Karen Whitty created YADDA to support musicians, increasingly disposable in the digital age

Oy8e-s-XGGEFVh7iPM8Efz5VzJRL1OwGs5EX6q-jCKYRcRp51ir2BYnkqm-nQStieX95Lm0lu4uYevViW1BW4eo_GbcDHPmY2Q=s0-d-e1-ftIn the 21st century, musicians are increasingly disposable.

We listen to their music. We attend their concerts. We download their music for pennies on the dollar compared to what 1970s recording artists earned from album sales.

Then we forget about them.

So last year about this time, philanthropist and community organizer Karen Whitty set out to do something about it.

That effort turned out to be YADDA, which Whitty and her husband David Whitty formed last year as a for-profit. Recently, they’ve changed YADDA’s status to nonprofit and are setting out to craft it into a musicians’ relief and support organization.

But YADDA is more than that. The Louisville-based organization also is organizing and sponsoring the big NuLu Festival concert this Saturday night as well as an event with IdeaFestival.

As with last year, the concert will feature Whitty’s close friend and collaborator Sam “Shake” Anderson and his group of all-stars who are scheduled to play on the main stage from 7-8:30 p.m.

Anderson, a Louisville native and Grammy-nominated producer, writer and arranger, has worked with acts including Earth, Wind and Fire and The Impressions.

Others scheduled to perform are Victor Wooten, who has won five Grammy Awards and earned countless “top bassist” awards in national music magazines; Chester Thompson, Grammy-winning drummer and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member who is currently touring with Genesis; and Darrell Tibbs, award-winning percussionist with Take 6, Donna Summer, Moody Blues and The Neville Brothers.

The performers are scheduled to participate on an IdeaFestival panel Sunday from 1-2:15 p.m. in The Green Building, 732 E. Market St. YADDA and IFMusic are hosting a Q&A panel with most, if not all, of the musicians from the concert.

Laura Shine from WFPK will moderate along with Forecastle Festival founder J.K. McKnight.

From the YADDA website:

Building off last year’s discussions, this panel of experts will address how they are navigating today’s music industry with a comparison of models over time, what has failed, survived and evolved over their careers. Today, more than ever, musicians need to look for creative measures, and a means to connect with their audiences. We will explore what these successful musicians and others in the industry are doing, the challenges they face and also present some concepts of collaborations. The session will close with an audience Q&A.

You can register here.

All of this is part of a larger effort to raise awareness of travails professional musicians face. With less revenue coming from recordings and more from the concert circuit, musicians are increasingly away from home for extended periods, Whitty said.

“You can imagine what this has done to the family structure,” she said. “The thing I can’t stand is watching these families break up … this is an industry that chews them up and spits them out.”

More and more are trying to find a happy medium. Wooten, who plays with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, has four kids, Whitty said, and makes it a point to spend as much time as practical at home.

For the musicians who don’t have that luxury, YADDA’s goal is to raise enough money to create a residential retreat where musicians and families can go to rest and restore broken family ties.

That effort has coalesced around Anderson’s abilities to reach out to fellow musicians and get people such as Wooten and Steve Cropper, the legendary Booker T and MG’s guitarist and songwriter who was part of the band at last year’s NuLu Festival concert.

Whitty and Anderson have been friends since they met during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Whitty was working on bringing musicians to New Orleans as part of the relief effort. At a mobile kitchen, “We were having dinner with Jeff James, and he says, ‘I have this friend and I think he can help your project.’

“It was a convergence when Shake came in.”

The group of musicians Shake has assembled for NuLu Fest are friends, “many who have become dear friends of mine after Shake brought them into my life,” Whitty said.

“Shake is truly a part of my family,” she added. “His wife Karen and son Samiel are ‘ours.'”

The Anderson/Whitty center of YADDA includes Chester and Roz Thompson, producer Thomas Cain and his wife Phyllis Cain, and Darrell Tibbs. That group extends to Wooten as well as Cropper, who’ll be touring in Europe and will miss this year’s NuLu Fest.

But Whitty said the group has future plans for YADDA workshops, clinics, mentoring
and even coaching sessions Louisville musicians.

“They come because they love Shake and they support what we do,” Whitty said.