Harmony Fest: It’s more than a cappella

ANNA WEAVER

When Harmony Fest kicks off tonight, it will be the twelfth year various campus performance groups have come together to raise money for a music-related charity.

Originally started as an all-a cappella show, Harmony Fest has evolved over the years into a more assorted showcase.

“When we organized the first show, college a cappella was a newer genre, and the concert was specifically a venue for this new form of entertainment — hence the name, Harmony Fest,” said Maya Kuper, Sigma Alpha Iota’s Harmony Fest chair. “When everyone and their dog started forming a cappella groups on campus, Harmony Fest diversified. For the past four years, the show has been festival-style, with six to eight groups performing in the space of a few hours.”

Women’s music fraternity SAI sponsors the annual fundraiser with men’s music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha. This year the money that Harmony Fest raises will go to the Music Learning Community, a campus outreach group that, among other things, gives free music and voice lessons to underprivileged kids.

There are benefits that come with MLC being one of the first Northwestern-affiliated beneficiaries in some time.

“MLC is the first Harmony Fest charity that has been more than just a passive recipient of funds,” said Kuper, a Communication senior. “On the contrary, they have been extremely interested and involved in the project from the beginning. MLC members are wearing our T-shirts and putting up our flyers, and they’re even going to have an information booth at the concert. They are thrilled to be the Harmony Fest beneficiary, and we are very grateful to have their support.”

This year’s Harmony Fest roster includes a cappella groups Purple Haze and Harmony in Spirit, Dance Marathon-featured group Bootsie Band, R&B band F.I.T.T., rock band The Foster-Walker Complex, and punk/ska group Geisert 8 Band, visiting from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

There’s a big span between a Christian a cappella group and an R&B band — but that’s what makes Harmony Fest the eclectic concert it is.

“It’s a nice collaboration of different groups with different musical styles,” said Tony Heredia of Geisert 8. “Raising money for charities is awesome, but music is a good way to bring a lot of people together at once to get the message across.”

“You won’t find another show on campus all year that brings together and shares such a mix of music and styles in one event,” said Ryan Vukelich, a McCormick senior and F.I.T.T. founder. “I also really like that they put in a huge amount of work to pull it off and then donate everything to a charity that really has the potential to change lives.”

The fundraising concert is also good exposure for these campus groups.

“If you think about it, you probably haven’t heard of many bands on campus,” Vukelich said. “Harmony Fest gives these bands a chance to play on campus in addition to the a cappella groups, with which many of us are familiar.”

“Harmony Fest is cool because it allows people to see many of the major performing groups on campus at the same time without having to travel very far,” said Dave Moyer, drummer for both F.I.T.T. and The Foster-Walker Complex.

The Weinberg sophomore also knows that groups like the Music Learning Center can have a huge impact on kids.

“I’ve volunteered with similar programs in the past, and the difference in the abilities of kids who can have private attention and those who can’t is staggering,” said Moyer. “The problem is that usually individual attention is gained through paying for private lessons rather than receiving them through school.”

At the heart of Harmony Fest lies a deep love and commitment to music that comes out in the performers, the organizers and the beneficiaries.

“It is awesome to get a bunch of groups of different styles of music and different backgrounds all coming together to share and support music,” said Music and Weinberg sophomore Bri Zika, who is co-president of MLC. “Music flourishes at Northwestern, but it is important to remember that we have a responsibility to advocate for the things that are important to us.”