By Jon Cronin, July 8, 2011
Rock guitarist, vocalist, social activist and lifelong Sherborn resident Chad Urmston recently played to a sold out crowd with his band Dispatch at the Boston’s TD Garden.
Patch caught up with Chad a few days after their show.
After playing at the Garden, Urmston said, “It was a trip to play there after the Bruins won [the Stanley Cup].”
His humble beginnings were in rural Sherborn where he starting playing trombone at Pine Hill Elementary School in the fourth grade and continued all the way through college.
He said at Pine Hill he was taught by Mrs. Paula Winter. “I think her name is different now,” he said he recently got a nice letter from her.
Among those who nurtured his love of music were Mr. Nolte, who taught him trombone at the middle school and Mr. Martel who taught him as the band leader and conductor in high school.
During his adolescence he started hanging out with Sherborn resident Andrew Mudge, “He taught me some chords on guitar” and, “some Pink Floyd songs,” said Urmston.
Around that time, he said, “My sister got a guitar when she was 14 and I stole it from her.”
He also started spending time with brothers Dave, Will and Chris Willis of Sherborn. “They were great,” he said. Together they started the band Electric Mayhem, an homage to the band The Muppets. He said they performed mostly covers of Black Sabbath, Cream and Aerosmith.
Urmston said of the Willis brothers, “They were the real ones who indoctrinated me into rock n’ roll.”
Before college and his success with Dispatch, Urmston went to Zimbabwe and was moved by the story of a gardener named Elias, who wanted to send his children to college.
The story moved him to write a song and the song later became the basis for the Elias Fund. Urmston helped to establish the charity which was able to help in clothe Elias’s children and help to sow a future for them. Since then the charity has expanded to help others in Zimbabwe and is now run by Urmston’s friends
Since then, Dispatch has played in concert with a Colorado band called Bongo Love and The African Children’s Choir. In both those concerts and in their most recent stint at the TD Garden, the band gave a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to charity.
Urmston said, “A dollar for every ticket sold went to Teach for America and City Year,” which he called great programs. He said, “The whole theme of this tour is the education crisis.”
Constantly seeking ways to give back, Urmston and his partner Sybil began a charity to aid gender equality across the globe called Calling All Crows.
“Sybil and I started that two and a half years ago,” he said. He calls it “a human rights organization that looks out for the gender equality of women.”
He said mostly recently they aided refugee camps in Afganistan and the Sudan. Urmston said they have raised over $100,000 through concerts with State Radio (Urmston’s other band) and fundraisers in cities around the country. He said he and Sybil have spent time in shelters around the country where they sort clothing for women.
One of Urmston’s biggest philosophical influences is the Sherborn Peace Abbey on North Main Street. Urmston said he has performed a couple of benefit shows there with his band State Radio.
“I’m a share-holder there,” he noted. “[The Abbey] really shaped my consciousness growing up here. We’ve known [founders] Lewis and Meg since we were babies,” adding, “I really look up to Lewis’s activism.”
Of his time with the Abbey, he said, “I’ve given music lessons to the kids there.” He said they also held a Calling All Crows retreat there.
He said, “It’s a spot we visit pretty often.” and noted that, “it’s tough to see them in their current financial woes.”
As for the future he said, “We have a State Radio tour in the fall and new record coming out,” and regarding his part in Dispatch, he said, “I’ll try to be in both bands.”