A tricycle that pulls a piano? Joybox Express brings music to MSU to raise money for charities
July 6 — Most people probably haven’t seen a 352 pound piano being towed down the street by a giant tricycle, but if you’re in East Lansing Thursday, you can not only witness this bizarre phenomenon, but you can also join in on the fun.
The Joybox Express, a quartet of musicians that carry their instruments on their bicycles while traveling the state, will be holding a charity bike ride through the Michigan State University campus. The traveling band, which uses a piano, a string bass, an electric guitar, a full drum set and a fiddle to play jazz and blues music, also raises money for charitable organizations that focus primarily on bringing arts and athletics to children.
“It was apparent to me that kids were having a harder and harder time getting access to those kinds of programs due to funding,” said Mark Braun, the leader and founder of the Joybox Express, more commonly known as Mr. B. “I thought I would start to make a little noise about that with my program,” he added.
And he has been making noise since 2009 when he created the Joybox Express. Mr. B said he has spent his whole life around people who help other people, and he decided that he wasn’t doing enough of that himself. He was also driven by his desire to combine the things he loves into a new way of raising funds and awareness while having some new adventures.
“I was interested in trying to wed two life passions — art and athletics,” he remembers. “So I came up with idea of creating large bicycle that can carry a piano.”
He had a custom tricycle made, which he describes as a “hand-crafted, one-of a kind vehicle” that is capable of carrying his 352-pound instrument. This unique velocipede can support up to three riders at a time to help move heavy loads of up to 1,100 pounds down the road.
But even with the help of a specially made vehicle, it isn’t easy to tote a giant piano, a drum set and other instruments for hours on end through the hot sun. Along the way on their travels, they stop at set points to play concerts before continuing on their journey. In effect, they combine aspects of a charity benefit concert and a bike marathon into one unique package. “We’re demonstrating a lot of athleticism and a lot of arts,” Mr. B explained. “We’re putting those on display to show the public their importance.”
The ride begins at 10:30 a.m. and will be stopping at noon at the MSU School of Music for a concert.People who wish to donate or participate can choose a charity for which they want to collect funds and then download a pledge form from the website www.joyboxexpress.com.
Since its foundation in 2009, Mr. B estimates that the Joybox Express has helped raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for various charitable foundations, such as the Chelsea Center for the Arts, the Trails Edge Camp for Ventilator-Dependent Children, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and more. Each year since its creation, its efforts have been expanding. “The first year was modest, at 150 miles and raising money for four small charities. Last year we rode 300 miles and supported 15 charities. This year, we’re aiming for 350 miles,” Mr. B explained. “It’s an unusual concept and we’re not extremely well known yet.”
His plans for next year are even more ambitious; The Joybox Express will travel the entire length of the Mississippi river, from north to south, between September and December. “We hope that we can be a catalyst for people’s notion of giving. We want to encourage people through our efforts.”