Snowy ground zero was in front of Sigma Nu on January 30. The fraternity hosted Snowchella, a charity concert for an organization called Support for International Change (SIC), which works to alleviate the effects of HIV and AIDS in Tanzania.
How did this unique event get started? Taylor Ray ’10 said, “I took the spearheading position in reaching out to student groups and getting sponsorships and various elements that came together, which ultimately shaped up to be this one night event. We had support and funding from the Stanford Concert Network, and a few other organizations came in to donate money to Support for International Change. It was the perfect alliance of student groups so that we could have this event that was free and open to anyone who wanted to come, but also raise money for charity and awareness in a very exciting, dynamic way.”
Ray has been the Community Service Chair in Sigma Nu for the past year. Immediately after his election to that position, he brought together the rest of team and began to brainstorm. He said, “We batted around a bunch of ideas, and one of them was that we would like to throw a charity concert. I knew that SIC would be a perfect beneficiary. The amount of money we could raise would make a huge impact but SIC also has a presence on campus and gives students the opportunity to actually get involved in the cause rather than just donating their money.”
Originally, Ray wanted to use the resources that Sigma Nu already had, from connections with sororities and other student organizations on campus. The concert initially intended to charge for tickets and then donate the proceeds to Support for International Change.
However, the Stanford Concert Network became involved in the planning of the event and changed the whole dynamic. The Stanford Concert Network receives special fees funding, so the student body has already paid to support the event. As a result, as Ray put it, “They only really like to throw free and open concerts.” With the funding from SCN, the concert could be both free and raise money for charity. As a bonus, more people would attend the event if it were free.
Ray and Lucas Moller ’10 from the Stanford Concert Network thought that this would give them more flexibility and make the concert more successful. As Ray said, “They brought the idea to the table that this should be a free concert and that Sigma Nu and Kappa Kappa Gamma would be in charge of soliciting donations.”
In the next stage of the planning process, the organizers had to find exciting performers. Over 25 different acts were considered for Snowchella. Sigma Nu looked through hyphy, East Bay rappers, electronica and indie groups, but eventually boiled the list down to Chiddy Bang, a Philadelphia-based hip-hop duo, and Designer Drugs, DJs from New York.
Ray explained, “We needed to get someone who was exciting, relevant to the college community and draw a crowd. I contacted potential artists to play and negotiating prices and Lucas Moller from Stanford Concert Network provided a lot of input. He was incredibly instrumental in getting Snowchella off the ground. The concert opened with Young the Giant, a group founded by Sameer Gadhia, a Stanford student currently on a leave of absence pursuing his music career.”
The event was also a success because of the helpfulness and supportiveness of Greek Advising and SAL to make Stanford’s campus fun. While ‘red tape’ has stifled many events on campus, these organizations, according to the Snowchella organizers, were very helpful in helping to get this charity effort off the ground.
Despite all this, security for Snowchella proved to be a stumbling block. Three weeks before the event, Ray met with Amanda Rodriguez of Greek Advising, the Fire Marshal’s office and the Department of Public Safety and conducted a walk through. They went through all of the details much in advance to better coordinate the event.
Stanford requires the use of police for security during major events. Stanford police are trained professionals but are expensive for student groups to hire, which can make events like Snowchella financially impossible. However, Sigma Nu’s great working relationship with the less expensive private security provider Delta Special Services allowed the fraternity to save money by not having to hire Stanford Police.
Taylor realized that alcohol and Snowchella being portrayed as just a regular concert could be problematic. “A lot of why this particular concert worked so well was because it had a charity aspect to it,” he said. “From the beginning, we knew we weren’t dealing with alcohol, so that was a really big thing in establishing credibility with the university. The relationships that I had established with our advisors in row housing and SAL knew that our number one objective was to raise awareness and money for this cause. The charity angle helped, and I think there is a lot of room for overlap between fun social campus events that raise money and awareness for causes and I think the university is more willing to work with student groups that have these kinds of ends in mind.”
Snowchella was a financial success, raising between $4,000 and $5,000, which, according to SIC, can be used to offer about five more years of life to a suffering AIDS patient. However, SIC also accomplished its larger and more important goal: creating awareness in the Stanford community. Ray’s main goal in planning the event was for Stanford students to understand that this was a concert for charity and that it was designed to encourage service in the Stanford community.