PEORIA — Until donations started pouring in, professional musician David Hoffman wasn’t sure anyone would contribute to a porch concert fundraiser for area musicians.
"I just had an idea, because music careers are pretty much at a standstill, I thought well, ‘let me see if people respond to something like this,’" said Hoffman a few hours before holding the first in a series of socially distanced porch concerts at his Peoria home Saturday. "I started the process for a fundraiser on Facebook and I didn’t finish it, because I was still thinking about if I wanted to do it or not. Then I went out of the house for a couple of hours and came back, and it had already gone live and people were already donating to it, so it kind of made my decision for me."
Eight hundred dollars were donated in the first several hours. As of Saturday the total was at $2,265. Hoffman will keep the fundraiser active through the fall because he plans to host a total of four or five concerts. Proceeds will go to participating musicians.
To find the fundraiser on Facebook, search "Porch Concerts to Support Local Peoria Musicians."
Hoffman, a central Illinois native who played trumpet and flugelhorn in Ray Charles’ band from 1991 to 2003, knows first-hand how hard the pandemic has been for musicians.
"It’s pretty much ended everything that I do, and I’m among millions of musicians. The ones living in New York and Southern California really have it rough. It’s totally stopped almost all professessional music, especially on a higher level, because there’s no large gatherings," said Hoffman.
Even teaching, another way musicians make a living, has been affected.
"I tried to teach on Zoom and it didn’t appeal to me," Hoffman said. "I just need the personal contact with people. I am starting to teach more students now, one-on-one with social distancing."
Hoffman, who grew up in Springfield, has deep roots in the central Illinois music scene. Even though he’s spent a good chunk of his career touring nationally and internationally, he has always come back to the area to perform.
"I still have family here — two sisters and a brother and all sorts of friends. So I stayed connected. It’s a good area. People have been really good to me here," said Hoffman, who, in recent years, had a regular Friday evening gig at Two25 restaurant in the Mark Twain Hotel until they closed down because of the pandemic.
"People would know me from that and Central Illinois Jazz Society Events," said Hoffman. "I usually play a couple Jazz Society concerts as well."
Because he’s well connected in the Peoria music scene, Hoffman plans to showcase the talents of a variety of musicians on his porch in the 700 block of E. Kansas St. On Saturday he played jazz standards and some of his original tunes with keyboardist Mike Nellas, base player Stephen Jackson, vocalist Jamika JustJamika and drummer Jason Brannon. The group also celebrated the fact that the concert fell on Charlie Parker Day by playing some of his tunes.
This has been a tough summer for Hoffman, who was planning to tour Europe with the original members of the Ray Charles Band and go to the Belize International Jazz Festival. Both were canceled because of the pandemic.
"What I’ve been doing this summer is practicing, because if you are not getting better, you are getting worse, especially on trumpet. It’s a daily effort," said Hoffman.
Hosting a successful fundraiser has given him a chance to do something cool, said Hoffman, and he’s delighted it’s been a success.
"It does my heart good, it really does — it’s been kind of overwhelming, actually. I’m glad people are embracing the idea of ‘Oh man, maybe we need live music again!’"
Click here to watch Saturday’s porch performance.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.