Mr. B: On to Howell and Chelsea ... and some thanks along the way

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Pianist Mr. B, aka Mark Braun, and his band, the Joybox Express, are cycling and gigging — hauling Mark’s piano and a full band’s worth of equipment –  from Holland to Detroit, July 2-15th, with a finale at the Concert of Colors — and they’re sharing their adventures with MT blog readers.

This time I'd like to take some time to describe some of the people in the project, the rider-musicians, and some of the people who help from the outside to make us go.

When I mentioned to Jim Fleming a few years ago that I was a little worried about my lack of experience in some of the key areas we wanted to succeed in, he said, "Don't worry, you've created a great project, people will come to you." He was spot on; so many people have helped in significant ways that I won't try to mention them all. To all of you who've helped, we are all so grateful for your time and energy getting us going, we hope you know how much we appreciate the roles you've played.

Here are a few particulars: While in Lansing Chuck and Nadean Hillary made us feel at home – really, really, comfortable and at home. Chuck was continually in the car rushing back and forth around Lansing taking care of our needs and making sure our several events there went off without a hitch. He is selfless and helpful at every turn, over and over looking to our needs and overall comfort during our stay with him, helping to make a quirky process work flawlessly. Nadean fed us glorious meals, really great food in abundance. The amount of food as fuel we need is ridiculous; we're probably eating at least twice what we normally do, and Nadean was a championship provider, wow. ... Did I mention she helped with our constant laundry needs too? Hosting five famished, tired out cyclists, and sending out five well-rested and well-fed pedaling machines; A-plus for Nadean, thanks, thanks, thanks!

Chuck arranged for two charities to host an event at the Coral Gables restaurant in East Lansing. This was Thursday evening, after our group ride through town led by Tim Potter of the Michigan State University Bike Shop and Paul Alman, a member of our team who has put on cycling events around the state for 30 years. We were able to help raise more than $2,000 in Lansing for the Playa del Carmen Health project (MSU provides surgical teams to Mexico), the Meropolis Camp for kids (camp scholarships) and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (Carl's riding for them).

After East Lansing, we pedaled an hour at dusk to Williamston. We left the bikes at the police station, retrieving them the next morning for another group ride and gig at McCormick Park. We felt bad asking

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everyone to bake in the sun while we played for them, so in typical JBE fashion we turned convention on its head and invited our audience to sit on the stage of the band shell, while we set up in front of them on the concrete below. Eventually, so many people came we played in the round, people surrounding us. It was another wonderful experience. A local mechanic, Lynn Yauk, trued our front wheel; volunteers abounded and surrounded us at every turn. The premise of the project appeals to almost everyone – people want to help however they can. "Safe Routes to School" was the beneficiary of the Williamston show, local people donating to help their own kids have safe bicycles and riding routes to their schools – perfect partners for us! The Williamston Theater sponsored the day. A lot of fun playing for young and old.

After the gig we barreled 25 miles down Grand River Ave. to Howell where Jim Gilligan fed us and arranged for our show at Cobb-Hall Insurance, benefitting a local Livingston County initiative created by Mike Hall. He'll match funds thrown into a fountain in front of his business to the winning charity of a raffle held after 30 days of "change giving."

Today we'll play a show at Bader Acres, a garden center in Howell. We'll benefit LACASA family shelter, a really worthwhile endeavor for us. This is a unique way for artists to represent and contribute to a spectrum of human service organizations, and it's really starting to work. Conversation is encouraged, needs are addressed, and communities are being improved, bit by bit, with our rolling minstrel show helping as we can – I love it!

After the noon show we roll to Chelsea, preparing for our "Home Leg" of our tour. We play a 1-2 p.m. concert Sunday at the Chelsea District Library, ride in our group ride at 2:30, and play again 4:30-6:30 at the Wolverine State Brewing Co. We expect to see a lot of riders with us on this one. Many teams have formed, distributing our downloadable group riders pledge form from the joyboxexpress.com home page, and sending off dollars to many different worthy organizations. We want you to come and ride with us.

A reminder: Our tour culminates with a group ride in Detroit, starting and ending at the DIA on Friday the15th, with a 2:30 p.m. start. After the ride, we'll celebrate the completion of the tour with our final concerts,  4:30  and 6 p.m. at the DIA! We want to see all of you, all your friends, and all of your friend's friends!

We’re getting ready to roll, leaving you with these very brief snapshots of our group: Brian Delaney our guitarist, plays any style of music you care to hear, and is nicknamed Brian Edison by my wife, Heidi, as he continually invents new physical processes for us. Pete Siers, our drummer-washboard player is a model teammate, always even tempered and ready to help. (Did I mention he swings his @#$% off?) Carl Hildebrandt has learned to bow his bass with the hockey stick we use to load and unload our swag wagon (YouTube sensation for Canada?).

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