During the past 25 years, Bruce Cohn, owner of B.R. Cohn Winery, has used his connections in the music business to produce charity concerts that have given some $6 million to more than 50 key charities. It’s his way of giving back to the community.
Cohn is at it again, finalizing a list of headliners for the 25th Annual B.R Cohn Charity Events Fall Music Festival the weekend of September 23-26. He can confirm that the Doobie Brothers, who he’s managed since 1970, will be performing and has tentative confirmations from Joe Satriani, Taj Mahal, Sammy Hagar, and Bonnie Raitt.
Cohn is also inviting back some of the headliners that performed at the festival in the past: Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, David Crosby, Grahm Nash, Jackson Browne, Logins and Messina, The Turtles, Little Feat and others, their schedules permitting. Other past performers at the festival have included Willie Nelson, Gregg Allman, Huey Louis, and Journey.
“The hard part is to get everybody here that weekend with their touring schedules because they’re booked all over the world and all over the country, Cohn said. “I have to find the acts that can be here that day. Some have said yes while some are waiting to see how their schedules line up.”
Those schedules should be worked out pretty quickly. Tickets to the 25th Annual B.R Cohn Charity Events Fall Music Festival go on sale in about a week.
The festival has supported such charities as The Children’s Village, The Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, The Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, The Sonoma Valley Boys and Girls Club, and Redwood Empire Food Bank, to name a few. Cohn tries to rotate the main charities that are supported every three years, though has been supporting the Mentoring Alliance for ten.
Because of the recession, some of the proceeds have been given to food banks. “There are so many people needing the basics,” Cohn said, “a ridiculous amount. It’s huge and it’s right in our back yard.”
Sometimes the event supports a broader cause. It supported victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans: This year, Cohn is considering Japan as a possible partial donation in addition to the local charities.
Cohn’s charity work through music goes back more than the 25 years he’s held a festival at the winery. It started with the Doobie Brothers in the 1970s with their support for The United Way. The Doobie Brothers later worked with Stanford Children’s Hospital. They did an annual Christmas show for the children for eighteen years.
They’ve long supported Veterans.
The benefit concerts in Sonoma Valley started in 1980, prior to Bruce Cohn building the amphitheater at his winery 25 years ago. The first such concert took place in a tent on a football field with Grahm Nash, Little Feat, and the late Nicolette Larson.
As one would expect, the charity events and the good will they create reflect positively on the B.R. Cohn winery, which continues to grow. In 2003 the winery produced 15,000 cases. That volume has now grown to 70,000 or 80,000 cases, depending on the year.
“People walk up to me on the street and say that they’re really grateful for what I do,” Cohn said. “If they have the choice to buy my wine instead of somebody else’s and they know what I’m doing, I think they’ll buy mine.”
Plans for this year’s event continue to shape up. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri just signed on to participate as the chef during the weekend’s charity dinner auction.
“People can’t always give,” Cohn said. “We spend six months putting this thing together every year. Not everyone can do that. But they can come and buy a ticket. They can come and buy food and wine at the winery and they know the money is going to go to a good place if they do. That’s their way of giving.”
“You can join in at your level. Attend. Buy the $95 ticket or whatever it is. Have seven hours of music and enjoy if that’s your way of giving to charity.”