Transcription of Mark Curdo for the show Community Connectors #288

Speaker 1: You are listening to Love Maine Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Brunswick, Maine. Show summaries are available at Here are some highlights from this week’s program.
Mark Curdo: For me when I was young, my earlier years, I was exposed to such a variety of music at a very young age that I think for me, that kept my mind open and kept an appreciation for music that I’ll always maintain.
David Thete: We are tomorrow’s generation. We have ideas to offer to the world, to grow and to just to make this world a better place. There’s a lot of bad things going on, and kids don’t really have a good platform to express themselves and say,
“No, these are the things that I want to change,” and usually it’s adults who are in charge of these groups who are giving the rules, “Okay, we’re doing this today,” and Kesho Wazo is a place where kids can just be like, “Okay, I have this idea. How can we make it come to reality?” Kesho Wazo is the youth’s imagination meeting reality. That’s how I would describe it.
Lisa Belisle: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 288, Community Connectors, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 26, 2017. Within our community we are fortunate to have people who are particularly good at making and maintaining connections with others. Today, we speak with Mark Curdo, who has hosted a yearly Mark-a-thon to benefit the Center for Grieving Children since 2008. We also speak with musician Isaiah Taylor and David Thete, founder of Kesho Wazo. Thank you for joining us.
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Lisa Belisle: It is my great pleasure to have with me in the studio today, Mark Curdo. Mark Curdo has been hosting Mark-a-Thon, his annual week long radio show fundraiser for the Center for Grieving Children since 2008. He now runs creative branding and promotions for Shipyard Brewing Company and hosted his ninth Mark-a-Thon this past December. Thanks for coming in.
Mark Curdo: Thanks for having me. Thanks.
Lisa Belisle: Thanks for having a name that really lends itself to a “thon.” I think about Lis-a-Thon. It doesn’t have the same thing.
Mark Curdo: Truth be told, I never would have, I didn’t come up with that name. I never would have. That’s not like me to….
Lisa Belisle: You’re too humble for that?
Mark Curdo: Yeah, and I don’t know if it’s right to say that something you did was a humble move. It’s not humble to say you did something, right? Yeah, someone else came up with that name.
Lisa Belisle: That’s okay. It’s all right.
Mark Curdo: Just the idea, what it was all about. Someone said, “Hey, how about like Markapalooza, or Mark-a-Thon?”
Lisa Belisle: You’re into branding, so now you can understand why it’s an important thing.
Mark Curdo: That’s it, and if it ain’t me, it ain’t happening, I guess. Tough to have a Mark-a-Thon without the….
Lisa Belisle: Without the Mark of the Thon.
Mark Curdo: Involved I guess. That’s kind of kept me locked in a little bit, too.
Lisa Belisle: Tell me about the Center for Grieving Children. Why did that become important to you?
Mark Curdo: Putting the benefit together at first, my thought was working in radio at the time, full-time, using the power, the gift that radio has to reach people to be so impactful, to really use it for good. There’s charity things that radio and media does, but it just seems sometimes like it’s ho hum and it’s just by the book and it’s just two hours on a Saturday afternoon at the American Red Cross. That’s great, but it just seems like it’s going by the book. I wanted to do something that was big and really stopped the town, literally. We came up with the idea of what it would be. I pitched this in studio, lock myself in type of thing. After about a year of back and forth with my boss, we locked it down. Then the thought was okay, who’s this going to benefit? There’s just so many great causes around here. There’s so many great charities, benefits. My thought was, this would be best to maybe help an organization that needs a little bit of that extra push, that people sort of know but not really on a massive level.
It was suggested to me by Herb Ivy, who’s my boss over at the radio station, “Have you heard of the Center for Grieving Children?” The name I’d heard, but I didn’t know much about it. I looked into it, did some investigation on it, and instantly I was like, “This has got to be it.” For me, the connection was, instantly, was that I’ve been fortunate to have my family growing up, not losing. It’s just myself and my folks, but having my parents still to this day, I couldn’t understand what these people were going through, losing a child, losing a parent, brother, sister, grandparent.
For me, this was my way of showing how appreciative I was to have my family and to act and to be able to grow and live with them and support these people that, when they have a loss like this, they don’t know what to do or which way to move. It’s really the basic gist of it, it’s just, I guess, more appreciation rather than really understanding what they’re going through.
Lisa Belisle: I understand that. For years I’ve donated to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, the Center for Grieving Children, other organizations that I have never really needed and feel grateful that I don’t need them, and I’m knocking on wood virtually, because I think it’s the idea that there’s just a pain that I have no access to and I’m so glad that thus far I haven’t.
Tell me about the Mark-a-Thon itself. You locked yourself in a studio.
Mark Curdo: Yeah, it’s a great opportunity for me to be able to just not leave the radio station for five days and be able to play all kinds of music. There’s a selfish angle to do it, too, just loving music. Basically I’m in the radio station for five days straight. I’m in the studio for 102 hours. I’m on the air 21 hours a day, live. People can call in and request anything they want to hear. The format for the radio station, WCYY, is out the window that week. You can request Neil Diamond, Chuck Berry, Metallica, Beethoven, whatever it is, but as long as you make a donation to the center. Pay to play. Essentially that week it’s legal.
Aside from the music, it’s also five days that people get to hear about the center and its services, because they really serve a host of different concerns and cares for families going through loss. They have a widowers’ group. They have their multicultural program, helping folks coming to the country who are leaving war town countries and situations that we can’t even think of, coming here and having to live and deal with their situation here. They deal with a whole different variety of things. That week is not only fundraising, it’s hugely important, but it’s getting the word out about what these services can do for folks. The services are free for as long as people need them, and for whenever they need them, because people grieve in different ways and at different times. Some people have a loss, they might not really start their grieving process for five years, ten years. The center is there to assist them when that time is there, and without cost and without concern of having to pay another bill.
We do that, and we have families come in and speak a little bit about their experience there. I pre-record a whole bank of interviews ahead of time to run throughout the week, because it’s a long week, and it’s the only thing that’s on the air. It’s just the music that these people are choosing when they donate and these conversations and businesses that come in as well to support the cause. It’s a long week, but it’s been an amazing nine years so far, especially to hear, each year hearing from people that have been listening to it along the way, and who have come to need the services of the center. I’ll hear from someone, “Oh, I’ve been listening to it for years. Last year we needed to go to the center. We lost my child. We lost our mother, or whatever, our brother, sister, and we needed the services of the center. If I hadn’t listened for years, I might not have known about this place.”
Yeah, it’s with me for good now at this point. It’s, I hear about it from people all the time, and that’s a good thing. It’s good to know that it’s made an impact in all kinds of ways.
Lisa Belisle: It sounds like it requires some advance planning. If you’re doing interviews ahead of time, and you’re bringing people into the studio.
Mark Curdo: Yeah, I spent about, I spent probably about a good two months of solid prep for the week, for the one week, and I’d be… I should say it’s even more than that, leading into it. Because a couple years ago we came up with a auction component to add to it. We have a website where people can bid on items, autographed items, experiences, tickets, all kinds of things, gift certificates, and the money goes to the center. It’s kind of like an online auction that plays throughout the week. A couple three years ago I started pulling items together for that, and that’s become a major part of it. This last year alone, the web page for the auction raised I think over $12,000 just on those items alone. That puts me in another place every year of having to get as much of that as possible, to get these items and these things that people will find enjoyable to bid on to support the center.
That, and yeah, interviewing the families, setting up guests, everything you hear on the air throughout the week I produce and I orchestrate and do all the work at the radio station, but the time flies when you love doing something. Those two months fly. The next thing you know the week is over, but it’s enjoyable. It’s enjoyable.
Lisa Belisle: How much have you managed to raise?
Mark Curdo: As of this past year, last year was our biggest year yet. Each year luckily, it’s increased. That’s the one thing, being this close to doing this kind of charity work, something that continues year after year, the one thing I’ve noticed is that you monitor how it comes along year after year, which I want to stay away from. I just, because all I can do is what I do. The results are sometimes out of my grips, and I can only just do my work, but as it goes on you have to, you follow the numbers. Each year for me it’s like, can we at least beat last year? That’s just the one thing. This past December, the 9th year, we did just around $67,000. That’s brought the total to, I think it’s somewhere around just over $350,000 in nine years. It’s pretty neat.
Lisa Belisle: Being that this is going to be your decade celebration, do you have anything special planned for this year?
Mark Curdo: I guess I’d be revealing by answering this question that we are going to do a 10th year, but you know, it would just be awful and awkward to stop at nine, wouldn’t it? Just all right, that’s it. Yeah, the plan right now is to go forward to do 10 and make it a decade, which is great timing because the center turns 30 this year. It’s the 30th anniversary for the center, so to be there for those years, it’s special.
A couple ideas. I already have my theme, I think, lined up, which is something close to me and special to me. I got a couple things I probably won’t share at this moment, but yeah, 10th year you got to do some extra fun stuff. We’ll do that.
Lisa Belisle: We’ve asked you to be a part of our upcoming Maine Live, which is, it’s a big deal for us here at 75 Market Street, Maine Magazine, Love Maine Radio, and because we only ask people that we feel very strongly have an important story to share. It’s been a commitment for you though, hasn’t it?
Mark Curdo: It has. It’s just, I guess, just in who I am, I guess, I immediately say, “Well, why me? Is this something I should be a part of?” Or, “Really, me? Why me?” It’s been an experience just kind of self-evaluating a little bit and realizing what I could offer and why I should be involved, I suppose, but I think for me being on the radio and people hearing my voice and hearing from me everyday for, coming just starting my thirteenth year, I mean, I’m not there full-time now, but, and I’ve written in publications in town and been part of stuff with you guys.
I feel like maybe people have heard enough from me or maybe there’s not as much special to talk about. I’ve shared enough with people over the years, although I never really get personal on the radio. It’s just not, that was never my style, but I just feel like maybe people have had enough of me. They’ve heard my voice enough. It’s dealing with a little bit of that and realizing no, there’s maybe still something that I can talk about here. Maybe there’s an angle here that hasn’t been presented on the radio or in print.
I suppose that’s probably just getting a little more personal about me and about growing up and who I am now and how I’ve become to be how I am and whatever I am. I think in that, that’s something I’m interested to share with people because, I think, for me it’s not a crazy or a wild, special story, but I just I think I had good upbringing. I think I learned great lessons, and I learned great values growing up that maybe at this time, this day and age, this world could be worth sharing with people again or exposing again, or having people maybe bring things back to some basics in life right now. I think maybe I can help pass along some of that.
Lisa Belisle: You grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Mark Curdo: Yes.
Lisa Belisle: You said its changed a lot since then.
Mark Curdo: Grown, grown quite a bit. In good ways, and the strip mall situation is insane. It’s so much business going on there, but it’s right across the border, so you get people coming from Massachusetts shopping tax free, and I think that’s always been a pull for Nashua for years, but Nashua is, yeah, it’s a growing city. It always felt a little bit more like Massachusetts. It’s a little bit busier than a New Hampshire city, just because there’s always been so much going on there and such a huge population, and obviously being right there on the borderline. You’re kind of into Massachusetts, and you draw from a lot of those folks that come in and work in New Hampshire as well, too, and vice versa.
No regrets. I didn’t have much of a say, because I was younger, but no regrets. It was great growing up there. I think it was a good city and a good time for me and then when it was time to get up and out, then I started making moves and exploring different parts of the northeast, and we’d always had ties to Maine with my family. My mom, her side, her aunt and uncle owned a bed-and-breakfast in Kennebunkport for years. My mom and her sisters, my mom’s one of nine, so her and her sisters would come up and they’d be chamber maids and work there throughout the summer. She’s always had ties to the Kennebunk area with her aunt and uncle living up there.
Then in the early 80s we started to vacation in the Ogunquit-Wells area. Then my family has had a place there for some years. Then I ended up going to college at St. Joseph’s college in the early 90s. I’ve kind of, I feel like I’ve been very Maine-based, I’d say, for a good part of the past 25 years, plus, I suppose, a little bit of time away. I took this little side step to New Jersey for a minute, work in music, but yeah, that ran its course quick. It was nice to be down there for a minute, to be around the craziness and to be a part of things that I would never be a part of up here, but it was nice to get back to New England, especially northern New England. I’m more close to Massachusetts, seacoast, New Hampshire, Maine scene. For some reason it’s more New Englandey to me. Being close to the water, I enjoy that.
Lisa Belisle: Tell me about your musical taste. It seems like music has been very important to you over the years, and you mentioned a variety of different types of music that go on during the Mark-a-Thon, possibly, given other people’s tastes. What about yours?
Mark Curdo: It may sound cliché to say, but I’m across the board like a lot of people. I think as you come along in life, you get open to music, and you have people that bring music into your life and you get used to and grow into and life plays along with the soundtrack. For me, when I was young in my earlier years, I was exposed to such a variety of music at a very young age, that I think for me, that kept my mind open and kept an appreciation for music that I’ll always maintain. I had big band swing music with my grandparents when I was younger, so Glenn Miller and Count Basie and a lot of the singers, too. Mel Torme and Tony Bennett and Sinatra. My mom loved a lot of 50s, early rock and roll, so Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison. She liked a lot of the singers, too, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and stuff. I listened to a lot of that when I was younger.
My dad always loved a lot of bands with horns, because he was kind of a drum and bugle guy, so Earth Wind & Fire, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, all that stuff, Wings, too, and just big bands with great songs a lot when I was younger. One of my cousins was into new wave and disco and post punk stuff, so the Knack, Blondie, Devo, all this stuff. I had another cousin who was into classic rock or the corporate rock then, Journey, Cheap Trick, Boston, Styx, all that stuff. I heard a lot of big rock when I was younger. Pretty wide range by the time you’re seven years old.
Then as you get older and you get into school and you’re in a more social setting with other friends, my friends they’re into heavy metal and my friends that I started to breakdance with in 1983-84. The one thing I’m proud of is I never, even at a younger age, I never worried about my musical interests. If I liked something, I liked it. I didn’t make any excuses for it. I think a lot of people when they’re younger, they’re embarrassed to say they like something. I never felt that way.
I encourage people to try to live that way. Even as they get older they might feel embarrassed that they’re listening to something cheesy. I think you embrace it. If you love music, shout about it. Talk about it. Don’t hold back the things that you like, and you got to roll the window up and sing along to this Sheena Easton song, or Laura Branigan song. Let it out. I think that’s part of the enjoyment of music, is you’re singing along. You’re letting something out. You’re showing that emotion, that spirit. Don’t bottle it up. Chance are the other person might like that stuff, too, and they’re not saying anything about it. We’ve always kind of, I think people maybe held their cheesy music close to them and not shared it with people. I think you got to share it.
Everything, I collect music, so I’m all over the place…. Except, once again, maybe I’m not the only one in this, but new country. That’s it. That’s it. For almost every genre of music, to just have one, I think that’s not bad. New country, I just can’t, I can’t do it. I see the success of it. I’m blown away. It’s unbelievable. There’s amazing musicians in it. Pretty much everybody in country music looks good. Everything, the guys are handsome, the girls are beautiful. They put on great shows. They’re stealing the rock show from the rest of the world. They’re putting on fireworks, and they get the big stages. You go up to Darling’s Waterfront up there and they’re doing, all the sellouts are usually country shows. I just, I can’t. I can’t do it. There’s just something missing in the music for me. I don’t feel it’s…. There’s something soulful. There’s an honesty. There’s something real that I think is lacking for me in new country. Old country, classic country, of course. I love Merle Haggard, George Jones, obviously Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, all that stuff.
That’s it. Other than that, jazz, metal, reggae, soul, Motown, I love. I love oldies, 80s, yeah.
Lisa Belisle: It seems that it used to be that music divided people generationally because of, maybe, because of the technology, I guess. I know that what I remember of my parents liking Simon & Garfunkel, and I guess the Beatles, and I think of listening to “Hey Jude” on the turntable, but now it’s as if, when I talk to my own children, they will like things and I’ll be like, “Oh, I like that too. That’s so interesting.” I will bring up the name of someone and I’ll say, “Have you heard of this person?” They’re like, “Of course.” The person is 30 years old, which I love, because it also, it’s an interesting new way to connect with people. The generational divide isn’t as stark, I think, as it once was.
Mark Curdo: Sure, sure. I like to hope that it’s a lot for younger people going back and being adventurous and looking for that older stuff. As you get older, when you hear something about it or you hear somebody mention about it, or you hear a clip, you start to go back and you research and you find those artists. I like to think it’s that. I think that a lot of people, a lot of music is, I want to say revived, but I think you have current artists that may, their sound maybe hearkens back to people that they were influenced by, and it brings it forward in a new way. If you’re listening to, pull up something, you’re listening to Jeff Buckley in recent years, and he has elements of 60s and folk and Led Zeppelin and Nick Drake and maybe Simon & Garfunkel and all those things. You kind of take that trip back where you investigate their influences and what’s made them become what they are. I think that’s something that happens.
Also, I think that there’s a nostalgia thing, and there’s a throwback love that we have these days that it’s kind of cool to go back to look to things that instantly younger people might think is silly and hokey, but then when they uncover it they go, “Whoa, this is actually pretty freaking cool. This stuff sounds great.”
I think that’s a good thing, because I am seeing myself as we go forward with technology and devices and gadgets. I have the stuff, I have players and pods and pads and phones, whatever. I play along with a lot of the current wave of stuff, but I find myself trying to constantly hold on to things too that connects me to what was before and what was maybe a little bit more real. I think you see more record shops opening up, places that sell old video games and old comic books and things like that. I think those things are going to grow as we go forward. I think that people still like to somehow have their hand on the opportunity to still, say live in the past, but still enjoy those things that we enjoyed before.
I think a lot of this technology comes with this swipe-and-erase mentality of what’s next. No, that’s done and away with. No, you can’t have that anymore. No way. I can live with having a million songs on my phone for convenience, but if I’m sitting at home or if I’m with some friends, I want to put on that record that’s going to sound better.
Lisa Belisle: I’m really intrigued to hear what you’re going to talk about at Maine Live, which is coming up very soon. For people who are interested, we will make available links to the Center for Grieving Children and the Mark-a-Thon information. Of course that’ll be next summer, but we’re all going to be waiting with bated breath to see what happens on the tenth anniversary. I really appreciate this conversation, the time you’ve taken to come in, the time you’ve taken to do Maine Live with us, because it’s a very important and I think there’s something about just the story that people put so much effort into. Anyone who’s listening who wants to hear more about you, Mark Curdo, can come to Maine Live. I’ve been speaking with Mark Curdo who’s been hosting the Mark-a-Thon, his annual week long radio show fundraiser for the Center for Grieving Children since 2008. Thanks a lot.
Mark Curdo: Yeah, thank you.