Music and service, on a personal level, have been coupled in Nathan Marion’s life for some time. After high school, Nathan traveled and lived in Haiti and Honduras and can still remember the smiling, hopeful faces of the children he worked with; he also remembers the CDs he brought on the trips. “They were crucial to mentally surviving the 95 degree, sleepless nights lying on a mat inside a mosquito net,” he says. Now, the 30-year-old Seattle art curator is a connecter himself, between bands and nonprofits, music and humanitarian work.
In 2005, Nathan founded Bands Without Borders (BWB), a nonprofit group that connects musicians of many levels with humanitarian organizations aimed at reaching children around the world. Locally, BWB is currently working with First Place School, which assists homeless families and kids in getting education. On a wider scale, in Brazil, Bahia Street serves young girls and women, helping them get into school and out of poverty.
“This new campaign is based on the core concept that ‘education is key’ to really helping young people to develop and improve their quality of live—and thereby their country,” Marion says.
One of the unique things about BWB is that this bellwether nonprofit purposefully focuses on smaller organizations that do not have the big budgets or the marketers in place to help them.
Marion, who has a marketing background, realized that “nonprofits don’t really speak the same language as bands and young music fans, so someone is needed in the middle to translate.” As Nathan connects the two, the fruit that comes from the network might be fundraising, but, perhaps more important, awareness and volunteer support.
On the artistic side of the coin, Nathan has worked with folks like Viva Voce and Mates of State, Mason Jennings and United State of Electronica, as well as The Pale Pacific and a host of other young or indie bands from the Northwest. Possible future partnerships also include Reliant K and good friend Matt Slocum from Sixpence None the Richer.
Typically, BWB musicians are the message bearers of hope and change through charity and service, but some have even stepped beyond that. “Working with The Lonely Forest has been an amazing challenge and inspiration,” Marion says. “Their songs are very creative and socially conscious—definitely hit people hard. [Frontman] John [Van Deusen] is going to Kenya this year to work at an orphanage for a couple months.”
Last year BWB raised awareness, volunteers and backpacks for Water 1st, an organization that does clean water projects in very poor countries. “Seeing the photos of the kids in Honduras with the backpacks we gathered was really a touching moment for me,” Marion says. “It’s so small and simple, yet so important for kids to have a backpack for school and access to clean water so they don’t have to gather it all day.” An integral part of the Gospel message is for us to help the needy, even something as small as giving a drink to the thirsty is a service unto God (Matthew 25:35).
“Anyone who is truly living out their faith must absolutely be helping the poor in some way throughout their life,” Nathan says, “even a 17-year-old in a rock band.”
For more information and to volunteer with BWB, visit www.bandwithoutborders.org.