Pianist's competitors rally for fellow artist
Local musicians play concert to raise money for a fellow artist
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Third in an occasional series
When earnestness trumps envy and competition gives way to cooperation, great things can happen among friends, though adults — especially those in the public eye — seem often to act otherwise.
So when Russ Dixon, leader of a local band called "Colors," called a fellow musician last month to perform free of charge at a benefit concert for pianist Paul Cardall — whom some fellow LDS musicians may consider to be "the competition" — the answer "left me with goose bumps," Dixon said.
"I'd pay money myself to come and do that show," came the reply.
When at least two dozen local musicians, producers, sound and lighting technicians and cameramen came together this week at Cottonwood High School, they added their silent "amens" to the reply Dixon heard. Each left without a dime in their pockets, though the concert was a sellout.
"Living for Eden," as the show was dubbed, was a full-blown community effort to raise money for their friend and fellow musician, whose damaged heart won't beat much longer. Cardall and his family — including his 3-year-old daughter, Eden — are waiting for a phone call that says a donor heart is waiting to be transplanted into his chest. It's his last shot at being able to see his daughter grow up. After living for more than three decades with congenital heart disease, he's undergone 28 operations and seven open-heart surgeries.
While Cardall's spirit is strong, his heart grows weaker by the day.
Peter Breinholt explained the connections between fellow artists in a backstage interview before his own performance.
"I got a call a month ago from Jeremy Baron," Cardall's friend and former business partner who got the benefit ball rolling. "He told me Paul was in trouble. But what Jeremy didn't realize was that behind the scenes, production people got wind of it and it started rolling. Graphic designers, artists and all of them started calling. We had to turn people away from helping out with this. There were lots of other performers that would love to have been here."
It was a decade ago, when Breinholt had established himself and Cardall was an up-and-coming wannabe, that they first met. "He started asking if he could drive with us to shows. We went to Rexburg to perform and Paul came along. He didn't play, he just wanted to learn the music trade. After a four-hour drive up and back, we were friends."
Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band, another local group, was on the same trip. It was the initial meeting for all of them.
"Fast forward seven years, and Paul is the guy who has a recording label, who's signing people, who has Billboard charting albums. He's an expert with Web sites and online distribution. We've all asked for help from him in those areas. The people who he had once tagged along with are now asking him for advice."
Sam Payne, another local artist who served as master of ceremonies for the concert, said Cardall was instrumental in helping him develop his latest album.
"We never have perceived each other as the competition. Our acquaintance is around the kitchen table. We share plans and music. I think we feel a lot of love for one another and the other's music, and that makes it a pleasure to be together."
While Payne and his fellow musicians could try to grow their reputations outside Utah, "making music in this community with these people far outstrips the bottom line, at least for me." Though most would question the size of the local music market, "somehow enough grows here to fill everyone's pockets, so we can play as friends and not as competitors. That's one of my great blessings as a musician."
Kurt Bestor, the self-proclaimed "old man" of the group, said he was happy to see and be part of a unique melting pot of local artists who can come together as collaborators rather than competitors.
"I think you go through periods in your career where you don't trust anyone and you're jealous of everyone else's gigs," he said. "But you get to a point where you feel pretty confident in your own ability, and you start thinking, 'I can learn something from this guy or that guy.' It seems good not to have to worry about jealousy."
Cardall met Bestor a few years back at a local restaurant, and the relationship began as a mentoring one. "But we quickly left that behind and became friends. He helped me with my Web site and we've done some business stuff together. … The guy is so humble, sweet and loving, he just makes me feel like a schmuck."
Maybe more than most, Bestor understands how serious medical challenges can turn lives upside down. Both his children were born with spina bifida.
"Without community, you don't get through this stuff. … I've experienced enough on the other side that I'll be forever saying yes," when a friend is in that kind of trouble, he said.
Shupe said he's watched the local "brotherhood of musicians" develop over time, and wasn't surprised by the way they all came together to support Cardall. "We love Paul. … I've never known anyone who has something like he has. We wanted to help out as much as we could."
Jeremy Baron was Cardall's business partner for two years and knew last summer of his friend's listing for a heart transplant. As manager for several LDS musicians and a concert producer, he put the concert together as a way to help his friend financially, whatever the eventual medical outcome is.
"We all knew going in that we can't do anything to prolong his life. That's in the Lord's hands. We wanted to make the process as easy for him and his family as we could. None of us know how long Paul will be here. If he's going to stick around for a while, we don't want him to have a huge financial burden," Baron said.
"If not, we want things to be as easy for Lynnette, and especially for Eden, as possible. I can only imagine how difficult that would be for them."
Carol Burgoyne, Cardall's sister, was deeply involved in organizing the ticketing and silent auction aspects of the concert. Family and friends provided items for auction, as did people who heard about the effort and looked for a way to help.
"To me those were some of neatest donations. They weren't sought out, they just saw a need and had something they offered," she said. One Eagle Mountain resident offered $200 in product from his dot-com business and an artist who had a prize-winning painting depicting two small children donated her work.
"Everything was bid on and everything sold," she said. Some 30 volunteers worked with ticket distribution and silent auction sales, while two groups of students from Jordan and Olympus high schools served as ushers.
Several "heart moms" whose own children are suffering from congenital heart disease were there in force, Burgoyne said.
Her brother "has had such an impact on their lives because he's reached out to them, mostly through Internet correspondence. He knows what they're going through. It's just neat to see him doing that, and they've found hope in him, and reached right back to him that night."
Audience members did their part, showing up an hour before the show began and spilling onto the sidewalk outside. Local vendors provided financial support and donated several items for a silent auction.
The family of Gracie Gledhill, an infant who was one of Cardall's fellow patients at Primary Children's Medical Center, was honored with a tribute to their daughter, who died last month after surviving only a year with a congenital heart defect. Her funeral had been Cardall's only public performance since he was listed for a transplant last August.
After two and a half hours of music, the audience rose to a standing ovation as Cardall, his wife, Lynnette, and their daughter were invited on stage.
With a portable oxygen tank at his side, the man whose music had brought them all together was momentarily speechless.
"I can barely talk," he said, breathless not only from emotion, but from the walk up the stairs to the stage. "I just want to thank every one of you for supporting us," he said, arm in arm with his wife, as Eden danced happily in the spotlight.
He spoke of his fellow patients at Primary Children's, most of them decades younger than he and wondering what the future holds. "I have great faith in the future," he said. "Whether or not it turns out the way some of us want it to, I know there is a great thing called 'families are forever.'"
With that, he sat down and played the only song he's written in the past several months, dedicating the performance of "Gracie's Theme" to Dr. John Hawkins, "who is also fighting for his life." When it was finished, the little girl danced over the oxygen cord and into the arms of the man at the piano — the one who works every day at living for Eden.
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