Mountain Town Music honors director’s late son with a memorial fund
Local students will benefit from internships
Until his unexpected passing on Sept. 8, 2019, Michael Richards immersed himself in Mountain Town Music, the local nonprofit run by his father Brian Richards.
“Michael did it all,” Brian Richards said. “He worked in the office, he worked the merchandise booths, he learned how to run the soundboard so he could fill in in case of emergency, and he ran all over town when needed, to ensure ‘that the show went on.’”
So it is fitting that two years after Michael’s passing from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a disease that breaks down the heart muscle, that Mountain Town Music launches the Michael James Richards Memorial Fund.
The charitable fund is designed to provide students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn about various segments of the music industry, while fostering team building and general well-being, Brian Richards said.
“They will have the opportunity to work in the Mountain Town Music offices, the Mountain Town Music stages while also developing a strong sense of community, character and self-awareness,” he said. “The fund will accept donations in memory of Michael to honor his life, his love for music and his desire for a career in the music industry.”
Richards said the fund will provide a pathway for students to achieve their dreams and facilitate academic achievements through training that will lead to overall scholastic success.
“It will provide scholarships to a diverse range of students who want to pursue music as a vocation at the collegiate level, whether it be as an audio engineer, by playing a musical instrument or work in the music industry,” he said.
Mountain Town Music has already established an accredited audio internship program in the high school level that teaches students how to maneuver around a soundboard and give them the chance to learn from professionals in the business who have worked with The Killers, The Eagles, The Backstreet Boys and the Grammys, Richards said.
“They can Zoom chat with these professionals who will talk about everything from working sound at Wembley Stadium to what inspired them to become a sound engineer and the skills that are needed to become a sound engineer,” he said.
The internship program will also give students the option of working in the Mountain Town Music offices, Richards said.
“They will get behind-the-scenes experiences of what it takes to produce shows, including contacting the bands, contracting, booking and scheduling the bands, scheduling sound engineers and cutting the checks,” he said. “They will also learn how to work with various partners to come up with schedules and budgets.”
In addition, the audio-engineer students will work with Mountain Town Music at various live concerts during the summer, according to Richards.
“They will help load in the equipment and mix the bands,” he said. “They will be able to create a mix that will go into a ZIP file that they can listen to and put into their portfolio if they want to continue to study sound engineering at the next level.”
The Michael James Richards Memorial Fund will also help students who are interested in pursuing music as a career, Richards said.
“There are so many different avenues they can look into, including music therapy, musical performance and producing,” he said.
The memorial fund will be sourced by donations from community members, grants and partnerships, Richards said.
Donations will be accepted at Mountaintownmusic.org and at Mountain Town Music concerts, he said.
“The amount of the scholarships will depend on how much we raise,” Richards said.
And while the fund will benefit interns on their paths to their various careers, it will also benefit the community.
“Music adds vibrancy through engagement,” he said. “It gives us a sense of belonging and connection with others, and a boost to the physical and emotional health of all who wish to participate.”
Richards said the Michael James Richards Memorial Fund is a fitting way to honor his son.
“It takes more to succeed than just technical skills or skills that you learn in the classroom,” he said. “You really need to be engaged in your community, and you have to be kind, compassionate and know how to communicate with people. Michael was all of these things. He cared deeply about his community and music, and a big part of this program is to lead kids down the path to being good human beings. It’s about utilizing his memory and his spirit to make a difference in this community.”
For information about the Michael James Richards Memorial Fund, visit mountaintownmusic.org.
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