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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Musicians For a Cause Cruise

Smitty:  You know, when we talk about summer vacations, we normally think about the months of June, July and August, but for jazz fans it’s a totally different thing now.  We think about the fall, and when the fall comes around, the music starts to really swing.  We’ve got some great cruises out in the water now, the Caribbean is starting to heat up, and all these great cruises are out there, and I’m here to introduce you to two wonderful people that have come up with a great concept to help us to appreciate the music and our lives as well.  Please welcome for the Musicians For A Cause Jazz Cruise, two great people, Ms. Donna Whittington from Stewart Entertainment and Events, and Ms. Marilyn Horsey from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Hello, ladies.  How are you?

Donna Whittington (DW):  Hi, Smitty.

Marilyn Horsey (MH):  Hello.

Smitty:  It’s great to talk to you both.  I think you have something really special going on here.  When you can put some great music with a great cause and really help people to get into their life, get into the music and have a great time at the same time, I think it’s a wonderful thing.

DW:  It is a wonderful thing, Smitty.  We are so excited for this to happen and it’s something different from what most of the other cruises are doing, and we want to support a great cause while we enjoy the music.

Smitty:  Absolutely. 

MH: To introduce those of you who are not familiar with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, we are one of the premiere organizations that will be coming up on our 30th anniversary very soon.  NCADV has been really instrumental in assisting domestic violence advocates to continue to network with people who are doing their thing throughout the country, and we’ve actually branched out throughout the world.  So it’s good to have an organization that you can look to who will provide the opportunity for you to get reenergized and for you to know that the cause is still so very important and it’s a way for everyone to say “Okay, I’m doing a good job,” and that’s why it was such a joy to be able to partner with Stewart Entertainment and Events and know that the cruise will be overwhelming success.

Smitty:  Very cool. So talk to me about how you two met and formed this great bond of doing something that, I think, is just truly beautiful?

DW:  Well as you know, I have a passion for jazz and I’m  a social worker. I had a desire to combine the two, we just wanted to do something different, so when I started talking with my family, and in particular my twin sister Debra Lillie, we wanted to be able to give back to the community and support an organization while we were able to have a good time, so that’s kinda how we got involved with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  We started researching different organizations to find out who we could help while we are bringing people together.  We looked at different organizations and then we thought about domestic violence because that’s something that has personally touched our families’ lives over the years, so we thought that’d be very appropriate, we thought that’s something that people could get behind.  When you think of domestic violence, someone somewhere, knows someone or somebody that’s been affected.  Male or female, mostly….more than likely a female, because this happens to men as well, but we thought that that’d be a good organization to be a partner with us for this event.

Smitty:  So this is a tale of two passions, then.

DW:  It is, it really is.  Again, it has touched our lives and being a social worker, it was natural to want to gift an organization that helps to educate and prevent violence.

Smitty:  Yeah, it made sense. I think that personally music is a healing mechanism in itself, and when I first heard about your two organizations coming together with the music and with the cause, I thought, hey, why hasn’t someone thought of this before?  Because I think it’s a wonderful thing.  I think people, when they go on vacation, there’s a desire for healing from the 9 to 5 and music has that effect on people. It’s sort of like the answer for a lot of things that perhaps may be stressful or just to get away and relax.  So when you meld the two together, I think it’s just a fantastic union.

DW:  Absolutely. 

MH:  Yes, I think one of the fascinating aspects that this cruise offers is that domestic violence is no longer something that’s hidden. It can happen to anyone, so with the idea of promoting this cruise on a broad spectrum, it allows people to support a great cause. As Donna said, we all know someone who has been affected, and if we are not actively putting and our money where our mouths are, we’re just part of that trend that stands by and says “Well, somebody else will take care of it, someone else will take care of it.”  So when Donna contacted our Executive Director, Rita Smith, and she talked to our Vice President of Development, Brian Heider, they had this really good conversation.  Donna had the opportunity to be in Pennsylvania, which is where I am when she attended the Berks Jazz Festival, and she has such passion and it just allows so many people to become wrapped up and pursue it, and that’s why we’re still working so very hard to make sure people realize that this is an opportunity for them to really say “I can support an organization, I can enjoy some good jazz, and hopefully we can highlight the cause even more.”

Smitty:  I agree. So talk about how on the cruise the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence can benefit by being on this cruise.

DW:  One of the ways that the Coalition is going to benefit is by being on the cruise.  Some of the board members as well as some of their staff members are going to attend this event.  They are a part of this whole planning that we are doing.  It’s only natural for them to, of course, be on this cruise with us.  Now, they’re not on the cruise to do therapy or anything like that.  They’re on the cruise to have a great time like the rest of us and to celebrate, if you will, us coming together to benefit the organization because a portion of the proceeds benefit will their organization.

Smitty:  I like that.  I think, too, it’s wonderful in that we’re going out on a cruise to have a good time because we wanna celebrate our lives, we wanna celebrate what we’re doing, who we are, we wanna hear some great music, and we’ll talk about some of that in a minute, but I think at the same time the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is also a great organization in that they’re doing basically the same thing.  They’re trying to get the word out about it, trying to alleviate those problems so that people can continue to enjoy their lives and to have a purposeful and satisfying life.  So the two really come together very well, I think that you both have the same goals, the same visions. It’s just coming from a different avenue, but….

DW:  Right.

Smitty:  But basically we’re doing the same thing.  So I think it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a very positive thing, yeah. 

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