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Music with motive

Musicians put on benefit concert for friend harmed by wildfires

Published: Monday, July 11, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

Local musicians came out to support one of their own during a fundraiser Sunday at the Hilton Hotel to benefit a victim of the Grimes County fire.

The Occasional String Band, John Wick and the Full House Blues Band, Cynthia Williams and Francisco Farias, Midnight Express, Leannasaurus Rex, Kelsey Taylor, WE B3 and a New Oreleans tribute by the Greg Tivis Dixie Band Jazz Ensemble performed to help raise money for Richard Kent.

All of the proceeds went to helping Kent find a home and recover from the fire which claimed approximately 30 homes and over 5, 000 acres.

Greg Tivis, the facilitator of the fundraiser, is a local musician and entertainer in Brazos County and runs a jazz session — New Orleans style — on the first Sunday of every month at Downtown Uncorked. He explained the purpose of the fundraiser was to help out Kent who plays clarinet and saxophone during

jam sessions.

"Many times we've seen the community come together to help out the Grimes County wildfire victims and help out the tornado victims in Joplin and the Hurricane Katrina victims when they first came here," Tivis said. "Richard came here as a Katrina refugee and now he's lost everything again to the fire out in Navasota; he's had a double whammy of bad luck."

Tivis recalls the first time he met Kent while he was managing a local

record store.

"I met Richard in a music store and heard him trying out some reeds for a saxophone and knew he wasn't from around here because I recognized right away that he was a professional player," Tivis said.

Before Katrina, Kent had been a professional musician in New Orleans for 20 years. He was a graduate of the University of North Texas back in the 1975, and was recorded on a Grammy nominated album with the Texas State Jazz Band.

"He wasn't a property owner in Navasota – he's just a musician -- he won't get an insurance settlement, he wont get anything, his stuff is gone," Tivis said. "We're just doing this because he's a musician and musicians band together."

Kent has been through a series of tragedies in the past six years. A Katrina victim in 2005, Kent lost his residency and was forced to move to Navasota to start over. He took a job as a security guard and caretaker at the 108-room meditation center where he worked until the facility burned down in the fire.  Once he lost his home in the fire, Kent went to Tivis for support.

"I felt like Felix in The Odd Couple," Kent said. "I showed up on his doorstep and said hey I'm homeless, how have you been?"

For the past three weeks Kent has been staying in an RV "graciously" loaned to him by the Tivis' which has been a wonderful experience considering the circumstances.

"I couldn't be happier during this transitional period," Kent said.

Kent said he doesn't know what his plans are for the future but the fundraiser gives him hope.

"It's fantastic, I am completely overwhelmed," Kent said. "I had no idea that it was going to be an event of this magnitude – I am just astonished."  

Al Davis, the trombonist for Midnight Express,, said he related to Kent's situation because, being from New Orleans, he saw the devastation Katrina caused.

"Richards a great guy and I know the pain he felt during Katrina; that, as well as the pain he went through during the fire just demonstrates Richard's resilience," Davis said. "Not many people can go through one tragedy, but to go through two tragedies and still come out in the right mind is amazing — he's a tough guy."  

Cynthia Williams, a faculty member in the performance studies department at Texas A&M gave a moving rendition of "At Last" with Francisco Farias, a PHD student, on guitar.

Williams said that for such a short notice, Tivis put on the event effortlessly. However she isn't surprised, seeing as Tivis is like a  "well-oiled machine."    

"Hopefully this event will raise enough money for Mr. Kent to get back on his feet," Williams said. "This is a very worthy cause and hopefully we can help him and support him in any way that we can."


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