Friends from Cedar Rapids assembling compilation to help ‘New Roots Grow’ in their hometown

Two friends from Cedar Rapids are turning their passion for music into a way to help the city recover and regrow after last month's derecho.
Published: Sep. 20, 2020 at 11:00 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A few days after the Aug. 10 derecho devastated Cedar Rapids, Ed Bornstein drove into town from his home in Chicago to help family and friends.

“I just kind of couldn’t really believe how bad it was,” he said. “I was only able to stay for a couple days, and I ran the chainsaw and then I left it there with a buddy of mine, and I got the generators to where they needed to go.”

But when he left, Bornstein knew there was still more work to be done and more people to help, so he turned to his buddy, Andrew Cahak. A shared passion has tied the two Jefferson High School graduates together for years.

“We got to know each other from playing music in the early 2000s,” Bornstein said.

Neither of them live in Cedar Rapids anymore, with Bornstein in Chicago and Cahak in Minneapolis.

But they both felt a call to help their hometown, a city they said shaped who they are.

“I feel like it instilled in me a sort of pride of doing the right thing and that sort of thing, and to me, that’s the quintessential thing about Cedar Rapids,” Cahak said.

So they turned back to what brought them together in the first place: music.

Bornstein and Cahak are putting together a compilation, gathering songs from musicians who want to contribute to help eastern Iowa in its storm recovery.

“I thought, if we’re going to do this compilation to benefit Iowa, it’d be really great if we could try to loop in as many Iowa-based artists or artists with roots in Iowa or bands that just don’t exist anymore,” Cahak said.

Musicians can submit a song to be included on the compilation through Sept. 25 by emailing The only restrictions are that songs can’t be covers, and they can’t have hate speech.

Artists don’t need to be from Iowa, either.

“We just got a track from a band in Stuttgart, Germany, that none of us know,” Cahak said.

“Yeah, that’s wild,” Bornstein added.

Starting Oct. 2, people will be able to purchase, stream, and download the compilation through the website Bandcamp.

“It’s gonna be pretty eclectic,” Bornstein said, as Cahak echoed, “It’s going to be very eclectic.”

People who want to buy the compilation can donate whatever amount they want to purchase it.

The project will raise money for two organizations: Trees Forever, which is working to rebuild the area’s damaged tree canopy, and the Intercultural Center of Iowa, which is helping members of Cedar Rapids' refugee population get back on their feet.

While it will be available for download through Nov. 6, Cahak and Bornstein are encouraging people to buy the compilation the first day it’s available, Oct. 2. On the first Friday of each month, Bandcamp waives its own fees, so the maximum amount of money possible will go to the two organizations.

Bornstein said none of the musicians featured, nor the label producing the compilation, Money Tapes, will receive money from sales of the compilation, which they’ve titled “New Roots Grow.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do: We’re trying to build upon what we’ve got and reinforce who Iowans are, what Iowa is, and how we help each other through these times, and that’s by digging in and really doing what we can for one another,” Cahak said.

Because for two buddies from Cedar Rapids, the roots that tie them to their hometown will always be strong.

“You learn in a town like Cedar Rapids, that when people need help, you help them,” Bornstein said.

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