rotating shifts of players, Kenn and his friends perform 10 am – 5pm for shoppers and passersby. “We’ve never raised less than 1,000 pounds of food for local shelters,” he says. (Kenn arranges for the food pantry in the area to pick up the stockpiles of food.)
Teaming up with National Grid and Hands Together NY
Kenn and OOMPA members also now partner with our Long Island volunteer group, Hands Together New York [watch for an upcoming article on this busy group] when they sponsor and serve meals at local shelters.
“National Grid does so much in the community and I thought maybe I could help out with that. Maybe some people want to watch and hear live music at these shelters.” And they obviously do, he says, when you hear patrons singing along, even requesting songs.
Always looking for new places to “help with music,” Kenn and his musician friends also play at VA hospitals, and sponsor local coat drives, toy drives and more.
“You always feel like you want to do more,” says Kenn, who claims he’ll ‘play anything’ from Rod Stewart, to the Beatles, to Styx, to U2. Even Britney Spears. He also occasionally writes his own songs and loves performing anything where he can harmonize, making Simon & Garfunkel another favorite group to cover.
‘We just want to play music and help some people …’
Kenn’s a veteran of the US Navy and a 29-year veteran of National Grid, where he performs various Quality Control – Asset Management functions during his ‘day job’ – senior specialist in Hicksville’s Power Engineering department. But at night, it’s out the door to the next gig …
“I used to come home, eat dinner, watch some TV and go to bed. Now I’m out three to four times a week. The hardest part is getting yourself out the door, especially on a cold winter night. But once you do, you’re ‘on,’ you’re hearing or playing music, you’re having fun with your friends. We’re basically just a group of friends that wants to play music and help some people.”
Feel free to contact Kenn at Kenneth.Machin@nationalgrid.com. You can also find out where he and his friends are performing (or if you want to help with volunteer events) by looking up OOMPA on Facebook.
See Kenn and his friends in action, singing ‘Put a little food in our cart’