Dave Cornelio is a familiar sight to music fans who attended Todd Rundgren’s recent ‘The Individualist: A True Star’ tour.
He volunteered for Todd Rundgren’s Spirit of Harmony Foundation (SOHF) information table for the first 10 shows of the tour, a feat matched by his enthusiasm for music education advocacy as he talked to show attendees about the foundation and its mission.
“In a word, it’s all been fantastic,” he said. “After over a year without concerts, it was a welcome return to the excitement of live music and reconnecting with other fans. What has been most special about this tour is the number of people stopping by the table who never heard of SOHF. Some are new fans, some long-lapsed, but in any case, it’s been encouraging to introduce new faces to SOHF’s mission and hopefully motivate them to take the next steps to learn more.”
He continued, “One story in particular that sticks out involves a long-time fan who brought a “fool” guitar he hand-painted himself for Todd to sign. He’s donating it for the SOHF holiday auction, which is absolutely amazing and extremely generous.”
Dave’s enthusiasm for SOHF and its mission comes through as he offers advice for anyone who is considering volunteering with the foundation.
“As for any advice for future volunteers – just do it. (Foundation Executive Director) Jean and (Board Chairman) Ed have done a terrific job laying out volunteer expectations. You don’t have to be an expert or public speaker to help the team. Every night, I was fortunate and grateful to have a team of volunteers who were both enthusiastic and passionate about SOHF. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. Some veterans, some newbies, but we all pitch in and are always ready to welcome more to the team. As Jean and Ed make clear, if you volunteer you won’t miss a minute of the show.”
Dave witnessed the origins of what would become the Spirit of Harmony Foundation.
“I was in NOLA in 2013 for Toddstock 6.5 where I saw firsthand what SOHF would eventually become. I witnessed firsthand how a fan gathering could spontaneously raise cash to help transform the lives of a group of disadvantaged kids in the Lower Ninth Ward through music. The experience was eye-opening and nothing like my usual mode of giving (in my case through the United Way) where it isn’t clear how your contributions are being used. It prompted me to raise my hand when the very first call for volunteers went out.”
Since then, the foundation has grown and Dave has enjoyed the opportunity to continue to volunteer. While he recalls many memorable moments, one SOHF event, in particular, stands out.
“It’s a tough question because each experience is unique and rewarding in its own way,” he said. “If I had to pick one, I’d say it was volunteering at the first Night of Harmony benefit concert. That night was special for several reasons. SOHF made so many significant strides since NOLA and it was wonderful to celebrate that. My role was minor (selling shirts) but I was thrilled to be a part of it all.”
In addition to volunteering at events, Dave also helps with SOHF instrument drives, which match donated instruments to students in need.
“I’ve picked up and delivered instruments donated by some very generous people. Just before the pandemic, I hauled a truckload of instruments (guitars, drums, keyboards and winds) from a neighboring state and stored them at my place until Jean found a needy organization not far from me. It took some time to make that connection but it worked out well for all involved,” he said.
SOHF Executive Director Jean Lachowicz added, “Dave is such a wonderful Music Education Advocate. He knows that flexibility is key to meeting the ever-changing needs of the organizations we serve, and we can always count on him to come through for us.
“We’re extremely grateful to Dave for being consistently dependable and cheerful, and getting the job done! For example, with this being the first tour in such a long while, it was very important to the Foundation to set an example by making sure all volunteers wore facemasks at the venues and observed our safety protocols. Knowing that Dave would be the Lead Volunteer during the first third of the tour gave us a real sense of confidence that our COVID policies would be solidly in place.”
Dave’s passion for music has been lifelong.
“Music has been a part of my life as far back as I remember,” he said. “As a child, we didn’t have a TV set but we had a turntable and a radio that was always playing. I never had formal music lessons. My grammar school offered them but you had to supply your own instrument (my brief attempt with a hand-me-down flute ended miserably). My small high school didn’t offer any instrument lessons at all but I did sing in all the choral groups, staging the typical 1970’s productions (‘Hair’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Godspell’ to name a few). Even if I had lessons, I doubt I would have become a virtuoso but that isn’t the point. What is clear is the fundamental role music education plays in our children’s overall development.”
Today, Dave is focused on what future volunteerism he envisions doing for the Spirit of Harmony Foundation.
“I’m a runner and I’d love to organize a 5K run/walk benefitting music education in our local schools. It seems every town holds annual events like these benefitting all kinds of causes that draw hundreds of participants. It’s something I’ve had on the back burner for a while but I think it’s time. COVID took a bite out of classroom learning last year and redirected funding away from certain programs, including music education, and with many such events now going virtual or hybrid, it might be a little easier to get this going in the right direction. My ultimate goal is to create a boilerplate so others can organize similar events in their communities.”
Dave lives in Rocky Hill, Connecticut with his wife, Alicia, enjoying retired life following a long career as an executive in informatics and performance metrics.
He said, “In the ensuing years, I founded a small music agency booking local and regional artists. More recently, most Todd fans here in the northeast might recognize me for pushing cotton at the Toddstore merchandise table. When I’m not enjoying a show, I can be found out on my usual 4-mile run, working in the yard, or just kicking back with the music I love.”
As he continues to envision his role in volunteering for Spirit of Harmony Foundation, Dave gleans inspiration from yet another legendary musician.
“Whenever I think about volunteerism, I picture folk singer Pete Seeger. Pete was an environmental and political activist associated with the mantra ‘think globally, act locally.’ I think that phrase applies well to what it means to be a volunteer. No one of us is going to change the world on our own, but we can all do something in our own communities that make a difference. To me, that’s what SOHF’s grassroots approach is all about.”
By Sara Stromseth Troy
Spirit of Harmony Foundation