If you’re Mick Jagger and you need heart surgery you know that while you are healing your bills will be paid and your bank account won’t feel the pinch of lost wages. If you are a local Vermont musician and you need heart surgery, often you find your lost wages putting a deep hole in your finances as your medical bills pile up.
For Pitz Quattrone, Vermont’s iconic didgeridoo performer, his April 4 heart surgery to replace a heart valve that needed immediate attention — coincidentally the same week Jagger underwent heart surgery — left him with a pile of bills to pay. Luckily for Quattrone, friends and fellow musicians have organized a benefit concert, at 7 p.m. Friday, June 7 at the Barre Opera House to help defray those bills.
Three of Quattrone’s close friends, JD Green, Chad Hollister, and Shrimp, organized the concert. The event, “Rhythm of the Heart” is billed as “a night of celebrating love, friendship, smiles and music.”
The evening features two sets of music by top Vermont artists that include Hollister, Dave Keller, Chris Robertson, Shrimp, Amy Torchia, Tony Vacca, and Pitz & The Freelancers. The evening’s entertainment will be emceed by Green. Organizers have promised several unique raffle items on hand and Vermont craft beer.
Quattrone’s financial situation is not unfamiliar to many local musicians. He and his family — partner Amy and daughter Tillie — pay for their own minimal health insurance, and had a hefty deductible to meet before it would begin to cover his hospital, doctor and medication bills for his heart surgery.
Quattrone hosts “The Getaway,” a weekday music show on Waterbury’s WDEV Radio Vermont, but as a part-timer he doesn’t qualify for health benefits. He supplements his radio work with didgeridoo-related performing and workshops, but as a musician, he has to pay his own medical insurance bills.
Medical insurance is, unfortunately, a luxury for the majority of artists, musicians and music-business workers, as it is for many low-income people in America. Few Vermont musicians, it is presumed, are covered by insurance as part of their affiliation with a band or as a solo performer. The situation is similar to being a sole-proprietor, freelancer or contract worker. Buying private insurance can be costly, even with “Obamacare” insurance.
A GoFundMe campaign to help Quattrone meet his daily expenses and medical bills while recovering was organized. The effort raised over $11,000.
Quattrone said on his Facebook page, “There were times early last month that I did not think I would live to see May 1, 2019. Yet I am here today, very much alive and staggered by the love I have received from countless people. I am humbled and so frickin’ excited to be here!”
Headlining the evening’s entertainment is Hollister, a popular Vermont singer-songwriter who also fronts a 10-piece band. He currently records for Pacific Records.
Keller, from Montpelier, is Vermont’s premier blues guitarist singer-songwriter. He’s won several awards from blues associations and consistently wins Tammie Awards for his music from The Times Argus.
Slide guitarist Robertson is best known locally as a respected sideman with bluesy Vermont bands such as Bloozotomy, Blue Fox & the Rockin’ Daddies, Left Eye Jump and, most recently, the Dave Keller Band. But, since 2006, he’s helmed his own project, Chris Robertson and the Socket Rockets. That band released its debut record, “The Need for Tweed,” and it was favorably reviewed by this writer.
Green has been a radio host for 20 years, most recently for Vermont Radio Group’s “Wake-Up 101” on the 101 The One network, and previously on country music station Froggy 100.9 for 16 years.
Vacca is an American percussionist specializing in jazz and an early innovator in world music. He incorporates percussion instruments from a world of traditions that includes African, Caribbean, Asian and Middle-Eastern influences, to which he adds some of his spoken word and rhythm poetry.
Quattrone has regained much of his health and will also perform at the concert. Pitz Quattrone & The Freelancers is a five-piece ensemble that brings an original musical vision combining didgeridoo-flavored rock, funk, jam and space with slide guitar, baritone sax and rock-solid funky bass and drums featuring Pitz’s carnie barker vocals.
Any one of us could face enormous medical bills that, even with insurance, could put our financial life in jeopardy. This concert is a way to help one musician meet his financial obligations after a near medical disaster.