Taylors are selfless in their actions
By now, most of you know how I feel about James and Caroline (Kim) Taylor. They are pretty special. Again and again, these two have selflessly done their best to help those who have less. They are truly role models for the rest of us. They walk the walk.
Last week, Haiti experienced a giant earthquake that took the lives of about 200,000 human beings. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, was devastated. As the Taylors heard and read about the disaster, they became convinced that they had to do something to help those suffering. They decided to do a benefit concert for Haiti and match whatever was generated in ticket sales. Several rows of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center were reserved for $1,000 subscribers. After that came seats at $200 and the seats in the upper balcony sold $100.
I was approached to see whether WAMC could simulcast the concert live and set up a phone bank to take donations for a Boston-based organization already on the ground in Haiti, Partners in Health. Calls were made and a committee was quickly put together to plan the event.
The cooperation among those who met in the Taylors’ barn that Sunday evening was extraordinary. People left their personal agendas at the door. When Kate Maguire of the Berkshire Theatre Festival heard about the WAMC simulcast, she said that she would gather a group of BTF volunteers to come answer the phones. The Berkshire Eaglevolunteered free publicity and their Clarence Fanto got cracking with his usual thorough coverage. The Taylors’ able personal assistant, Ellyn S. Kusmin, was six places at once, coordinating everything. Lenox’s Susan Olshuff chaired the meeting and set an agenda. Nancy Fitzpatrick was instrumental in helping to think it up and then make it work.
Since details had yet to be worked out, it was decided that information wouldn’t be released until Tuesday morning. We went with it on the radio starting at 7:32 a.m., and the Mahaiwe box office opened at 9, no early birds allowed. In under an hour, the concert sold out. James agreed to do a show the following night, the Mahaiwe was available, and with the exception of a few of the $1,000 tickets, the second show sold out as fast as you can say “piranha fish.” It was hardly a surprise. Every James Taylor concert around here is a sellout. Just look at Tanglewood.
The meeting began with just the people who were working on the project. Then Kim came in and about halfway through, James arrived. When James walks into a room, he brings with him a special kind of energy. He is incredibly smart, he knows himself, he knows how to organize things and he is a great decision-maker. It was a good thing that he was there, otherwise we might still be there hashing out the details.
The Taylors’ commitment to the Partners in Health (PIH), the organization that will get the money, is absolute. Their generosity in matching the Friday night ticket sales is unsurpassed. James has the ability to make each person he is working with feel very special and he brings out the best in all of us. When James and Kim are running things, people want to do their best. It is extraordinary what was accomplished in the span of six short days. It shows you what can be done when people are committed to a common vision.
Others got into the act, too. At the Friday night performance, the $1,000 donors had an opportunity meet James on the Mahaiwe stage, but only a hundred people were allowed up there. So on the second night, the always generous Michael Ballon offered up the Castle Street Café for the after-party. You could multiply that over and over again.
Every once in a while, you get lucky in life and get to meet some wonderful people. I’ve had my share but I have to tell you, Kim and James are right up there at the front of the parade.
Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1/23/10