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Levi Ware: “Follow your heart”

We supported a young boy named Braydon who was battling cancer a few years back. The day of Braydon’s first concert he had received a very heavy dose of chemotherapy and was feeling really nauseous. As it got closer to the time of the show, his mom started to panic thinking that Braydon’s nausea was […]

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We supported a young boy named Braydon who was battling cancer a few years back. The day of Braydon’s first concert he had received a very heavy dose of chemotherapy and was feeling really nauseous. As it got closer to the time of the show, his mom started to panic thinking that Braydon’s nausea was going to keep him from watching the concert. She told us it was the only thing Braydon was looking forward to all week, and she was so worried he would miss the music. As showtime approached, Braydon was really struggling, his mom said “it was just puke and rally, puke and rally.” At 8PM, Braydon leaned over to throw up once again, and his mom said that she opened the computer and followed the link in a panic, desperate for Braydon to experience something good. As the live-stream started, the artist called Braydon out by name saying “Braydon, we’re all here for you, and we want you to know you’re not alone. Everyone here is sending you love and support.” Braydon’s mom said he wiped his mouth and sat back up to look at the computer and said “Mom, they just called me out by name!” Renée told Braydon “yeah buddy, this is for you.” From that point on, Braydon became completely immersed in the concert, and his mom told us he didn’t throw up for the rest of the night. Halfway through the show, Braydon’s mom looked down and saw big tears rolling down Brayden’s face. “They don’t even know me mom, why are they doing this for me?” he asked. Braydon was a rockSTAR for many concerts after that first show and was one of the kids that helped us realize how truly important our work is…


Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Levi Ware, Co-founder of the Melodic Caring Project. He has established himself as an accomplished songwriter, collaborator and musician with a style all his own hovering somewhere between Triple A, Rock and Indie.

Formerly of the band Vast Capital, Levi Ware first gained national attention with VCs title track “What More Else” spending several weeks in the top 50 and 18 weeks in the top 200 on AAA radio earning opening slots for artists such as Pearl Jam, Flight to Mars, The Posies, The Spin Doctors, Heart, and Mike Doughty to name a few.

Levi has since independently released two albums (Level Yourself, Listen Mr.) with Producer Engineer Neal Cappellino (Alison Kraus, Mindy Smith, Nickel Creek, Dolly Parton etc.) and toured throughout the US with return stints to Europe.

Levi and his wife Stephanie co-founded the 501(C)3 non-profit Melodic Caring

Project (www.melodiccaring.org) whose mission is to encourage and love hospitalized kids through live music. MCP does this by filming live concerts and streaming them live to kids in their hospital rooms.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for having me What a great opportunity. The Melodic Caring project was not intentional. It came out of an experience I had here in my hometown of Mount Vernon, Washington (near Seattle). A friend of mine named Ryan Barci is a school teacher, and one of his students (a young girl named Kaydee) was diagnosed with cancer. Ryan taught at a small school in a small town, and the diagnosis was shocking and scary for all of her classmates. Ryan called me to talk about ideas of how to support Kaydee. We decided to throw a concert and invite everyone from the school, Kaydee’s friends, family and community members to be at the show and let Kaydee know that she would not be alone through her battle. On the day of the concert, it turned out that Kaydee had to be quarantined at the hospital to undergo chemotherapy. It was such a blow for all of us at the venue. We were gathered to support Kaydee and let her know she wasn’t alone, and, instead of Kaydee being there, she was at the hospital alone. I had a laptop and there was an open Wi-Fi network so I quickly set up a live-stream and sent Kaydee the link. At the time, we didn’t think it would be a really emotional experience for Kaydee as she watched from the hospital room, but it would at least give her the understanding that we were all gathered to support her. After the show, I called Kaydee and her mom in the hospital, and they were both crying because the experience meant so much to them. At that point, a light went on in my wife’s and my head, and we realized we could do this for kids anywhere. If they have internet, we can send them love, so we just started doing it…

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I have watched sick kids become what we call rockSTARS who influence and inspire musicians that the world looks up to. The courage and grace these kids and families display during their battles has inspired songs in musicians that have gone on to inspire millions of listeners around the world. During one of our concerts with singer-songwriter Amos Lee, he met a little girl named Maya who was battling cancer. Amos and Maya became good friends, and Amos would record and send Maya versions of songs that she would request. Amos was so moved by Maya’s strength and positive attitude that he wrote a song called “Little Light” that was inspired by her. When he released “Little Light” as a single, he even included Maya’s voice singing in the chorus. That song is now shining a ‘little light’ into the lives of everyone who hears it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first started the Melodic Caring Project in 2010, we had no experience in video production and live-streaming was pretty uncommon. Every concert we streamed started with an hour of panic leading up to the show as we worked desperately to make the computer recognize the video camera through the firewire connection. Every show, it felt like the computer was taunting us, making us panic up until the moment we went live, and then it would miraculously recognize the camera one minute before the show started. We learned pretty quickly that we had to come up with a more reliable video production solution that would allow us to share the concerts with the kids in the hospitals. We started spending a lot of time on Google and Lynda.com learning the subtle art of video production. Within the year, we had purchased a three-camera production System called the Tri-caster, and our video production quality and reliability took a huge step forward.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

The Melodic Caring Project is not only about supporting kids and families in isolation battling profound illness. We learned quickly that the experience is profound for the artist and the crowd as well. As the artist explains to the crowd, “this show is being filmed and streamed live to kids in their hospital rooms. We are all gathered to send love to these kids who can’t be here with us tonight,” the crowd inevitably responds, inspired by empathy and compassion to send love to the kids in their hospital rooms. Over the course of 10 years, the Melodic Caring Project has inspired over 500,000 community members and concertgoers worldwide to share love and compassion with kids and families in hospitals around the world dealing with incredibly difficult situations. These experiences have inspired artists like Amos Lee to write songs about these kids’ courage and grace that are now being released and inspiring millions of listeners. We now recognize the Melodic Caring Project can inspire artists and help them understand the incredible power of the gift they have been given. An intentional artist is an incredibly powerful being, able to bring joy, hope and light into the world and to those who need it most.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We supported a young boy named Braydon who was battling cancer a few years back. The day of Braydon’s first concert he had received a very heavy dose of chemotherapy and was feeling really nauseous. As it got closer to the time of the show, his mom started to panic thinking that Braydon’s nausea was going to keep him from watching the concert. She told us it was the only thing Braydon was looking forward to all week, and she was so worried he would miss the music. As showtime approached, Braydon was really struggling, his mom said “it was just puke and rally, puke and rally.” At 8PM, Braydon leaned over to throw up once again, and his mom said that she opened the computer and followed the link in a panic, desperate for Braydon to experience something good. As the live-stream started, the artist called Braydon out by name saying “Braydon, we’re all here for you, and we want you to know you’re not alone. Everyone here is sending you love and support.” Braydon’s mom said he wiped his mouth and sat back up to look at the computer and said “Mom, they just called me out by name!” Renée told Braydon “yeah buddy, this is for you.” From that point on, Braydon became completely immersed in the concert, and his mom told us he didn’t throw up for the rest of the night. Halfway through the show, Braydon’s mom looked down and saw big tears rolling down Brayden’s face. “They don’t even know me mom, why are they doing this for me?” he asked. Braydon was a rockSTAR for many concerts after that first show and was one of the kids that helped us realize how truly important our work is…

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

From a community or societal standpoint, I believe small acts of kindness are incredibly powerful. That sounds cliché, but seeing the life-changing impact a crowd simply sharing love with these kids and families in hospitals has had has proven to us that no matter how cliché it is, it’s still incredibly important. If we lived intentionally as a community or society with compassion, empathy and love as our North Star, we would, quite simply, change the world.

From a political standpoint: a lot of the kids we care for tend to be cancer patients. There are over 15,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States alone yet, only 4% of cancer funding goes towards pediatric cancer. I believe we can do better than that and hope that our government and healthcare system take steps to do just that.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I honestly believe the most powerful leaders the world has ever seen are those who approach leadership with a servant’s heart. Leadership is about genuinely caring for those you lead; it’s about setting an example of ethics, compassion, diligence and genuine concern for those who call you their leader. A boss tells someone what to do; a leader shows them…

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Struggle is good. So often I think we believe that if something is good it should come easily. The reality is anything worthwhile will likely be a struggle. The struggle is what proves the worth of your work and your commitment to that worthwhile cause. The struggle is also what makes your accomplishment sweet. When we launched the Melodic Caring Project, we provided our service to only one hospital. At one point, the music therapist at that hospital decided our program was a scary competition to his job. He stopped offering the concerts to the kids in his care, and it was a huge blow for us as we no longer had kids to offer support and encouragement to. We didn’t have relationships with other hospitals so we weren’t sure how to move forward with the project. It was disheartening and frustrating to have a program we knew was powerful, but no kids or families to support. The fear of that music therapist was a big obstacle that forced us to begin building relationships with other hospitals. It was a difficult transition. but we now have over 300 hospitals across the U.S. and around the world signed up for the Melodic Caring Project

2. When COVID-19 hits your hometown, you’ll have 7 days to completely transition your annual in-person Gala fund-raiser into a fully online, live-streamed event. Our annual “Raise a Record” Gala, which accounts for approximately 70+% of our annual budget, was scheduled to occur on March 21st in Seattle. On Friday, March 13, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced statewide restrictions on gatherings of over 250 people due to the spread of the coronavirus. That announcement left us 7 days to completely change the format of our annual event in order to save MCP from what would have almost certainly been the kind of financial blow that could have ended the organization and its mission. All of our advisors told us to postpone the event until the fall, saying that continuing with our Gala would result in failure and financial loss. We wavered, but, in the end, we felt that to postpone the Gala would be failing to live our mission and values. Melodic was created to support kids and families in quarantine, so how could we allow quarantine to halt our mission? On March 21st, we held our first-ever completely live-streamed fund-raising Gala. The auction was moved to an online platform, allowing us to have bidders and winners from all over the country. The Gala was streamed to attendees watching from across the United States and as far away as the United Kingdom. We offered refunds to those who had purchased tickets to the live event, but very few took us up on it. In the end, we raised enough money to continue providing hope and encouragement to kids in hospitals across the US and around the world for another year.

3. P.S. You’ll have to find a new way to accomplish your mission after all live music events are shut down for an unknown amount of time. As we made it through our Gala and started to focus on once again providing programming to kids in hospitals, it became immediately apparent that we would also need to rethink our entire program as live music had been indefinitely suspended. Creating personal experiences and accessibility to live concerts is the core of our programming so this was no small obstacle. Using a similar approach as with our Gala, we created an online episodic show called MCPconnects. During these shows, we connect with artists in their own homes for a brief 6–10-minute interview and a song performance dedicated to specific kids in hospitals around the world. Because of the pandemic, we also started to provide messages of love, support and appreciation to our first responders and healthcare providers, who have dedicated themselves to caring for others during this emergency. Incredibly, Melodic went from producing perhaps two shows a month to three shows per week. We’re supporting more kids, working with more artists and creating more content than ever in our 10-year history. We’re supporting hospitals that traditionally would not have fit our MCP mission, and we’re providing content for the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom. In 2019, Melodic impacted 898 rockSTARS. So far in 2020, we have impacted 1,719 rockSTARS, not including those in the UK as part of our NHS programming.

4. Follow your heart… period. If you believe in the work you do, you will find a way to succeed. Your idea of success may change, but you will find a way to succeed. For me, that was music. I played and toured for years looking for success within the music industry. In the end, my music led me to the Melodic Caring Project. I now realize that success does not look the way I thought it would, but I could not be happier with the outcome.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement towards gratitude and kindness, though I think those may be one and the same. Again, that sounds cliché or corny, but honestly; if we could recognize that we did nothing to earn our next breath perhaps our gratitude would help us live with more intention. Large humanitarian acts are not what will make the world a safer or better place to live. Each of us recognizing our own ability (and responsibility) to do small acts of kindness for one another, each and every day, is what will change our communities and our world for the better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The stumbling blocks in your path become the building blocks that take you higher.”

I’ve experienced over and over again how the things that feel like the biggest obstacles become the greatest opportunities.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Bono- I believe our mission would resonate with Bono, and together we could provide support, hope and love to millions of kids and families around the world

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.melodiccaring.org

https://www.facebook.com/melodiccaring/
https://www.instagram.com/melodiccaring/
https://www.youtube.com/melodiccaringproject

@melodiccaring

@leviware

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

I so appreciate you having me and shining a light on the important work the Melodic Caring Project is doing. Thank you!

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