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Respond II This:

The Respond II compilation combines music and social mission in the most rare and powerful of ways: without compromising the impact of either.

Taken as music alone, Respond II is a fantastic collection of 32 female performers, including 16 Grammy nominees. The Double CD runs start to finish with the stylistic variety and easy pace that makes the best records somehow physically difficult to get out of your stereo. As a work of social entreprenuership, this release follows the success of Respond I, which raised over $125,000 for Respond, Inc, a domestic violence assistance provider in Boston since 1974.

Respond II is foremost a great listen and a worthy cause, but also a subtle, inspiring reminder from alumni on making meaningful things reality. The Respond II project began as a runner-up in last year’s HBS business plan contest. Through the efforts of many, most notably Co-Producers Sonya Tarnow Brown and Michelle Dietz (both HBs 2002) the album was finally released nationally on January 22.

When the Respond team first contacted the Harbus about the project, I was intriguied before hearing a single note. As I scrolled down the contributors list, name after name I was struck by the remarkable talents brought together here: Aimee Mann, Tracy Bonham, Ani DiFranco, Joan Baez, Bebel Gilberto, Patty Griffin, Indigo Girls, Wannetta Jackson, Sarah MacLachlan, Sleater-Kinney, Susan Tedeschi and Suzanne Vega.

Whether you like all these artists or not, the musical pedigree of the collection reads pretty impressively. Whether you like all these artists or not, it sounds even better.

The array of well-known and up-and-coming artists brings with it tracks spanning rock, pop, latin, R&B, punk, world, folk and country. Kicking it all off is Baez, with all the depth expected of a folk legend, but with a fleshed-out feel that connects even if you don’t consider yourself the 60’s sit-in type. From another corner, you get somewhat stripped down, but characteristically charged rock check-ins from indie veterans Tanya Donnely (The Breeders, Belly) and Sleater-Kinney. On still other planes, you find the jazzy-nova world music of Gilberto and even a ballad from bluegrass herself, Dolly Parton.

The most remarkable part of Respond II is that each song is its own experience, and yet feels comfortably in place as part of a continuous collection. Great music and a masterful sequence make this a CD set you can put in, and leave on.

The social work being done by Respond II makes the listen all the more meaningful. The proceeds from CD sales will benefit Respond, Inc and The Family Violence Protection Fund. Respond’s mission is to help women free themselves and their children from abusive situations, and to empower survivors of domestic violence. Respond serves thousands of women each year through its 24 hour hotline, emergency shelter, safe home program, counseling services and children’s services. The Family Violence Prevention Fund, headquartered in San Francisco, is a national organization focused on ending abuse in the U.S. and around the world through education and political action.

Alongside the music and its powerful message, it is also inspiring to look at how they came together. The list of collaborators is long, from the artists themselves, to the producers, and corporate sponsors including The Bridgespan Group (also sponsor of the Harvard Business Plan Contest) who donated funds, facilities and resources. In addition to Tarnow and Dietz’ co-production, Respond II was helped along by Professors Max Bazerman (HBS), Michael Watkins (HBS) and Marla Felcher (KSG) who served on the project advisory board.

Suffice to say, you’ve got plenty of reasons to consider actually buying (with money) a CD again. Respond II is available in record stores nationwide, and a little closer to home at the Harvard Business School COOP. Very highly recommended.

January 27, 2003
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