HeadCount on Jam Cruise

If you’ve volunteered with HeadCount you’re familiar with the concept of being ‘paid’ in the currency of music. This year, HeadCount sent a handful of their Team Leaders from across the country on Jam Cruise—a festival cruise experience of immense proportion. In exchange for work that I’ve done and will continue to do with the organization, I was among these lucky few. In a sense, I received the ultimate musical paycheck.

Jam Cruise is unlike anything that I have ever done. And being able to experience it with a group of like-minded HeadCounters made the sweetest musical experience even sweeter. The evening of the first full day we took part in a HeadCount dinner with all of the volunteers aboard the ship as well as a few of the musicians who are supporters of ours, including Karl Denson, Eric Krasno, and of course—our wonderful co-founder Marc Brownstein.

It was a joy and a privilege to dine with a handful of my musical idols. Moreover, it was absolutely fantastic to meet my fellow Team Leaders. HeadCount attracts a team of volunteers whose passions align, and being able to put a face to some of the names was pure joy.

Jam Cruise 2014

Jam Cruise is more than just a festival: It’s a chance for musicians to collaborate and experiment in a way that I’ve never seen before. It’s more than just a vacation: the cruise cultivates an audience of avid music lovers & conscientious individuals alike.

For me, the musical highlights included Karl Denson’s performance on the pool deck where he premiered a new song “When I Get Home” that remained lingering in my head the whole trip (despite my reluctance to return). Charles Bradley’s deck set as well stands out dually because of the sexy soulful sounds his outfit provided and because I watched the entire set from the warm comfort of a hot tub(!) John Scofield and Snarky Puppy’s respective Jazz Room ensembles both provided pure unadulterated fire. High winds put a damper on the last 24 hours of pool deck antics forcing the cancellation of some performances including Umphrey’s late night set. However, disappointment over the missed show was assuaged by a long, guest-laden performance in the Pantheon theatre on Saturday night. The show included sit-ins by Cory Henry, Jennifer Hartswick, and our own Mark Brownstein for a funkified rendition of “In the Kitchen.” The performances by Galactic, Fruition, Sister Sparrow (especially in the atrium following Umphreys) and the Jerry Tribute also stood out as exceptional although the entirety of the acts were wonderful in their own right. No matter where you turned the duration of the trip there was good music to be seen and good times to be had.

There was also a sense of purpose. Cloud 9 Adventures, the organization that puts on the cruise as well as a handful of other destination musical events, works in conjunction with Positive Legacy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to integrate music and service to benefit people and the environment.

On the first full day at sea, I volunteered with their greening program to hand out portable ashtrays made from recycled tires. The reception to my efforts and those of the rest of the volunteers (including many of my fellow HeadCounters) was exceptionally warm. I’ve never been hugged so tightly after handing someone a piece of an old tire.

Additional programs put on by Positive Legacy included live and silent charity auctions and a day of service in support of the School of Life—a Positive Legacy partner committed to enhancing the standards of education, arts, and athletics in Roatan, Honduras. This SOL excursion exposed both musicians and their fans to a playground in Sandy Bay funded by an $8,200 grant from the NPO.

Positive Legacy utilizes people’s passion for music to support worthy causes. Their presence on the ship reminded me of Participation Row at Lockn’ festival and their mission as a whole reminded me of ours. I believe that the beauty of Jam Cruise, just like the beauty of HeadCount, lies in the cohesion factor. Musicians and fans, alike, were aboard the same ship—engaging in the same activities, on the same vacation. Sure, the musicians were at work and for the most part the rest of the cruise’s attendees were at play but this idea reigns true: the fusion of people, places, messages, and ideas, to bring power, soul and meaning to leisure and entertainment.