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Grammy Nominees Instrumental for Benefit Concert

Performance of children's album hopefuls to aid Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation

With an ever-enlarging list of Grammy Week benefits, it’s easy for a smaller event to get lost. It’s perhaps even easier when it involves an often underappreciated genre: children’s music. Yet these tunesmiths deserve a closer look, and an annual concert serves as both showcase and fundraiser.

The Children’s Recording Arts Alliance benefit on Jan. 25 will bring all five Grammy nominees for best children’s album together for a collaborative concert, with proceeds benefiting the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. Previously held in 2011 and 2013 at the Mint in Los Angeles, the benefit has raised more than $2,000 each year.

This weekend’s festivities are shooting for a bigger haul, thanks to a move to the larger Moss Theater in Santa Monica. The event will be broadcast live by Sirius/XM Radio’s “Kids Place Live” program.

Funds raised by the concerts may seem small compared with the much larger amounts pulled in by splashier Grammy charity events, but considering where the money goes, $2,000 can have a huge impact. Each year’s tally goes toward buying new musical instruments for one specific school, helping to sustain what tends to be among the first academic programs to suffer under budget cutbacks.

“People often don’t realize the demand for musical instruments that exists in some of these schools,” says program director Tricia Steel. “Many … are using instruments that date back to the 1930s, held together with duct tape and fishing line. I’ve seen kids lined up at the sink to wash out mouthpieces because they don’t have enough to go around. The need is so vast.”

Steel notes that the foundation looks for schools in low-income districts that still have existing instrumental music programs, however gutted they may have been in recent years. This year’s school has yet to be selected. Past recipients include Moffett Elementary in Lennox, and North Hollywood’s Fair Avenue Elementary.

For Montreal-based Grammy nominee Jennifer Gasoi, the benefit represents her inaugural L.A. performance, for which she plans to recruit a local band and import some ringers in the audience to help with the call-and-response sections.

“I’m just putting the show together now,” she says. “I’m going to be doing four of my — quote-unquote — hits from the album, and I’m super excited about it. Somehow I’ve been able to rally as many as 20 friends in the crowd who promise to be boisterous, so hopefully we can break the barrier a little bit.”

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