Although Reverend Penni Honey and her congregation at Unity of Flagstaff volunteer at the Flagstaff Family Food Center each month and during holidays, she wanted to do more.
“Their shelves tend to get really low during the summer and there are a lot of kids that rely on the food,” Honey said.
Taking a fun approach to fundraise for the nonprofit, Unity of Flagstaff presents “Music in the Studio,” featuring Lucky Lenny and touring singer-songwriter Daniel Nahmod, today, Sunday, July 14, at 1:14 p.m. The concert will be held at Unity, located in Tranzend Studio, 417 W. Santa Fe Ave. Tickets are $10, free for children 10 and under. Proceeds benefit the Flagstaff Family Food Center; attendees will receive a ticket for a non-alcoholic drink when they donate a can of food. Lunch and snacks will be available for purchase. Visit www.UnityOfFlagstaff.org or www.danielnahmod.com for more information.
Honey joined Unity of Flagstaff this past October and quickly inserted herself in the community, hiring Shawn Dennehy of local bluegrass group Lucky Lenny as her music director and participating in events such as the raising of the Pride flag at Flagstaff City Hall in June. She grew up in the Midwest and lived in Phoenix for around 30 years, but regularly commuted to Flagstaff the last seven of those years to be a guest speaker at Unity.
“People would tell me, ‘You’re such a natural for this community,’” she said. “This just feels right, getting everyone involved.”
Nahmod and Honey have known each other for years—Nahmod’s music is widely used at Unity churches around the world and he performed many times for Honey’s previous congregation in Phoenix, but it took six years of “pretending to be a computer programmer” for Nahmod to realize what he was meant to do with his life.
“I ignored my passion until I was 27,” he said. “I tried to push it aside but failed to suppress the thing that makes me much more happy than anything else, besides my wife and little boy.”
The son of two lawyers, Nahmod grew up in Chicago and earned a degree in economics, following the straight-laced career path he thought he was supposed to take. Now more than 20 years later, he lives in California and just recently released his 20th album.
“The music that makes a room feel better, music that makes the world a little happier, more peaceful, that’s the music that comes more naturally to me,” he said.
His uplifting music features relatable lyrics sung within a wide vocal range and set against skillful piano and guitar playing. His songs have been sung and recorded by thousands of soloists and congregations of all faiths around the world, although he’s a nondenominational singer. Deepak Chopra has even called his song “One Power,” which praises the idea of love inside us all, the “anthem for the New Humanity.”
Nahmod runs a recording studio in Orange County and began producing his own albums before he was approached to work on someone else’s, this self-taught ethos mimicking how he got started songwriting.
“Self-taught sounds cool, but it’s actually a slow way to learn,” he said.“When I meet the kid who knows at 15 that she wants to go to music school, I feel so happy for her and so jealous at the same time because I never knew where I belonged; I belonged somewhere where I could sleep, eat, breathe, drink music.”
Despite getting a late start on his dreams, Nahmod’s hard work since has paid off. He has sold over 110,000 CDs, and his music has been licensed by the likes of American Idol, the Super Bowl, Saturday Night Live and the Today Show.
He regularly performs for large gatherings, such as the 10,000-deep audience at Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto this past November, but he enjoys the more intimate shows as well.
“There is something special about performing for smaller audiences,” Nahmod said. “You can have a much more personal relationship with them, take requests and be more spontaneous—not just spontaneous with jokes and stories, but choosing songs on the fly is one of my favorite things to do and it’s really fun to do it with a small group.”
Nahmod’s large catalog of songs provides him with a deep well to draw from, allowing him to connect to various humanitarian causes.
“I used to make a set list before each concert and then I realized I never followed it,” he said with a laugh. “One song would lead to a story would lead to a different song, or an idea would pop into my head, or a current event would inspire a completely different kind of show than I was planning.”
A self-described “relentless smartass and goofball,” Nahmod said his approach to performances leans more toward fun.
“This is not a prayer lunch, this is not a super intense serious thing,” he said of this afternoon’s event at Unity. “The songs can be emotional, but it’s really about feeling good, so people will enjoy it if they feel like taking a chance on somebody they haven’t heard before.”