An instrument of change: Tommy Holland continues tradition of musical gifts for local children

Tommy Holland and Friends Musical Toy and Benefit Concert will take place at Coach’s Corner starting at 6 p.m. on Sat., Nov 27.

A charitable music lover born and raised in Savannah, Tommy Holland has been hosting his “Tommy Holland and Friends Musical Toy and Benefit Concert” for the past six years as a charitable way to get musical instruments in children’s hands. In addition to charity, he has worked in sales and construction on and off throughout his life. 

Holland says this year’s event will feature a lot of great local musicians and will include the giveaway of instruments that haven’t been gifted in the past.

This is your sixth year hosting the benefit concert, tell me a little bit more about how this event got started

The benefit originally started at Bar Food when I was playing with my band at Coffee Deli every Wednesday night. It actually started as “Tommy Holland and Friends Birthday Bash and Musical Toy Drive” because my birthday fell on the same day as the event that year. From there the benefit grew so for the last three years we’ve hosted it at Coach’s Corner. 

I lost my father when I was 14 years old and it was a very odd time in my life, but music was and always has been kinda my outlet. I had a guitar and I used to go down to the church on the corner, even when they weren’t open, and sit on the ground and play. Music helped change the direction of my life. Or maybe just irritated the neighbors! But, regardless, music helped me and I think it’s really beneficial for kids. Music also incorporates the sciences: the math, the english, the history, all of it. And it’s been around since the dawn of time. 

What kinds of instruments will you be giving away this year?

We’re giving away some pretty nice starter instruments this year! In the past we’ve bought acoustic guitars, keyboards, and ukuleles. This year we are actually giving away a few electric guitars and amplifiers, harmonicas, recorders, and anything else we can get our hands on. 

In addition to that, we’re also doing something else a little different this year. Portman’s Music Store is getting a certificate put together that we will send with the instruments and the recipients will be offered a seminar that will take place sometime in January that will give them an introduction to their instrument. 

Part of the money that we will be collecting we’re going to hold and recipients of those we will also receive a letter offering several free lessons. So, we’ll actually be able to track the kids and follow them. If they’re not getting the help that they need, we’ll be able to offer it to them.

Have you already started fundraising? 

It’s funny because I accidentally started the fundraiser online six weeks ago. And before I could delete it somebody donated $55 and it’s up over $2,700 now! It’s incredible and I’m anticipating a really great turnout this year. 

The Savannah High School class of 1974 has tagged a mini reunion on this year’s event, how did this come about?

We have some really great bands performing at the event and one of those bands is “The Mixups.” The guys in the band have actually been in a band together since elementary school. I remember seeing them when I was in the sixth grade at Charles Ellis. They also played at a friend of mine’s birthday party. 

The band is incorporating several members of the Savannah High School Class of 1974 and because of that they have tagged a mini-reunion on to our event. I think this is the third or fourth time these guys have played since elementary school, so it’s pretty cool.

In addition to “The Mixups” there are several other great bands performing at the event. Tommy Holland and Friends will be the grand finale, and I’m desperately seeking friends now! 

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

I’m a huge fan of The Byrds. I saw Roger McGwin twice back in the day on River street. He just did an acoustic set but the furthest you could get away from the stage was 25 feet. It was upfront, very personal, and totally incredible. I was actually working at the place where the concert was held at the time (it’s no longer open) and I was able to get his autograph after one of the concerts! 

It was extra special for me because my two cousins both played the guitar and they introduced me to the Byrds when I was 13 or 14 years old. So, as a huge Byrds fan it was really awesome to get his autograph!

Do you write your own music?

I do! But, it’s not very good (laughs). I play and sing and have a good time with it! I prefer playing for free so nobody can complain! 

What’s one thing that’s on your bucket list?

Recording a song! I always tell people that I’d like to at least get one song recorded before I die! I just want it documented. I’ve got a couple of songs uploaded on Youtube but nothing in record format. I’ve also ironically enough never been to Little Tybee! So I guess that would be on my bucket list as well.

Tommy Holland and Friends Musical Toy and Benefit Concert will take place at Coach’s Corner starting at 6 p.m. on Sat., Nov 27. For more information or to register visit eventbrite.com and search for the event. To make donations to the toy drive visit Facebook and search for “6th Annual Tommy Holland and Friends Musical Toy Drive” page or donate through Zelle to htholland1965@comcast.net.


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