Musical duo seeks support for extended range of projects

08/20/2015

Tim Weed and Debbie Daly are musicians, but their interest extends far beyond individual performances or private lessons. They launched a community choir in 2013, which has branched into several additional projects. Now they have founded a nonprofit called Sound Orchard to fund their many musical efforts. 

“We’re doing more and more music projects focused on the local community. That’s where the energy was and is,” said Ms. Daly, an instructor and manager at Yoga Toes Studios, who moved here seven years ago with Mr. Weed. She is the executive director of Sound Orchard, and Mr. Weed is the artistic director. The pair, former romantic partners, continue to work together creatively.

Projects that the two have already started, like the community choir and the music for Commonweal’s cancer program, are now part of the nonprofit, as are blossoming projects focused on Latino and Miwok music.  In the future, Sound Orchard may grow to support other musicians’ endeavors as well.

Nonprofit status allows the pair to seek out donations and grants for their projects, which function not just as musical events but as efforts in community building, cross-cultural exchange and well-being. They hope to raise $100,000 in its inaugural year.

The choir, Common Voice, has two groups in West Marin—one that meets in Point Reyes Station, the other alternating between Bolinas and Stinson Beach. The choir drew over 80 participants last year, and begins a new two-month season in September, with Ms. Daly and Mr. Weed leading weekly sessions that culminate in a public performance. 

But Common Voice has spurred other independent endeavors that the two hope to grow with nonprofit funding. 

One of those is the Miwok Music Project, born out of Mr. Weed’s idea to bring truly local music to the choir. “We were doing, and continue to do, music from around the world,” Ms. Daly said. “But Tim wanted to find a way to connect with this land and the music that comes from here.” So he sought out Sky Road Webb, a Coast Miwok musician. Mr. Webb led chants of songs he wrote in the Miwok language. With funding through Sound Orchard, the pair can compose new songs and weave more education into the project.

Another choir offshoot that has developed into a separate project is the Latino Music Project. Last year, Common Voice sang at the Dance Palace Community Center’s Day of the Dead celebration, with the feature song written, and other tunes arranged, by Mr. Weed. 

This year, Mr. Weed and Ms. Daly plan to organize an independent choir to rehearse specifically for that day’s performance, which would be open to the whole community, not just Common Voice members. 

The nonprofit is also going to fund a new series of workshops this fall, including yogic singing, a Miwok song session, women’s harmony singing, and acoustic jamming. In the future, one or more of these workshops could expand into an additional separate project. “We’re in a place where we’re very open to hearing what the community is interested in and feeling that out,” Ms. Daly said.

Many other nonprofits have musical components, but Sound Orchard is the only one focused purely on music in West Marin, as far as Ms. Daly knows. 

Founding a nonprofit was the logical next step for these two musicians to expand their community-based efforts while living in an ever more expensive place where it is harder for artists to survive. 

“It’s no secret that being in the arts and in music these days is not a profit-making endeavor,” she said. “At the same time the cost of living is going up so much here that the community is being gutted of its artistic class, which tends to be lower income.” 

When the housing crisis hit the pair personally last spring, they found themselves in discussions about how the community can hold on to its artists and musicians. Sound Orchard was born out of the upwelling of support that they realized existed for themselves personally and the arts in general. 

“People said, ‘We want to support your work; how can we do it?’” Ms. Daly said “We had to create a vessel for [that support].”