Forty years ago Dr. Karl Skoreki trained in nephrology in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. During his time there, he noticed that many members of the same family were contracting kidney disease, a condition that was poorly understood at the time. During his career Dr. Skorecki continued to study genetic predisposition to the disease. He and other researchers have since determined that the illness, which can devolve into kidney failure, disproportionately affects African Americans, who are four to five times more likely to contract the disease and to die from its effects.
On Thursday, August 22, the three-day On the Vine musical event begins at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. The musical celebration is designed to raise money and awareness to prevent kidney disease, which affects about one in 10 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
At the event, Dr. Skorecki will be presented with a Vine Award in recognition of his research on kidney disease. Dr. Skorecki is director of medical and research development at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, where he has identified the principal genetic variation responsible for the prevalence of the disease in certain communities.
At least two of the On the Vine performers have personal stakes in the prevention of kidney disease. Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat (King) Cole, is a kidney disease survivor. Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds, musician, performer and producer, experienced the hardships of the disease recently when his mother died from complications of cancer of the kidney.
Mr. Edmonds, who has been to the Vineyard only once for a weekend trip, is anxious to return. He will bring his band and perform a medley of songs from his career, including those written for Boyz II Men, Johnny Gill and After 7. Mr. Edmonds, 54, does not tour widely now but he does perform weekend engagements with regularity. His last major tour was in 1995. Since then he’s been busy mentoring and producing other artists, and writing award-winning music. He has won 10 Grammy Awards. Currently, he’s working with Toni Braxton, a six-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and musician whose next record will be out in early December.
Throughout his career, Mr. Edmonds has participated in charity concerts, but this is the first for kidney research.
“The one blessing is that I have something that I can do to help raise awareness and money as well,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be able to share your blessings.”
Saturday’s performance will also feature Natalie Cole and Miri Ben-Ari, with whom he has performed once before. On Thursday night, Smokey Robinson is the headliner.
The producers of On the Vine want to reach the Vineyard summer crowd to raise awareness about kidney disease.
“We want to get them vetted behind the concept of supporting kidney disease research,” said Dennis Shortt, executive producer of the event. They have already begun planning for another event next year. “We hope this builds into a wonderful relationship,” Mr. Shortt said. Though a third performance of jazz music had originally been scheduled, that portion of the event has been cancelled due to lack of interest. This surprised Mr. Shortt.
“One would have thought with the age group and the target, we would have been spot-on,” he said. “But it just didn’t grab.”
Instead, some of the jazz musicians will play in a jam session at the Island Bar & Grill on Circuit avenue on Friday evening. The jam session is free of charge.
Tickets for On the Vine can be purchased through their website, onthevineevents.com.