Chester's Animal Media Foundation goes to the dogs -- and cats and ponies...
As the economy continues to crumble, its full scope has been slow to come into focus. Every day seems to bring new revelations about the ways our lives will be affected. One such side effect is the toll the recession is taking on our four-legged friends.
Animal shelters around the country, including Vermont, are receiving animals in record numbers as more people shed their pets to spare their pocketbooks. The strain on facilities, and their caretakers, is alarming.
The Animal Media Foundation  in Chester, founded in 2002 by Dexter Brown and Carol Scafuro, aims to ease that burden by combining our collective love of fuzzy animals with our love of music. Together with Utah-based animal rescue coalition Best Friends Animal Society , they are set to release a star-studded compilation of music this week entitled Giving Animals a Voice Through Music: The Best Friends 25th Anniversary Collection.
The two-disc album is essentially split along stylistic lines. Disc one was produced by Grammy-winning Windham Hill Records  founder Will Ackerman . It features 12 notable artists from across the New Age jazz and instrumental landscape, including Phil Aaberg , Tracy Silverman  and Karen Marie Garrett .
The second disc was compiled and produced by AMF’s Brown and should appeal to those with more conventional pop tastes, with cuts from the likes of John Oates , They Might Be Giants , Cyndi Lauper  and noted animal-rights advocate Emmylou Harris . The disc also boasts a distinct local flavor with contributions from Diane Zeigler , Gregory Douglass  and the state’s newest musical resident, Neko Case . Brown, an avid music fan and an accomplished musician and recording engineer in his own right, wrote and performed the disc’s eleventh track, “Just One Love.”
Proceeds from the sales of the collection will primarily benefit Best Friends, which received national attention for spearheading efforts to place thousands of abandoned animals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. More recently, the group’s 2000-acre sanctuary in Utah became home to 20 dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring. Funds will target the shelter’s Puppy Mill Campaign, a program that aims to reduce the number of pets bought and sold from breeding facilities across the country and encourage adoption from animal shelters.
AMF itself was originally conceived as an animal shelter — though presumably under a different name. But following a training seminar at the Best Friends sanctuary, Scafuro and Brown realized their talents were better suited to providing financial means for organizations such as Best Friends to do their work. “We really wanted to create a new avenue of income to those doing ‘the work,’” says Scafuro. “An avenue which would not only bring financial resources to further the good works, but could also [create] products — such as this CD — or experiences like a live concert for those who participate in the cause as consumers.”
Several years in the making, the double CD is AMF’s largest project to date. But it won’t be the last. The foundation will also receive a share of the proceeds from CD sales, and Brown and Scafuro plan to use the money to benefit animals closer to home. Specifically, they’re thinking a compilation featuring regional artists, and concerts such as the one they presented last summer at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester with Ackerman, Zeigler and others. And with Neko Case, perhaps?
“Well, she’s an up-an-coming star,” Brown says doubtfully.
Hey, it never hurts to ask.