Surf Music on and help thousands in need along the Gulf Coast.

By: Maggie Griffin

Driven by the simple belief that we all need to pull together to help fellow citizens in times of crisis, a group of mostly Connecticut individuals set out to help their national neighbors over a 1,200 miles away.

“Give To The Gulf” combines music and a spirit of collaboration to raise funds for a region of our country that has had a terrible run of luck over the last five years – starting with Hurricane Katrina.

The effort began with a simple idea by Farmington entrepreneur, Eric Knight, and was brought to life by the energies, talents, and resources of Paul Lombardo and Tom Russo, the principals of L&R Productions of East Hartford.

Knight initially submitted to BP an engineering solution to the oil flow problem, but, as with many creative solutions that were offered to the oil conglomerate, his approach got bogged down in red tape. But his brain was undeterred. Out of a deep sleep one night he awoke with four simple words that he wrote on a bedside notepad: “Give to the Gulf”. And this simple thought set into motion a very special project.

Knight and Russo, marketing industry friends and colleagues, chatted about the possibilities of creating a fund-raiser embodied by the “give to the Gulf” theme. The loosely formed idea sparked a series of brainstorming meetings between them and additional colleagues.

There was a universal feeling that the need was urgent and it was important to act quickly. After all, the Gulf situation was getting worse by the day -- for both the affected people and the environment.

A goal emerged: To create an online mechanism in which the sale of new music would generate funds for Gulf-relief efforts.

This simple mission literally became an around-the-clock effort for the team. Russo and Lombardo focused on the various music aspects of the project, including writing and producing the title song along with co-songwriter Bill Holloman “Give To The Gulf”. Knight worked to develop the Web site, as well as to bring on board additional talent to tackle key aspects of the endeavor.

For instance, artist John Parkinson volunteered his creativity to develop the “Give To The Gulf” logo. Audio engineer Mike Sokol helped make an important contact at Apple, ultimately enabling music to be distributed through iTunes. Marketing and public relations professionals also stepped in to volunteer their expertise, including Mary Ann Dostaler, of MAD Communications, and Nancy Wuennemann, of Video2People.

Bill Holloman, of L&R Productions, provided multiple skills -- from music engineering to vocals on the emerging songs. Film producer, Steve Sattler, crafted a “Give To The Gulf” music video.

And, finally, a company called TuneCore, headquartered in the Bronx, NY, provided the technology glue between iTunes and consumers wishing to download the songs of the “Give To The Gulf” music collection.

The entire team left no stone unturned in finding musical talent to donate original music to collection – which ultimately rolled out at 11 songs. It was a whirlwind effort.

Throughout the process, Knight worked the phones to put into place the final piece of the puzzle: the United Way as the recipient of the to-be-raised funds.

From the inception of the idea to the full roll-out and launch of this national program was a blistering six weeks,” said Russo. “It was a non-stop process.

The end result: a slick online system that allows visitors to listen to all 11 songs of “Volume 1” of the music collection, and with just a click -- be transported to iTunes for easy music downloading.

When someone downloads music from the collection, revenue that would normally go to the artist is now channeled directly to the United Way and its “Gulf Recovery Fund”.

The Web site also makes it easy for artists, anywhere in the world, to participate in the “Give To The Gulf” project. There is a simple mechanism for artists to upload their .WAV files for review.

By providing a way for musicians to directly upload music gives artists, anywhere and everywhere, the opportunity to be part of this great cause,” said Lombardo. “Every dollar counts to raise the bar and for reaching even more people in need. A fringe benefit is providing wide exposure for the artists who are contributing their music. It’s a win-win.”

Artists wishing to submit music for review should visit and upload their music via the “Add Your Music” navigation link.

What’s next for the “Give To The Gulf” team? Volume 2 is already in the works, as well as contemplations for Volumes 3, 4, 5, and more. In fact, Parkinson has already designed iTunes artwork through Volume 7. Volume 2 is targeted for release on September 1.

If you’d like to “Give To The Gulf” and contribute to the relief effort, visit and download a great selection of original music.

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