By SUSAN LEATHERS – Brentwood Home Page

In December, Jo Dee Messina sang with the full Nashville Symphony. In two weeks, she’ll be backed by a much smaller ensemble from the Grammy Award-winning orchestra and a few members of her own band when she headlines this year’s Music & Memories benefit concert at the FiftyForward Martin Center. Jo Dee Messina performs at the 2010 CMA Music Fest. She returns to the Riverfront Stage on Friday, and headlines Music & Memories on June 29. Photo courtesy of CMA

Messina is no stranger to benefit concerts and appearances. In fact, the Grammy-nominated country singer/songwriter has made giving back a priority in recent years. On May 12, she flew to Maryland to perform in this year’s “America’s Veterans – A Musical Tribute” along with the United States Air Force Band, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, legendary jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and others that PBS will broadcast on Veteran’s Day.

In 2009 and again in 2010, she performed two free holiday concerts in Brentwood that benefitted Harvest Hands Community Development Corporation in south Nashville.

She was the keynote speaker at the Williamson County Red Cross fundraising breakfast hosted by Brentwood Baptist Church last month.

And almost every hour these days that’s not spent practicing with her band, performing or playing with her 2-year-old son Noah is spent working on her latest project, A Million Doors. Messina is lending her time and efforts to help raise funds to build a free-standing building for the Holy Trinity Montessori School.

“That literally is my life right now,” she said. In fact, she is scheduled to appear on NBC’s Today show at 10 a.m. today and is working on other national appearances to promote it. Everyone who makes a donation to the cause gets a free copy of her new single, “Carry Me.”

She’s also scheduled to perform at 11 a.m. Friday on the Riverfront Stage during the CMA Music Fest in downtown Nashville.

On June 29, she’ll be the star at The Martin Center and she said she’s excited to have the opportunity there. “It’s supposed to be like we’re visiting in your living room,” she said. “No one will be a stranger.” She added she’s also looking forward to the private meet-and-greet “VIP Reception” that takes place prior to the 7 p.m. concert.

“The social portion is going to be so great and comfortable,” she said.

The music shouldn’t be shabby either.

Messina was mysterious when asked what will be on the program. “I’m not telling you,” she said. But she did reveal that over the course of the evening she’ll sing “my songs, a couple of cover tunes and at least a few old standards.” Those hits could include “Bring on the Rain,” “Bye Bye” “I’m Alright,” “Lesson in Leavin’,” and “Because You Love Me.” La Marchina The symphony players – including principal cellist Anthony La Marchina — will have the toughest duty, Messina said. She gave a special shout out to Jim Grey, their arranger.

“He has to chart all of these songs out and do all the parts – each for a different instrument. I just go in and do my thing,” said the singer, who has won CMA and ACM awards and sold more than a million albums.

Tickets to the VIP reception and concert, which includes wine and hors d’oeuvres, are $85. Tickets for the concert only are $50 and include wine during intermission. Due to the number of musicians performing, space is limited to only 230 total concert tickets.

BancorpSouth is the event’s title sponsor, with American Constructors, Austin Funeral & Cremation Services, Cool Springs Wines and Spirits, Giandi’s Catering, The Heritage at Brentwood, The Mick Foundation and Vanderbilt Health Services signing on as patrons.

The Martin Center’s goal is to raise $30,000 to go toward general operating costs with hopes of extending operating hours and evening programming. The Center serves individuals, ages 50 plus, who desire to remain actively engaged in their community.

For more information, or to order tickets (Visa/Mastercard accepted), please click on or call (615) 376-0102.