Part-Time Musicians Give Full-Time Effort for The Children's Home
John Campbell, Russell Walden and Tad Lawrence
Photography by Daniel Smyth
John Campbell and Tad Lawrence might be better known as Cincinnati civic and business leaders than musicians. But they do know about the healing power of music and its ability to bring people together. Campbell even wrote a song about it, “It’s All In the Music.”
“Playing music is magical,” says Campbell. “On stage, with the right people, it takes on something bigger that the musicians just standing there.”
Campbell, a singer-songwriter in the folk troubadour tradition, and Lawrence, a piano stylist, will join forces to perform a benefit concert for The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, April 8 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley.
Although they are accomplished and passionate musicians, the two have always known it was best to keep their day jobs rather than try to pay the bills with a music career. Campbell is an attorney with Kohnen & Patton LLP, specializing in estate planning and probate administration; Lawrence is the senior vice president of Institutional Consulting at UBS Financial Services, Inc., with a 35-year career in financial planning. Both are longtime members of The Children’s Home board of trustees. In fact, Lawrence, a previous board chairman, has been recognized as an “honorary life trustee.” After 10 years away from the board, he recently rejoined as a regular member.
Lawrence and Campbell have frequently played together at impromptu events and in small gatherings. They figured it was time to take the show to the “big stage” to show their dedication. “We just figured it would be neat for us to put something more formal together and do something to benefit The Children’s Home,” Campbell says.
Campbell has recruited a bit of star power for the performance. His brother-in-law, Russell Walden, will join the pair on stage. The Los Angeles-based Walden might not be a household name, but he has a 40-year career as a pianist, producer, composer and arranger. He is best known as the accompanist and musical director for legendary folksinger Judy Collins, having toured with her almost continuously since the 1980s.
Walden, who is married to Campbell’s sister, Natalie, has been a longtime supporter of Campbell’s musical endeavors and helped him produce an album in 2010. Recording under his stage name of Ledyard Campbell (Ledyard is his middle name), the release features Campbell’s crisp, warm vocals, his easy listening folk style and bouncy, upbeat compositions.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit Fine Arts Therapy programming for campus-based therapeutic and education programs at The Children’s Home of Cincinnati. Art therapy is embraced as a tenet for not only treatment, but as a way to enrich the educational experience encountered by these students, a population that tends to be at-risk beyond the normal scope.
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati has evolved from its role as an orphanage, founded in 1864, to its current mission as the largest provider of children’s behavioral health services in Southwest Ohio. On-campus programs include a full day of care for ages 3-18 with complete mental health treatment and education. Its campus also includes a high school with job-training programs for kids with autism. Programing and counseling in area schools and other community-based settings touch the lives of some 6,700 children and adolescents a year.
It might not be quite accurate to simply call music a “hobby” for Lawrence and Campbell. In many ways, music defines who they are. Both find it hard to imagine a world without making music. For Lawrence, it is part of his earliest memories, literally learning at the feet of his father, the late Jock Lawrence, who was well known as a piano player who performed with some of Cincinnati’s finest jazz regulars.
As a toddler, Lawrence said he would sit on his father’s feet while he worked the piano pedals.
“He put me on his lap when I was 4 and taught me how to play. I was playing ‘West Side Story’ songs when I was in second grade.”
Lawrence, whose specialties are show tunes and easy listening jazz pieces, fondly remembers frequently performing duets with his father.
“My father and I did a lot of concerts for charities. We’d be featured on dueling pianos,” says Lawrence. “Even though he was a businessman, Dad was well recognized (for his music) everywhere he went.”
For a brief time Campbell envisioned music as a career. In the late ’60s he was in a Kingston Trio-style group that landed a shot on the “American Idol” of its day – “Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour.” Campbell put in his troubadour time, playing on San Francisco street corners and clubs in the early ’70s. But he went to law school after realizing, “I never liked the industry side of the music world. It’s a fascinating life, but it wasn’t for me. But I’ve always sung. I write songs and I sing all the time. I will sing for anybody if they want to listen.”
Both Lawrence and Campbell have developed a following among their wide circle of friends.
“We’ve been too chicken to make this our day job,” Campbell says with a laugh. “I think we both have some talent, but we would have probably starved to death.”
In the meantime, the two will use their talents to help The Children’s Home, hoping for another of those magical nights when “it’s all in the music.”
“My passion for The Children’s Home is so strong,” Lawrence says. “We’ve been a very blessed family. I give credit to my parents for teaching us the importance of giving back to the community.”
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati is located at 5050 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. You can reach them at 513.272.2800 or visit their website at thechildrenshomecinti.org.