HomeBlogsmagnolia's blogA Cappella’s Support of Virginia Tech

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The news first came to me by way of a friend over Instant Messenger to the effect of, “Did you hear about the shooting on campus? Apparently they have not found the guy yet and he’s loose on campus”.

I reasoned that it couldn’t be so bad, someone probably got angry and overreacted over something personal. But because I didn’t yet have all the details, I still felt the need to contact my friends and make sure they were ok.

The rest of that day was filled with text messages from friends locked down in campus buildings, and me eventually leaving work just so I could watch TV for any news updates and make phone calls. What was I to do? I was 200 miles a way, with everything out of my control.

Time passed and all of the tragic details eventually came out. We all reeled with shock and grief at the sheer enormity of the tragedy, yet it seemed everyone was trying everything they could to give their support; sharing stories, offering comfort and saying much needed prayers.

It was at that time, as things were starting to settle down, that I began to search within myself to try to figure out what, if anything, I could possibly do to help all my fellow Hokies at Virginia Tech.

The idea:

The A Cappella groups on Virginia Tech’s campus have always made an effort to get together during times of need to put on benefit performances to raise money for worthy causes. The Virginia Tech a cappella community has put on successful benefit concerts after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami in south Asia. If you think about it, what could possibly be a better way to use the gift of music than to heal?

But I also felt that while a large, on campus concert of all Tech groups would be a great thing to put together, I knew that other groups from beyond the Virginia Tech campus would likely want to get involved somehow. It was at that point in time that the light bulb went off: an a cappella compilation album.

Even though I was a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, I was still heavily involved with Juxtaposition, my former group, who were in full support of my idea. I had released an indie-rock compilation back in 2002 featuring all Richmond, Virginia bands and I had always played with the idea of doing an all Atlantic Coast Conference a cappella compilation. I thought that with my experience and passion for this project I now could refocus that idea towards something that could be a huge benefit.

The search for groups:

I decided that for brevity and proximity’s sake, the album should only include tracks from Virginia collegiate a cappella groups. The project began through email conversations with contacts in the a cappella community and a lot of Google work with the words ‘college a cappella’ and ‘Virginia’. One of the finest assets in this entire process was a new found friend in the a cappella community; Dave Sperandio of Diovoce in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dave worked with me to mix most of the new Juxtaposition CD, and I had latched onto him as a source of information and advice on anything a cappella. Freddie Feldman of CASA, Vocomotion, and other efforts, was another contact whose advice was invaluable through this process.

Next I setup the sales website, sent out some emails and made some online forum posts where I could. Amazingly, through just emails, I received positive responses from 24 groups in less than 72 hours! There came the decision: we can not leave anyone off of this project and we must make this compilation a two disc set.

The final tally came to 27 groups contributing 37 tracks, an amazing CD and a perfect way to showcase the support (and the talent!) from across the Commonwealth of Virginia from all of our a cappella friends.

Creation, Sales, Advertising:

The creation of this album, physically, became quite easy. Luckily, I run a graphic and web design company, so I had one of my good friends, David Franusich, design a Virginia Tech ribbon for me, throw the Virginia Tech logo on it, and kept the CD simple. The whole point was to make the album in memory of the victims and cost as little as possible to produce.

That is where Rick Segal at Triple Disc in Fredericksburg, Virginia came in. Rick completely forfeited all profits from CD duplication and agreed to process all of the discs ‘at- cost’.

Next, Dave Sperandio stepped up to the plate and offered to master the entire project for me at absolutely no cost, even sucking up the shipping charges to mail off the master to the printing company.

Finally, into the picture came Mike and Freddie from acaTunes.com, and Don and Amy from a-cappella.com. Both web sites agreed to sell and promote the albums at absolutely no cost. Thus, allowing 100% of every single sale on their sites to go directly to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, our chosen charity for the album proceeds.

Everything could not have gone more smoothly in the production of the CD. Just the fact that the album was put together so fast and with such devotion from so many was incredibly encouraging. But the real shocker came when we opened up sales to the public.

Through email correspondence, the individual groups contacting their fans, various web sites posting information, and radio shows mentioning the album, we saw nearly $1,000.00 in sales a day for the first 5 days of the project! This proved to me that word-of-mouth in the a cappella community was an amazing way to go as far as promotion is concerned. Because of the fast sales in the first week, I thought it would be a good idea to set the bar slightly higher. On the ‘For Today’ website, I posted a goal of $10,000 to be raised by May 16th, 2007 by all who purchase a CD or donate money to the cause through our site.

The Nation Responds:

Throughout this whole process, I received sporadic emails from a cappella groups outside of Virginia, both collegiate and professional alike. Each of these groups wanted to know more about the project, how they could help and how they could become involved. Sadly, the album had already been created and we had no outlet to feature them on. But their interest gave me hope that another project could potentially come about from some of these groups not involved with ‘For Today’. Especially since we were also fast approaching selling all 1000 copies of the ‘For Today’ album.

Based on this success of the album and this interest shown by groups outside of Virginia, the question was posed: why not put out another album showing the nation-wide support of Virginia Tech?

So, drumming up my typing-fingers again, it was time to hit Google and email. During the last week before the May 16th deadline, I talked to groups from all over the country and confirmed the following professional groups to help out with a new project ‘Hokie Nation’:

Take 6, Rockapella, The House Jacks, Blue Jupiter, m-pact, Cadence, Transit, Firedrill!, Hookslide, and more to come.

We’re also finalizing details with UPenn Off the Beat, Tufts Beelzebubs, BYU Noteworthy, USC Sirens, UNC Clef Hangers, Oregon Off the Rocks, and many other top collegiate groups from around the U.S.

The next steps:

So, to the a cappella community, I send out a heartfelt thank you. This project has been amazing and incredibly moving for me. I’ve gained lifelong contacts and friends that I will never forget. Together, we’ve already met our $10,000 goal, and as a positive side effect, we’ve gained national attention from media outlets about our art form and our willingness to contribute back to our communities.

As part one of the ‘For Today’ project fades out, part two, ‘Hokie Nation’ is just beginning.

My personal hope is that before all is said and done, this project will help the a cappella community and a cappella fans donate at least $20,000 in total to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The work has been hard, the hours have been long, but I know that when I look back on this busy time of my life, I will know that we, the a cappella community, will have done something amazing and shown our love and support to everyone in the Hokie Nation.

More information on the project can be found at www.fortodaycd.com