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Musicians fight breast cancer by jamming on Ninth Street

Saturday, October 8, 2011 | 10:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 8, 2011

COLUMBIA — When Fergus Moore makes music, he brings an empty blue bucket.

On the Ninth Street sidewalk outside Makes Scents on Saturday, Moore sat atop a stool and tapped the toe of his boot on the upturned bucket. In one hand he grasped a stick of bamboo, and with the other he plucked a piece of string hooked to the bucket. As Moore swung the bamboo stick back and forth, the “thump, thump” of his handmade bass changed tones.

“If I pull the string against the stick, I can make a fret,” Moore said. “Some people prefer to fret, but I don't like to fret; I like to be happy."

Moore was one of the musicians in an impromptu folk music ensemble — made up of a guitar, ukulele, bass and two banjos — that busked (or entertained for donations) Saturday to raise money to fight breast cancer. He and the others donated the money dropped by passersby — a total of $88 collected in two hours — to the patient assistance fund at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.

Lisa Higgins, director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program, organized the Random Act of Art for a Cause with her colleague Daffany Hood. Higgins said she is trying to initiate other spontaneous music jam sessions across Missouri. Alton held a similar event Saturday called “Bluegrass for Boobies.”

“I have so much admiration for musicians, as a folklorist myself,” Higgins said. “Musicians of any kind can come together and play. No one here is performing. We are here to have fun.”

Hood, as a breast cancer survivor, said she thought Ellis Fischel Cancer Center was a suitable cause to support.

“Both my mother and aunt died from breast cancer,” Hood said. “There are some women who fall between the cracks and need help to pay. My mom had to spend the money to drive 70 miles to get treatment. There are just so many extra costs.” 

Higgins called the street side jam “informal participatory music.” Some of the musicians had never played together before Saturday.

“Music is very portable. You can carry songs in your head,” Higgins said. “Most of the musicians bring their instruments and play together on the weekend. In the past, this was the most common form of entertainment.” 


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