Richard Towey started playing the drums at 5 years old. At 15, he was playing professionally until he switched paths and became a businessman at 24. But the decision to leave haunted him and he often wondered what his life would’ve been like if he kept playing professionally.
Towey wanted to be involved with music again somehow and started talking with local artists and business leaders about promoting music in Bucks County.
“Music is, and arts in general really, are things that everybody has the capacity to express,” said Towey, founder of the Bucks County Music Project. “It doesn’t mean a person will suddenly be on a stage in front of 50,000 people but I really believe that everybody should take the opportunity to express themselves artistically.”
The Bucks County Music Project was launched by Towey, Jeane Vidoni, Louis Kassa and Marissa Christie in late May. Their goal is to promote music education through local partnerships and provide resources and opportunities for local musicians, giving local artists a bigger platform and boosting the local economy.
“We thought about it from the point of view of bringing resources back into Bucks County, creating the opportunity for employment, internships, elevating music, bringing emerging artists and touring musicians to the county,” Towey said.
During college, Kassa played guitar and was a lead vocalist in a band with his friends and frequently played at venues in Philadelphia, but the best part was actually rehearsing, he said.
“That’s when you can really let the creative juices flow and express yourself so that definitely, music was an outlet for me at all times,” Kassa said.
He met Towey through work and bonded over their shared love of music. While talking, Kassa realized there are several music organizations in Bucks County but something on a larger scale was needed, Kassa said.
Towey and Kassa have spent the last two years gathering support for BCMP, Kassa said.
They’ve received support from Mark Schulz, the managing director of the Philadelphia Music Alliance. Schulz was impressed with BCMP’s ambition and willingness to tackle multiple issues.
“He’s got all the people that he needs to make this work, and they’re all very excited about it. And that’s impressive in itself,” Schulz said.
Chris Clark, a local musician, is one such supporter. He often plays at Domani Star, a Doylestown restaurant, and runs Trash Culture, a guitar store also in Doylestown.
Towey came into Trash Culture one day and started talking to Clark about his ideas for BCMP. At first, Clark was “taken aback” and unsure what to think but after discussing the matter further, he got on board.
Being part of BCMP and working with Towey is great because they come from different backgrounds but their love of music brought them together and they’re aiming to do the same for others, Clark said.
“We’re trying to bring different, all different kinds of walks of life together here in the name of music, which we all love,” Clark said.
BCMP is still finding its feet and working on outreach to communities without access to instruments or lessons right now, Kassa said.
Towey added that the goal is that in the future, BCMP will team up with musicians to provide free lessons to kids in underserved communities.
Making sure kids have access to music is important because it teaches them life skills like teamwork and responsibility in addition to improving academic performance, Clark said.
“You gotta be there and you gotta do your part. If you’re the drummer and you can’t play the beat for the song, then the song doesn’t work and it sucks and you don’t have a song,” Clark said.
Exposing children to music leads to better emotional intelligence, academic performance and social skills, according to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
BCMP is also working on hosting an event series about women in music with Delaware Valley University next spring. Because women are underrepresented in music, people are missing out on potentially amazing artists and music, Towey said.
Women make up less than 30 percent of popular artists, less than 13 percent of songwriters, and less than 3 percent of producers, according to a study from the University of Southern California.
BCMP’s other goals include hosting a jazz concert with students as the opening acts for an established musician to give them exposure and building a year-round music venue that can hold between 300-400 people, Towey said.
“I just can’t imagine life without music,” Towey said. “I mean, think of a sports game or a wedding or the airport or a long car ride. Music is something that has been around since the beginning of recorded time that brought people together.”