Interview by Jan Osborn. Photos courtesy of The Wezmore Project.
When I heard that Eddie Coker would be headlining a program at St. Philip’s School in February, I had a nostalgic moment. Could it be the same Eddie Coker who entertained our kids twenty years ago? I started asking my friends if they remembered Eddie Coker and they fondly shared their personal stories of seeing Eddie in concert. When Tyler Fleming was in the 4th grade (1996) at University Park Elementary, he had the opportunity to perform with Eddie. I recently asked Tyler to share a memory and he said “it was an awesome experience to see the inside of a recording studio and get to work with a professional musician at such a young age.”
Today, Eddie Coker is still entertaining us on the stage but has also turned his efforts into building The Wezmore Project. We thought it would be fun to catch up with Eddie and hear about what he is up to these days.
Tell us about where you grew up and how giving back was a part of your family dynamic.
I grew up in Highland Park. (For grins, see the below picture. Already singing opera *wink wink* by 4th grade!)
Both my parents were very generous with their time and money—and still are—whether it was for someone needing a hand up personally or for a charitable entity!
How have you made the shift from children’s performer into the world of philanthropy?
There really wasn’t much of a transition because philanthropy expresses the “desire to promote the welfare of others.” I took what I have been doing for 32 years, found some truly like-minded individuals who believed in our mission to help young people learn about emotional wholeness and wellness, and said: “LET’S DO THIS!”
Would you share your story of how you started The Wezmore Project and how it has grown?
I could write a novel as to the many reasons I began the nonprofit, but bottom line is I am a fan of human flourishing! What better place to start a potent dialogue as to what creates that flourishing than in childhood?
We are a young organization, but since April of 2016, over 100,000 students and over 1,500+ teachers from 225 schools around the country have participated in our live concert series. Not bad! Next steps are to create systems and networks that immerse young people into the methods we have developed to truly help build that loving, caring, resilient human being.
What stories have most impacted you during your time working with kids?
One that pops up super quick is the story of a young 4th grader who, in his own words, had zero friends in elementary school. He was awkward, shy, and did not really know how to make friends. He told me that one day this crazy kid’s entertainer named Eddie Coker came to his school. During a particularly wild part of the concert, he got up the nerve to ask a student next to him if he wanted to dance. The kid said yes. They became friends. This experience taught him how to make other friends. That kid now works with The Wezmore Project! Serendipity baby!
Tell us about your upcoming performance at St. Philip’s School.
I love this school. Neiman Marcus underwrote the very first concert I ever did for them and that was 25+ years ago! I so admire Dr. Flowers, their staff, and all the people who have helped St. Philip’s become the “shining city on the hill” that they are!
Want more serendipity? I wrote a song called WE WANNA BE THE PRESIDENT in 1997. The gist of the song centers around the desire for young people to be the president collectively. 60+ kids from St. Philip’s sang in the chorus for that recording. What address did I have to show up at to rehearse these lovely children of St. Philip’s? 1600 Pennsylvania.
How can people support your work and get involved?
If anyone is interested in underwriting a concert at their school of choice, or interested in helping to underwrite the creation of our curriculum we are at present developing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Folks can also support us financially by simply going to www.thewezmoreproject.org, select SUPPORT WEZMORE, and scroll down to the DONATE button!
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.