Wyclef Benefit Draws Clapton, Houston

Eric Clapton, Destiny's Child among performers for Wyclef Jean Foundation

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Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and Destiny's Child are among the first group of performers confirmed for a benefit concert for the Wyclef Jean Foundation, Jean announced at a press conference in New York City Tuesday. Jean will also perform along with reggae legends Third World and teen opera singer Charlotte Church at the Carnegie Hall event, which will take place Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m. ("not ghetto time," Jean joked). Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Wyclef Jean Foundation, Jean's charity that aids music-minded teenage students.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I was like, 'One of these days, I'm gonna play Carnegie Hall,'" Jean said of his choice of venue. "This is the first time in history that you get a kid from a hip-hop background headlining Carnegie Hall . . . We told them we'd play things likeFrank Sinatra."

Jean had just returned from a visit to England where he had asked Clapton to participate. According to Jean, he has written a new original tune that he will perform with Clapton, and the guitarist will also perform some of his own material.

Jean also presented three teens from his foundation, between the ages of fifteen and seventeen; each performed a short piece of music. The Wyclef Jean Foundation currently has fourteen teens among its ranks. When selected by the Foundation, the youths receive a new instrument, are assigned a mentor, receive lessons and attend summer music camp. According to Jean the broader spectrum of academic progress is also stressed. Jean's high school music teacher, Valerie Price, whose class he says "kept me out of trouble," was also in attendance. "Music is very important in the schools," he said. "If it's lost, a portion of the kids won't know where to turn to. Without my chorus class, I wouldn't be here."

Jean says that while the scope of the Foundation is currently rooted in his home turf in the New York City and nearby New Jersey area, he hopes to gradually expand its reach to become "universal." "It's about self-esteem," he said. "You have to know who Duke Ellington is, and Miles Davis and Muddy Waters. For a kid to play Miles Davis and then listen to Jay-Z and then turn to Bach, he's walking away with a broader mind-scope."

Jean said that there will definitely be a recording tied in to the performance, but claims that he's still in negotiations with Carnegie Hall (which has strict regulations with regards to broadcasts) for any sort of video or Webcast footage to be filmed or broadcast.

Tickets for the event span a broad spectrum of prices. "Hood prices," as Jean called the more affordable tix, will be $85 and $150 and available through the Carnegie Hall box office (212-247-7800). VIP ticket packages are also available. A $500 single VIP ticket also includes admission to a post-performance party. For $1,000, a ticketholder may join the performers at a catered reception as well as the post-performance party. Eight-seat boxes may also be purchased with the perks of the thousand-dollar tix for $8,000. Jean said that he hopes the event will raise upwards of $250,000 for his Foundation.

Jean claims that the venue, as well as the musical diversity that his program promotes, was reflected in his choice of guests. "In high school, I grew up playing jazz and gospel, but hip-hop was my thing. But that's not going to cut it at Carnegie Hall. I was looking for an eclectic vibe. It's mixing the current with the way music started. The styles will start with the 1950s and go to 2000. It's gonna bug you out."

For more information on the Wyclef Jean Foundation, go to www.wyclefjeanfoundation.org.

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