Writers: Aren Buresh, Ebony Watkins, and Taylor Zellor
Originally, our idea was to organize a “Spontaneous Symphony” that would gather musicians for a spontaneous practice followed by a surprise performance somewhere in Cedar Rapids. However, since it was our first time planning an event, not to the difficulty in working with multiple instruments in this setting, we pivoted to a vocal meetup. As the holiday season was fast approaching, a “Spontaneous Caroling” event was the perfect idea.
Just because “Spontaneous Caroling” was more practical to orchestrate than a “Spontaneous Symphony” it didn’t mean that it wasn’t still a challenge. Our group had to find a place to practice, a place to perform, someone to lead the group, an accompanying musician, sheet music or lyric sheets, a song list, a schedule for the day, and some way of promoting it, all in about two and a half weeks. We realized it was necessary to have a solid plan when we pitched our project to potential venues, instructors, and musicians, so one Saturday afternoon, our team hashed out a schedule for the performance.
We contacted the NewBo City Market to see about a performance space, and CSPS/Legion Arts about a practice space. After meeting with both of these organizations and pitching them our ideas, we were able to secure our venues. We then contacted an experienced music teacher, Janice Powers, about being our instructor, and after meeting and pitching to her, she was excited to work with our group.
Creating our setlist happened through a bit of customer discovery, randomly asking people in the NewBo market what their favorite Christmas songs were, and the lyrics and sheet music were found online. To promote the event, we made an informational card to distribute physically and electronically to elementary schools and local businesses/community hubs, like the library, New Bo Market and Facebook page, College Community and Cedar Rapids virtual backpacks, Blue Zone Facebook page, and West Music.
Saturday, December 13th, the “Spontaneous Caroling” took place. The day began at 10:30 AM as we welcomed the arriving families at Legion Arts.Our instructor, Jan, led the families in rehearsal while Neil Rohlena, a member of the Iowa Accordion Club played along. Even though most of us previously had little or no connection to each other, we were able to work together. We only managed to practice each song once, but our overall performance at the Newbo Market was awesome. A few brave souls kicked off the caroling with a solo, while other members of the group joined in flash mob style. The caroling progressed, and vendors and shoppers even stopped to join in and take some pictures/videos of the event.
Considering that this was our first look into event planning, it was a definite success. With over 25 people coming to participate (not counting the strangers who joined in on the caroling, we were happy with our turnout. Yet, we didn’t have the perfect algorithm to preparing for our event.
Marketing was our weakness. One thing that made promoting difficult was the timing. We had a week off for Thanksgiving break, and then we were left with two weeks to promote our event. We found ourselves feeling rushed in getting the word out. However, despite hitting a few bumps in the road, “Spontaneous Caroling” was a great start for Music Meetup, and with some work on our marketing skills and better timing, we hope improve for our future events.
We are grateful to everyone who helped make Spontaneous Caroling possible. Without these people, the event would have not been possible. We’d like to say thank you to Taylor Bergen from Legion Arts, and Kristie Wetjen from the New Bo Market for letting us use their facilities for the practice and performance. Also, thank you to our musicians, Janice Powers, not only for helping us design the event, but also for leading the group so wonderfully, and Neil Rohlena for bringing his beautiful accordian to accompany the carolers. Lastly, we’d like to give a “BIG” thanks to all of the carolers who participated in “Spontaneous Caroling”. Our goal in Music Meetup is to bring together people in the community to create an environment that inspires people to pursue music. In our eyes, that goal was accomplished because of everyone’s outstanding contributions to the event.
We are looking to plan another meetup to kick off the new year, towards the end of January or early February. Between now and our next event, we hope to learn more about marketing and timing, and hopefully get even more people engaged in music. With a new and unique meetup, will come new and unique challenges. However, the great thing about BIG is that we get to learn how to overcome those types of challenges. With some hard work and well driven learning experiences, we are confident that our next meetup will be an even bigger success.