Award-winning singer headlines DM benefit event

Andrea castillo

The mellow sounds of indie-rock vocals and piano accompaniment filled McCormick Auditorium Monday night and drifted into the lobby of Norris University Center as Dance Marathon held a benefit concert for a small but enthusiastic audience.

Passers-by walked in, intrigued, as Katherine Schell headlined the event with her band, The Emergency.

Schell, who received VH1’s 2005 International Song of the Year award, sang for 45 minutes, performing selections from her upcoming album “Emptier Streets.”

At the end of the show, the room was filled with applause and cries for an encore.

The DM fundraiser included a capella groups Significant Others and Freshman Fifteen.

Rachel Katz, a Communication sophomore in Significant Others, said she felt proud to be contributing to the long-running philanthropy.

“Anything I can do (to help),” Katz said. “I’m a dancer too, and I love the whole cause. It’s the best of both worlds.”

About 40 people attended the concert, said Cecilia Byrne, DM co-chairwoman. Tickets were $5, and the costs were donated by Schell’s record label, Recessive Gene Records.

All told, the event raised about $200, Byrne said.

Influenced by Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Cat Power, Schell said she wrote her first song, “Come to Me,” when she was 15 as a way to let out her emotions over her younger brother Greg’s battle with leukemia. Greg’s cancer is now in remission.

Schell said she is motivated to perform benefit concerts for causes such as DM because of her family’s brush with serious illness.

“I like to perform for the underprivileged,” she said. “I like to inspire people. I have a passion for playing and seeing people’s reactions.”

Schell won the VH1 award with her song “Rest Assured.”

Recessive Gene Records was started in October 2004 by her older brother, Jeff, McCormick ’04.

“Katie has good songs and we didn’t want her to be influenced by labels,” Jeff said.

The label sent her song to VH1, and Schell’s single stood out among an estimated 30,000 entries, Jeff said.

“It was so surreal,” said Katherine Schell. “There are many surreal things that have happened so far. It was great though.”

Ever since receiving her award, Jeff and Recessive Gene Records have been working to gain publicity for Schell’s music.

Schell will be performing locally at Tommy Nevin’s, 1454 Sherman Ave., and at Abbey Pub and Viaduct Theater in Chicago within the next few months.

“Emptier Streets” is scheduled to be released on March 23. A music video is also in the works for her song “The Gravity Situation.”

Jeff said he also hopes to promote his sister’s music by working with public relations firms in New York and Chicago and with appearances on national television shows such as “Good Morning America” and “Saturday Night Live.”

“It’s cool to see my own blood succeed,” Jeff said.

Katherine Schell also is a student at Loyola University of Chicago, although she said that she has dropped back to part-time to accommodate her increasingly busy schedule.

Upcoming shows and sound clips are available at her Web site,

Reach Andrea Castillo at [email protected]