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Monday, March 18,2013

Taking his act on the road

A tricycle that pulls a piano? Joybox Express brings music to MSU to raise money for charities

by Tracy Key


July 6 — Most
people probably haven’t seen a 352 pound piano being towed down the street by a
giant tricycle, but if you’re in East Lansing Thursday, you can not only witness
this bizarre phenomenon, but you can also join in on the fun.


The
Joybox Express, a quartet of musicians that carry their instruments on their
bicycles while traveling the state, will be holding a charity bike ride through
the Michigan State University campus. The traveling band, which uses a piano, a
string bass, an electric guitar, a full drum set and a fiddle to play jazz and
blues music, also raises money for charitable organizations that focus
primarily on bringing arts and athletics to children.


“It
was apparent to me that kids were having a harder and harder time getting
access to those kinds of programs due to funding,” said Mark Braun, the leader and
founder of the Joybox Express, more commonly known as Mr. B. “I thought I would
start to make a little noise about that with my program,” he added.


And
he has been making noise since 2009 when he created the Joybox Express. Mr. B
said he has spent his whole life around people who help other people, and he
decided that he wasn’t doing enough of that himself. He was also driven by his
desire to combine the things he loves into a new way of raising funds and
awareness while having some new adventures.


“I
was interested in trying to wed two life passions art and athletics,” he remembers. “So I
came up with idea of creating large bicycle that can carry a piano.”


He
had a custom tricycle made, which he describes as a “hand-crafted, one-of a
kind vehicle” that is capable
of carrying his 352-pound instrument. This unique velocipede can support up to
three riders at a time to help move heavy loads of up to 1,100 pounds down the
road.


But
even with the help of a specially made vehicle, it isn’t easy to tote a giant
piano, a drum set and other instruments for hours on end through the hot sun. Along
the way on their travels, they stop at set points to play concerts before
continuing on their journey. In effect, they combine aspects of a charity
benefit concert and a bike marathon into one unique package. “We’re
demonstrating a lot of athleticism and a lot of arts,” Mr. B explained. “We’re putting
those on display to show the public their importance.”


The
ride begins at 10:30 a.m. and will be stopping at noon at the MSU School of
Music for a concert. People who wish
to donate or participate can choose a charity for which they want to collect
funds and then download a pledge form from the website
www.joyboxexpress.com.


Since
its foundation in 2009, Mr. B estimates that the Joybox Express has helped
raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for various charitable foundations, such as
the Chelsea Center for the Arts, the Trails Edge
Camp for Ventilator-Dependent Children,
 the Juvenile
Diabetes Research Foundation and more. Each year since its creation, its
efforts have been expanding.
“The first year was modest, at 150 miles
and raising money for four small charities. Last year we rode 300 miles and supported
15 charities. This year, we’re aiming for 350 miles,” Mr. B explained. “It’s an
unusual concept and we’re not extremely well known yet.”


His
plans for next year are even more ambitious; The Joybox Express will travel the
entire length of the Mississippi river, from north to south, between September
and December. “We hope that we can be a catalyst for people’s notion of giving.
We want to encourage people through our efforts.”

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