10th Annual Clothesline Project Benefit Concert Raises Money, Awareness To Fight Domestic Violence

by Jennifer Sexton 

            At the tenth annual Clothesline Project Benefit Concert, an eclectic and enthusiastic group of musicians will wow a multigenerational audience with another entertaining, upbeat show as they try to break last year’s fundraising haul of $5,000. This year’s concert will feature nationally performing singer/songwriters Greg Greenway and Zoe Lewis, jazz great Bruce Abbott, percussionist Lisa Brown and the Nauset World Music Ensemble. All proceeds go toward raising awareness and combating domestic violence here on Cape Cod.

            The Clothesline Project, founded in 1990 by Brewster resident Carol Chicetto, gives survivors of domestic violence the opportunity to express themselves and memorialize victims of violence through the creation of personally decorated, color-coded T-shirts. The colorful shirts, with their hand-lettered messages of survival and courage, are beautiful when displayed, fluttering, on clotheslines—a visual image that brings up memories of home and safety.      

Greg Greenway.

       Upon closer inspection, the messages penned on the shirts deliver a powerful emotional impact. Each bears a message in honor of a local individual whose life was touched—or ended—by domestic violence. Yellow or beige shirts represent women who were battered. Red, pink or orange shirts represent women who were raped or physically assaulted. Blue or green shirts stand for women who survived incest or child sexual abuse. Purple or lavender represents women who are believed to have been victimized because they were, or were thought to be, Lesbian. Black or gray shirts stand for disabled women who survived physical or sexual abuse. White shirts memorialize women who were murdered as a result of sexual or domestic violence.

            The subject matter is undeniably disturbing. However, singer/ songwriter Greg Greenway, the originator of the benefit concert, emphasizes that the show itself is fun and uplifting.        

            “There will be a little bit of seriousness in there, but on the whole it’s just an explosion of energy,” Greenway explains. “I think that people should concentrate on the idea that we understand the seriousness of it, but on that night of the concert we’re celebrating our ability to help.”

            Greenway, a Harwich resident, is thrilled to have the same original “family unit” of musicians together for another year. Just don’t call them “local.”

            “People always seem to associate the word ‘local’ with something hokey, and there’s nothing hokey or ‘local’ about this show. The people in this show are remarkably talented musicians and entertainers, and as the concert keeps going year after year and keeps getting better, the word keeps spreading. We are extremely excited about it.”

            A decade ago, Greenway was inspired to organize the first Clothesline Project Benefit Concert when Carol Chicetto gave a presentation on the subject of domestic violence to the students at Nauset Regional High School.

              “My wife worked at the school at the time, and she said you’ve got to come and see this. She explained the whole thing of how they put the T-shirts on the line,” says Greenway. “Well, my lyrics were on the back of one of the T-shirts. When I saw that, I knew I wanted to become involved. I had literally just moved from Boston to the Cape, and I wanted to do something locally. I said to Carol, ‘How would you feel about us doing a fundraiser for you?’”

            Chicetto was more than enthusiastic about the idea. Greenway then enlisted the help of fellow musicians Lisa Brown and Bruce Abbott. Each member of this founding family of musicians comes from a distinctly different musical background, but Greenway feels that their diversity adds to the fun and interest.

             “Every year we find some way of interchange between us. Lisa studied drumming in India. She’s a percussionist. Bruce is a fabulous saxophone and flute player---a jazz player. I’m a singer/ songwriter. So I felt like somewhere between all of us, we could do this. Lisa brings her students into the show— she leads the Nauset World Music Ensemble. Later on we added others, who I’ve met on the road. Zoe Lewis – oh my gosh, she’s fabulous. What a great entertainer she is! We’ve kept it to our little family, and with all of our differences, it stays interesting to us musically.”

            Greenway has a great deal of respect for Clothesline Project founder Carol Chicetto, and is grateful for the opportunity to use his talent for an important local cause.

            “Carol Chicetto is about the most selfless activist and dedicated person that I have ever met,” says Greenway. “She donates so much of her time and life to doing this. It’s a labor of love on her part, and when she goes into schools it’s really an effective thing. I went in and watched her discuss the statistics of domestic violence in front of about 200 assembled ninth graders. A lot of these kids have never had, in a co-ed situation, an adult telling them the reality of what’s going on. Carol gives a very frank talk about what goes on in the world. I never had that talk. Nobody ever sat me in an assembly and told me how many women die every year from domestic violence. And about what your responsibility is on a date--- that when the girl says no, it means no. The Clothesline Project talks directly to those who need to hear it, and makes it real. That to me is worth any dollar amount and effort we can make. It feels great for the musicians to do what we do and have it contribute to somebody like Carol Chicetto, to help her do what she does far better than any of us ever could.”

            Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be better to shine a spotlight on domestic violence. The troubled economy has brought an accompanying increase in reports of domestic violence across the nation. LegalMatch, an online resource that connects attorneys with people who need them, reports a nearly 20 percent increase in domestic violence cases in the weeks since Valentine’s Day. In November, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline reported a 21 percent increase in calls compared to the previous year. 

            The Clothesline Benefit Concert is an opportunity for music lovers of all ages to come together in support of an organization which works to prevent future domestic violence cases by educating local students while allowing victims and survivors of past domestic violence to tell their stories and memorialize their loved ones.

            “All of the musicians who will be performing are so, so good,” says Greenway. “Anybody who sees Zoe Lewis or Bruce Abbott or Lisa Brown and the amazingly talented group of kids she has this year in the Nauset World Music Ensemble --- it’s just such a high level of talent. We get a huge kick out of it, and I think the audience comes back year after year because they want to see how we’re going to stretch this year.”

          The Clothesline Project Benefit Concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 on the Nauset Regional High School stage. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors, and are available at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans and at the door the night of the show. For more information about The Clothesline Project, visit www.clotheslineproject.org.

3/12/09
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