Alumni Band to Headline Benefit Concert for Detained Journalist

Morgan Milardo, who manages the Berklee Popular Music Institute, shares the story behind the concert and how people can help support efforts to free Evan Gershkovich, a reporter detained in Russia.

May 24, 2023

Morgan Milardo, managing director for the Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI), understands the transformative power of live music. Her course, BPMI Live, prepares students for major festival gigs across the U.S., not just as performers but as A&R reps, publicists, production assistants, and more. Prior to Berklee, she spent years managing and touring with independent bands. Now she's using those skills—and her Berklee community relationships—to organize a benefit concert for a family friend, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in Russia on March 29 while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage. The concert will take place at Taffeta in Lowell, Massachusetts, on Friday, June 23, at 8:00 p.m. We recently caught up with Milardo to learn more about the event. 

Morgan Milardo

Morgan Milardo, managing director, Berklee Popular Music Institute

Can you describe your personal connection to Evan Gershkovich?

Evan is a very close friend of my younger brother, Luke Milardo. Luke and Evan met in their freshman year at Bowdoin College; they almost immediately became great friends. They are both incredibly smart, adventurous, and hilarious. Their friend group is really special—there’s about seven or eight people in the group who are all extremely committed to each other. While the group has been living all over the globe for the past few years since they graduated, they do a great job of keeping in touch regularly and showing up for important milestones, such as weddings, funerals, and everything in between. Evan is no exception to that. While he’s been living his dream in Russia for years, he’s stayed close to those who love him back home. Luke actually just received a letter from Evan in prison. While Luke can’t share specific details, he confirms Evan is still his witty, spirited self, and seems to be doing well, given the circumstances.

Tell me a little bit about how the idea for a concert came together—music is your livelihood, but how did you conceptualize this benefit concert?

The idea for a benefit concert came from a recent conversation with my brother. Luke was telling me about how Evan loves indie music, and how one of his favorite things to do in Russia was to pop into small clubs and check out the local music scene. I just thought “Hey, I love indie music too, and happen to be pretty decent at putting on shows. How about a benefit concert?”

I believe free press is essential to a healthy and strong society. When our journalists are under attack, so is our democracy. I am proud to be raising money and awareness for these causes.

— Morgan Milardo

Around the same time, the owner of the new venue Taffeta reached out to me about having BPMI artists play at the venue. The timing was almost serendipitous. I pitched the idea, and he loved it. From there it all came together very quickly. I feel very grateful to have such amazing support from the venue, artists, and local businesses supporting the event.

What are some of the Berklee ties to the June 23 benefit concert?

Berklee alumni band Mom Rock is headlining the show, and current Berklee band Little Fuss, who are performing at Boston Calling, is joining them. Mom Rock was a BPMI artist in 2021; we booked them to perform at Music Midtown in Atlanta. They were incredibly fun to work with, and I’ve been wanting to bring them back to New England for a meaningful show for a while now. Little Fuss is a Berklee band that has been on my radar for a few years. I’m a big fan, and I’m super excited to have them on the bill. And lastly, Blue Light Bandits, a rock band from Worcester, is managed by Jonathan Bricker, an assistant professor in the Music Business/Management Department at Berklee.

Can you tell us more about where the funds for the concert are going? Why are these causes important to you and those organizing the show? 

All proceeds will be split directly between the Gershkovich family to put towards efforts to bring Evan home, and an amazing nonprofit called the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which promotes the freedom of press worldwide.  

CPJ is really important to me, as unfortunately, Evan is not the only person close to my family who has been negatively affected by attacks on free press. My oldest and dearest friend, a talented and committed public radio reporter, has also experienced serious harassment, violent vandalism, and intimidation linked to her important reporting. I believe free press is essential to a healthy and strong society. When our journalists are under attack, so is our democracy. I am proud to be raising money and awareness for these causes.

Are there any details or aspects of the benefit concert you’d like to share leading up to the event?

Yes, a few things! Thanks to the support of over a dozen local businesses, we’ll be raffling off some amazing prizes at the event, including gift cards to restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, salons, spas, and more. Additionally, every person who attends the concert will receive a coupon for a free service at a local spa, thanks to a generous donor. We’ll also have exclusive merchandise for sale, donated by a local screen printing company. All proceeds from raffles and merchandise will also be donated. It’s been amazing to see just how many people support free press and stand with Evan.  

More information about Evan can be found on the Wall Street Journal’s website

For those who are unable to attend the concert, Evan’s friends have organized many other equally important ways to support him: