Concert will raise money for beloved local music journalist who lost house, pets in fire
Musicians and bands in Wichita have come and gone over the past two decades, but what has remained consistent in the music scene during that time are the words and voice of Jedd Beaudoin.
For more than 20 years, Beaudoin has covered the local music scene, and he has hosted the KMUW radio show “Strange Currency,” where he promotes and champions local music, since 2008. Now, some of the same musicians who have been the subjects of Beaudoin’s coverage are coming together to help his family.
Beaudoin, his wife Katie Lilley-Beaudoin, and Katie’s three children barely escaped a devastating house fire at their Riverside home on April 22. The family lost nearly all their possessions, and five of their cherished cats perished. On Saturday, a benefit concert called “Night of the Living Jedd” will be staged at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre, and money from ticket sales will go to the Beaudoin-Lilley family, who are still living with relatives while they search for a new home.
The morning of the fire started with music, Lilley-Beaudoin said. Katie, a kindergarten teacher at Allen Elementary, normally sets her alarm for 5:40 a.m. Her daughter Avalin Lilley, then an eighth-grader at Mayberry Cultural Arts Magnet, would set her alarm for 6 a.m.
But that morning, Avalin, whose bedroom was on the home’s main floor, awoke to her alarm playing a song on the radio at 5:20 a.m. Her mother says Avalin doesn’t recall why her alarm went off so early or what song was playing. But instead of hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep, she got up and stepped into the living room.
The family sofa was on fire.
Avalin sprung into action. She ran back into her bedroom and awoke her younger brother Emery Lilley, 9, with whom she shared a room.
“Go wait out on the porch,” she instructed him.
Jedd and Katie’s bedroom was on the second floor of the home in a loft space towards the back of the house. Avalin ran upstairs and woke her mother, shouting “The couch is on fire!”
Jedd and Katie hurried downstairs. By then, Katie said, the couch was now fully engulfed in flames. The room was filled with smoke, and she remembers feeling a burning sensation in her esophagus.
“I could hear the smoke alarm going off,” said Katie, who had just been sitting on the couch five hours earlier.
In a nearby room slept Katie’s oldest child, Joaquin Lilley, 15. The family woke Joaquin and ordered him out of the house.
Jedd tried to pull the couch away from the wall to see if could put out the fire but immediately regretted that decision. More fire erupted from behind the couch after he pulled it away from the wall.
Katie and Jedd fled the house, followed by the family dog, Juno, and one of the cats, Bill.
Avalin had remembered to grab her cell phone, and Jedd used it to call 911.
Katie stood outside the house yelling, “My house is on fire! My cats are in there!”
Five of the family’s beloved cats had not exited with them, but by then the house was fully involved and windows were exploding. They hoped the cats could find a way to escape.
The family was dressed in nothing more than underwear. Katie had grabbed a towel to wrap around herself before fleeing the house.
All they could do was stand across the street and watch as their home, a rental, was consumed by fire. Katie recalls hearing the sirens of fire trucks in the distance as they stood and watched.
Katie and Jedd estimate it took about five to six minutes for the first fire truck to arrive. Jedd spent most of that time on the phone with the 911 operator.
Upon arrival, the firefighters immediately began putting water on the house, and Jedd remembers thinking that they’d get it under control.
“They’ll put out the fire in the living room,” he thought. “It’ll smell like burnt toast for a while.”
But Katie, who watched the fire the entire time Jedd was on the phone with 911, wasn’t nearly as optimistic.
“All I was doing was making sure the kids were by me and the dog was by me,” she said “I knew we were going to lose everything.”
Neighbors quickly mobilized to help the family. They brought clothes, food, coffee and hugs. Firefighters were not able to determine what started the fire but told the family they thought it was electrical.
Hours after the fire was out, Jedd and Katie still sat on the sidewalk, in shock, outside the home. Five cats who were the stars of both Jedd and Katie’s social media accounts — Dandelion, Hyacinth, Clementine, John and Mr. Whiskers — had perished.
The couple had no idea what to do next.
Barney Byard, the theatre director for the Orpheum who says he’s long been aware of Jedd’s impact on the local music community, heard about the fire and wasted no time coming up with a way to help the family.
“He’s just been fully immersed in the Wichita music and culture scene pretty much as long as I can remember. As far as I’m concerned, even though he hasn’t made a movie yet, he’s Wichita’s Cameron Crowe,” Byard said, referring to the famous Rolling Stone writer and movie director. “Long before he was on KMUW with ‘Strange Currency,’ I was reading his stuff and his stuff was Rolling Stone-caliber in terms of the intelligence, the base of musical history and experience on which he was drawing.”
With the help of Beaudoin’s employer, KMUW, Byard began organizing a benefit concert. He knew he’d have no problem finding musicians willing to take the stage to help Jedd and his family.
“In almost real time, you can marshal up a bunch of good people to do an immediate and tangible good thing for folks that you care about and are in need,” Byard said.
In less than 36 hours, Byard had the lineup set.
The Saturday show will feature music from Rudy Love Jr., The Cavves and an acoustic set by Terry Quiett and Guinn Walker, who will be joined by Dustin Arbuckle. In addition to the music, the show will include a silent auction featuring items from a host of local artists and merchants. All the musicians are foregoing payment so that proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Lilley-Beaudoin family. Tickets are available at selectaseat.com/jed22, where people also can make donations.
Weeks after the fire, Katie said she is still heartbroken about artwork she lost, including pieces done by her father that adorned the walls of their home. Jedd held a personal archive containing music made in Wichita by Wichita musicians over the past two decades. All that’s gone now.
Mostly though, the heartbreak of losing their pets haunts them the most.
But both Jedd and Katie say that the support from friends and strangers has been overwhelming. Kindergartners from Katie’s classroom and her former students from her time as a para educator at Riverside Elementary showered her with love when she returned to work. Jedd received calls from musicians around the world who at one time or another played on a stage in Wichita.
“We have not had to ask,” Katie said. “People have overwhelmed us with help. It’s been the biggest blessing to just have people give without even asking.”
NIGHT OF THE LIVING JEDD
What: A benefit concert featuring Rudy Love Jr., The Cavves, Quiett & Walker and Dustin Arbuckle
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway
Tickets: $30 at selectaseat.com/jedd22
This story was republished with permission from The Wichita Eagle.