Interview: Aaron Lewis of Staind Talks "It Takes A Community"
Tue, 10 Aug 2010 08:48:19
Staind frontman Aaron Lewis might be the last true revolutionary in Massachusetts.
The state's genesis was characterized by revolution, but it's been awhile since anybody truly shook things up there in the name of genuine independence. However, Lewis is going to make some crucial changes with his It Takes A Community foundation.
After his daughter's elementary school was closed due to budget cuts, Lewis decided that the community could help. He started ITAC with an initial goal of keeping the school open through community donations to the organization.
He hit the road this summer for a handful of shows and one big benefit on August 14th in Northampton, MA that will contribute to the re-opening of the school as a Community Education Center this September. George Washington and Abe Lincoln would be proud.
Lewis is no stranger to revolution or charity though. Appearing on Drury Outdoors' "Dream Season" hunting show, he raised a heap of money for the Catch a Dream Foundation.
Aaron Lewis sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about It Takes a Community.
How did It Takes A Community come together?
Well, the state was forced to close my daughter's school. That's really how it all started—even after we went to the school committee meetings every single week and gave them every possible option, scenario and outside-the-box idea as to how we could fix the budget. The community provided every idea imaginable, and the state still closed the school. So we figured out how to re-open the school as a community school funded by the ITAC foundation. The school was actually closed on the last day of school. We'll open it in September as a privately funded community school.
You're helping to raise the money to re-open the school through the shows this summer, right?
I went out and played a few shows this summer. I'm just taking the money I make from the shows and donating it to the ITAC Foundation. On August 14, there's an actual benefit that's been billed as a charity show ["Aaron Lewis & Friends" at The Pines Theater at Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts 8/14/2010]. These other shows weren't billed as charity shows.
You've always been part of Massachusetts' cultural fabric but to give back like this must feel amazing.
Absolutely! I've been very lucky and blessed with this career that I've had in the music business and any chance that I get to give back—whether it be ITAC or the "Catch a Dream Foundation" that I did the TV show for—I really try to give back as much as I can. For Drury Outdoors "Dream Season," the hunting show I was on, we raised well over a quarter-million dollars for the foundation. If I can help a situation more because of my celebrity, then I'm all about it.
Did you come up with that "It Takes a Community" name?
Yes, it comes from "It takes a village to raise a child." It Takes A Village was already a foundation so I thought about it for a second more and said, "Well, how about It Takes A Community?" That's really the deal. It takes a community.
It's great that you're still a part of this community.
I am not a celebrity to anybody in this community; I'm just Zoe's dad [Laughs]. Once it gets off the ground and gets going, It Takes A Community will be a New England-wide organization. The first project of the foundation is the R.H. Conwell Community Education Center.
Is this school the first of its kind?
Our school committee didn't even know how to respond. We’re not applying for anything outlandish. We’re applying as a private school. Being a community school basically means whoever helps the charity is paying for the whole community's private education—funding the school. If you break it all down, that's the gist of it.
You've created the perfect launch pad to make a difference with ITAC. It's similar to the foundation you built with Staind in 1999 on Dysfunction.
I'm trying. I'm doing what I can do. The school was closed on June 23rd and it was officially given back to the town on July 1st. We have from July 1st to the beginning of September to put the school back together again. The state took everything. We had to buy back all of the desks, furniture and everything else. While the kids were in school, they were in their library packing everything up and taking it away. These kids in this town watched their school get dismantled over the last six months. I want the next project to be building a playground at one of the two schools that stayed open just to do the right thing.
Since it is summertime, do you have a favorite summer memory?
I used to go to my grandfather's house for the whole summer before he passed away when I was 15. I had lots of fond memories of hunting and fishing with my grandfather in Vermont.
You can make donations to It Takes a Community here!