WOODSTOCK – In the early years, Sam Jones remembers something stirring inside her while she watched her son, not even 10 years old, perform songs to honor a man she hoped he'd learn to emulate.
Jones didn't last long in the seats. She will join her now-16-year-old, Jacob Goldberg, in the house band for the sixth time this Sunday at the 12th annual Music 4 Martin event at Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road, Woodstock. The event, which begins at 3:30 p.m., is an annual musical celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
Jones first saw the event as an opportunity to bring closer to her son the lessons of a man she admires.
"I wanted to instill some of the same principles Martin Luther King was trying to preach about to my son," she said. "I wanted him to understand that we're all the same, we're all connected, we're all brothers and sisters in this world and it doesn't matter your race or your color or your religion."
Keeping the I-Have-A-Dream visionary's ideas alive have been a focal point of the event since organizers thought it up a dozen years ago.
"We are trying to say that the physical body is gone, but the things that he taught us, the philosophy, is still there and will always be there," said Ken West, an organizer who helped start Music 4 Martin 12 years ago. "We will always benefit from heeding those messages."
During the performance, the house band as well as individual and small-group performers play and sing songs chosen specifically to honor and keep alive King's words.
Youth introduce the tunes and explain how they relate to King.
"It gives a positive message to all those who go," said Kassandra Salgado, 20, who has participated for seven years. "It's celebrating the life of an amazing man."
West said a couple additions have been made to the lineup this year, including a horns section to the band. The event will also include a "unity chant," where the band will start a simple verse for others to learn.
"As the people learn it, they will join in," West said. "We will literally create a sense of community in the room."