Blog: Ken Kozora

Ken Kozora has been exploring sound for over 35 years playing trumpet, bass, synthesizer, electronic percussion, wind synth, flutes, hand percussion and any other new noisemaker he happens to stumble upon. In the early days of MIDI development he promoted and helped integrate music technology into K-12 and the University music curriculum.

Ken has recorded and performed with a wide variety of local and renowned international artists, leads his own world / jazz quartet "KOZORA", performs solo for special events and composes music for dance and various media. He is the founder and Director of Horns for the Holidays, an instrument recycling/donation program for underprivileged children, is a board member of Riverfolk Music & Arts and teaches music to emotionally impaired children at Beacon Day Treatment Center.

Ken is also an event planner for a leading environmental organization, Ecology Center, contracts as a solar and wind installer and has developed a solar powered music system in collaboration with an engineer.  He also likes to mangle photos with his computer in his spare time.
 

Bookings, consulting and more info: zenkora@gmail.com 

Ken Kozora - Most Recent Posts:

Ken Kozora - Post 2: EcoHistory

Today's blog I will share some personal history, describe my involvement in environmental issues and will suggest a couple of very simple ways where you can help make a difference on these serious national issues and have a whole lot of serious fun doing it…….Really!

Ken's EcoHistory

I'
ve had an interest in environmental issues for most of my life. Compared to the foul smelling, tire and bottle filled, slimy green Rouge River down at the end of my block growing up, the woods, puffy clouds, blue sky, clear rivers and smell of pine trees up north where my family would vacation every summer seemed like a magical wonderland.

As a young boy I remember asking my teacher; "what’s that green and white striped flag with the round yellow circle in the middle?" And I remember thinking what a cool reason that was to have a flag. I also remember seeing and reading in the paper about smog and rivers on fire and all these people protesting in the streets over environmental issues and how we should not desecrate nature. I innocently agreed with the protesters on the logic of the question: Why would anyone not want to care for and clean up the environment?

Do you remember the public service commercial where the Native American man is canoeing down what appears to be a pristine river and he pulls up onto the shoreline and the suddenly the whole horizon is filled with a pollution belching industrial landscape? The camera returns to the old man’s face and you see a single teardrop running down his cheek…. I still innocently agree with those protesters from long ago.

I had not contemplated attending college, but all the issues over pollution and the energy shortages taking place during the 1970's influenced me to study solar architecture and conservation for a short while. I also helped retrofit an older home for passive solar power for Urban Options in Lansing and worked as an energy auditor for a few years. Ultimately I had a passion for music and perused that, but I also had this fantasy that I felt could combined these interests. I would have to wait almost 30 years for that to manifest.

I moved to Ann Arbor in the mid 1980's and learned of the Ecology Center and I’ve been involved with the organization on some level ever since. I’ve performed music, coordinated, volunteered, and contracted for the EcoRide and Dance for the Earth fundraisers. I am currently Events Manager at EC. I also work part-time as a contractor, installing solar H2O & photovoltaic panels and I’ve helped with a wind turbine too. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how that "fantasy" from 30 years previous has been fulfilled. 

Support the Cause and Have Fun!

The Ecology Center has worked tirelessly for a long, long time to help make our lives a cleaner, healthier and just place. The scope of their work includes cooperating with small neighborhoods in our local community to advocating for national environmental policies that have international influence and long term ramifications that affect the stability of our planet. Lot's of info is available at ecocenter.org on all the great programs they run so I won’t get into details here. 

This organization has made a difference through the dedication of their staff, the hard work of their volunteers and the generosity of their financial supporters. Just goes to show you how each one of us can do one small part and it adds up to make a big change..

Its serious business, but…….. we all wanna have fun too!

Let’s Party!

I'd like to share some information on two events that I coordinate for the Ecology Center.

Dance for the Earth is a fantastic party that takes place this year on April 25th at Downtown Home and Garden from 8-11pm. Why is it fantastic? It's fantastic because we will again (this is the 4th annual) fill the place with jump’n live music, food & drinks, a silent auction with really great items, crazy costumes and a drumming parade.

Why do we pack all that fun into 3 hours you might ask? Not just because we are fun people, but because we want to raise lots of money for the Mary Beth Doyle Memorial Fund and because we know this is going to be the "Best Earth Day Party" in town!

OK….more fun!

Save Sunday June 28th on your calendar for the 30millionth EcoRide. I've honestly lost track of the years because I've been involved with this event soooo long. And that’s a good thing because every year it just gets better. It's a bike ride/fundraiser.

Last year we started at Hudson Mills Metro Park. The routes went all over the place including a new route through Manchester. When you get back from your ride, food, massage, kid’s activities and live music await you. Last year Gone Cajun provided some foot stomp'n music and yours truly provided an ambient electronic solar powered set. This, all in the name of raising funds for the Ecology Center’s fantastic programs. Visit ecocenter.org for all the details.   

Seriously Now………………..Support the Ecology Center …….and have Fun!

Ken Kozora - Post 1: Horns For The Holiday

Horns for the Holidays – How & Why

I’m so grateful that Horns for the Holidays has had a positive effect on so many children. It has also had a rewarding and profound effect on my life as well and I’d like to share its story. It is actually excerpted from a longer version that I had written a few years ago.

Supply and Demand

My whole life has revolved around music in one way or another. Besides playing many different instruments in all sorts of bands and orchestras, I managed a music store for many years. Customers would often bring in these smelly old instruments that they or their child had abandoned years earlier and after their other attempts to sell them had failed.

I explained that we really could only offer a few dollars, if any, because of the expense of repairing and remarketing. They would walk away frustrated, sometimes angry and would, I imagined, return the instrument to the attic or basement for another generation to dream or deal with. I felt their pain but I couldn’t help. Eventually I moved on from the music store but retained many contacts in the business and educational community.

Quandary – Vision - Decision

In 1996 around Thanksgiving, I was again asked to manage a different music store. I needed to respond to the offer by 12:00pm. It was 11:45 and I was pacing the floor with indecision. I needed a job, I was qualified and I liked the store and owners. However I’d already "been there done that" and was feeling burnt out on selling products that are marketed to be obsolete within a year and then are put in a landfill. I’d worked with a local environmental organization in various capacities over the years and this contributed to my awareness and concern. Being close to the holidays, I wondered if I should go help in a soup line or something. I was trying to think of something I could do to utilize my various skills to contribute to those in need.

Suddenly remembering all those old instruments customers used to bring in, a vision unfolded...... 

"a recycling program for musical instruments that helps underprivileged children"

Within fifteen minutes I realized I had all the pieces already in place and Horns for the Holidays was born. The job would have to wait!

Horns for the Holidays

I’m so excited about all the exposure Horns for the Holidays has received over the last couple of years thanks to our partnership with the Arts Alliance. I started this program in 1996. 12 years later I am proud to say that we have helped over 250 kids share in the joy of making music. Many children have benefited by the generosity of individuals, community organizations, media exposure, corporate contributions and educational guidance. 

The program concept is simple. Many people have instruments that are stuffed away in their attic collecting dust. They may never have been played or may need a little TLC. Every year throughout the holidays, you can donate these instruments to children who qualify. Qualified technicians repair the instruments and music educators identify children with strong interest who lack the financial resources. The child owns the instrument, however if they quit playing or purchase a new one they are asked to return the instrument to the "pool". The children gain valuable skills through their involvement in music; discipline from practice, listening, contributing and sharing in a group setting, self confidence and much more. These skills carry over to all other aspects of their life. The joy of making music is like no other, and reason enough for me, to justify its pursuit. 

Full Circle

A few years later I was being interviewed by Don Faber from the Ann Arbor News. One of his questions sparked the long forgotten memory of my very first horn and the fact that it had been donated by some anonymous, caring, unselfish individual. Until that moment I hadn’t recognized the profound significance of that act of generosity from someone so long ago. Music has played such an important role in my life and I suddenly felt a long overdue gratitude towards that anonymous person and for the original horn that got me started on this long musical journey. I also felt awe at the way life unfolds and sends messages in ways we don’t always recognize.

A BIG THANKS!

If you will indulge me (for the kids) I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to all those who have helped over the years. I do this here because I’ve not had the appropriate platform for this before, but also to illustrate that "It Takes A Village" (or in this case a whole county). This is one example of how our community has come together to make a difference. I hope you will take time to contemplate their generosity and dedication.

Ken Michalik, a teacher from Roberto Clemente School has been with me from the very beginning, identifying and mentoring students who are qualified and dedicated. Performance Network was also able to help for the first few years as the non-profit umbrella. Rick Witten came up with the catchy name, Anne & Rod Capps donated graphic design early on and Carty’s Music donated repairs as did a few others. Current Magazine, Heritage Newspapers as well as WEMU and the Ann Arbor News have helped to publicize over the years. Mark Palms from Riverfolk Music & Arts introduced me to the Arts Alliance. Doug Horn from Ann Arbor Public Schools, Mickey Richards and Dave Gilbert from OZ’s Music have all helped with repairing instruments the last several years. Thanks to all the drop off sights for your cooperation. Last but not least Tamara and Angela form the Arts Alliance. There are so many more of you…

And also A GREAT BIG THANKS to all the Donors! 

Horns for the Holidays is now under the umbrella of the Arts Alliance and thanks to their dedication and marketing power we collected close to 125 instruments the last two years! We still need financial donations to help pay for repairing instruments so please contact
Angela@annarborchamber.org

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