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An all-star finale happened at the Palace Theatre on Nov. 20 at the first benefit concert for Muhlenberg Music Mission. From left are Ashley Mae, Jordan Wood, Benjamin Tod, Steven Stewart, C.J. Sparks and Matt Heckler.

People traveled from near and far to support an effort to provide musical instruments and lessons to children in Muhlenberg County through the Muhlenberg Music Mission. A benefit concert filled the Palace Theatre in Greenville on Nov. 20 and featured local and regional musicians on the bill.

The Muhlenberg Music Mission is the brainchild of Ben Duvall, owner of Sip & Spin Coffee in Greenville, and Benjamin Tod, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who lives in the county. Their goal is to create a place where local children can have access to instruments and lessons, and breathe new life into the musical traditions of the county.

The rich musical heritage of Muhlenberg County is what inspired Duvall and Tod to begin this project. Strong ties link local music history to international musicians like the Everly Brothers, John Prine and Merle Travis. Fostering that heritage and offering musical opportunities to the county’s children is what the mission is about.

Ties to the county also ran through the musical lineup at the sold-out benefit show. Kentucky Shine includes guitarist and singer Jordan Wood from Central City. C.J. Sparks is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Greenville, and the Lost Dog Street Band’s Ashley Mae and Benjamin Tod also live in the county.

Kentucky Shine, based in Owensboro, provided the evening with some traditional bluegrass music, hot off their album release party the night before at Owensboro’s Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Their rendition of “Kentucky Waltz” by Bill Monroe was a standout.

Multi-instrumentalist Matt Heckler played violin, banjo and guitar as he sang, performing songs about mining coal, the Civil War and even some with a bit of an Irish feel. Heckler is from North Carolina and has performed with Lost Dog Street Band on tour.

Lost Dog Street Band performed a set of their original songs, filled with longing, loneliness, love and loss. Many in the crowd had come from out of town and out of state to see the band, who’s 2019 album “Weight of a Trigger” reached number five on Billboard’s Bluegrass music chart.

One fan said he traveled from Kansas City, Missouri to see the duo and to be a part of the Muhlenberg Music Mission.

An auction of music memorabilia was held before the concert, with prize items such as an autographed copy of John Prine’s final album fetching hefty sums. An autographed test pressing of a soon to be released album by Lost Dog Street Band was auctioned for more than $1,000 during the concert.

Duvall, who serves as president of Muhlenberg Music Mission, said between ticket sales and the auction the non-profit raised more than $19,000 to be used to purchase instruments and equipment.

“We hope to start taking applications and giving lessons by spring of 2022, at the latest,” Duvall said. “The Muhlenberg Music Mission would like to thank everyone who has helped put us on track to making the musical future of Muhlenberg County’s children a little brighter.”

Duvall said the generosity of people who donated, and the hard work of volunteers to make the concert a success is greatly appreciated. “We couldn’t have done this without you, the donors. I would like to say a special thank you to the board, the artists, and everyone who volunteered countless hours to make this event possible.”

For more information about Muhlenberg Music Mission, lessons and upcoming events, see the organization’s website at www.muhlenbergmusicmission.org.

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