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Let the music keep their spirits high

by Ogi Overman

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When two young people fall in love, the path before them is supposed to be strewn with lilies and tulips and sweetness and light. The storybook should carry them into old age, arm in arm and side by side, and end with “happily ever after.”

But sometimes God or the Universe or fate or whatever belief system one subscribes to has other ideas. Sometimes the fairy tale turns into a nightmare. Sometimes the only part that unfolds according to the script is the “arm in arm and side by side” part.

The life Jeremy Wood and Alison Perkins had laid out for themselves revolved around music. It was music that brought them together, music that sustained them and, as it turns out, music that will help them through the challenges that have befallen them. After a serendipitous meeting and genuine storybook romance (more on that later), the two were married on May 22, 2011. They formed a jazz duo, appropriately called Serendipity, which, combined with her day job as a school teacher at Claxton Elementary in Greensboro and his regular gig as guitarist/vocalist/songwriter with the rapidly rising Americana group Sourwood Sweet, provided them with enough income to buy a home and begin talking about raising a family. Life was good and getting better.

Then, in late February all that changed.

With virtually no warning, Alison was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer, glioblastoma. Suddenly the music they’d made for others was reduced to lullabies and love songs to each other. And now, almost two years to the day after their wedding, music is playing another role in their lives.

As is generally the case, musicians take care of one another, and this Sunday, May 19, a good number of them will rise to the occasion for a benefit concert in Alison’s honor. It is billed “Mayday Review, SOS (Save Our Singer) Benefit” and will be held at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, from 2-10 p.m. (See below for schedule.)

“We have seven truly top-notch bands lined up,” said organizer Faye Petree, Jeremy’s bandmate in Sourwood Sweet. “This is what we do when one of our own is in need. Although the proceeds will go toward her cancer treatment, it’s more of a show of love and support for her and for Jeremy.”

Alison, a Cary native and graduate of Apex High, entered the UNCG classical music program, but after falling in love with the torch songs of Ella Fitzgerald and jazz renderings of Louis Armstrong, grew weary of the constraints of the operatic world, changed majors and graduated with a degree in graphic design. She soon met a group of like-minded souls at an open jam and formed a band they called Kind of Blue, after the Miles Davis standard. They submitted one of their original songs, “Will You Ever Know,” to the WB Network hit show “Dawson’s Creek,” and it was accepted and subsequently aired on an episode.

The story of how the Woods met is the stuff of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Jeremy was playing an ice-cream social at his church when he was introduced by a mutual friend to “this beautiful blond school teacher who happened to sing jazz.” The two hit it off and decided to meet a week later to rehearse some tunes on the outside chance that there might be some musical magic to be made. During the rehearsal, Jeremy got a phone call for a last-minute job and asked Alison if she wanted to join him. She accepted, and the two played the “Do you know this one?” game the entire show.

“We not only pulled it off but we sounded pretty good,” recalled Jeremy. “So our first date turned out to be our first gig. We played until everyone had left and then had a candlelit dinner all by ourself. That night set the tone for the rest of our lives.”

Shortly after Alison’s grim diagnosis, Jeremy penned a poignant letter to his soulmate. It ended, “Our daily struggles are vast, but the one thing that has kept us connected is our love, and the love and gift of music. We continue to sing to each other through our trials and tribulations. Alison contains a light which I have never known and a strength that is undaunted in the face of our challenges. Her strength has given me the strength to be the man who will be by her side during this fight.”

MAYDAY REVIEW LINEUP  SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2 P.M. BLIND TIGER, GREENSBORO

Double H Bluegrass — 2-2:45p.m. Martha Bassett — 3-3:45 p.m. Sam Frazier —4-4:45 p.m. Gooseberry Jam — 5-5:45 p.m. Sourwood Sweet — 6-6:45 p.m. The Backburners — 7-7:45 p.m. ESP — 8-8:45 p.m. Pizza Jamz, hosted by Casey Cranford and Derek Cobb — 9 p.m. until?

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