To see people come together for a vision you’ve pieced together in your head is one of the best presents you can give yourself.
Here are some of the highlights to producing my latest event– I had two months to pull this off, in the middle of summer. I didn’t cough blood this time.
1. Something is missing.
I used to teach piano in public schools. many musicians were talented and passionate, but they tended to practice in their rooms, alone for hours, so I wanted to create a stage for the everyday musician to share their music with an audience.
At the highest level, I needed funding and a team, both of which almost killed me last round. Funding came from a small three-figure small grant (if you live in Vancouver, look into Neighbourhood Small Grants). The other funding option would be digging for partnerships, but I refused to drag this project onto a plane to Hong Kong.
The project became a starter in a week; I set the first meeting and texted some friends about coming on board. On Sunday, I was sitting at Starbucks with a stack of blank paper and my best pens. I’m leaving town in August, so we have less than two months to pull this off in July.
It’s the best kind of scary.
I set my glasses down and looked around the cafe, vaguely noticing a girl staring in my direction. She gets up, and while her face is still blurry– it’s Marinah.
“I was like, is that Grace?”
“I wasn’t wearing glasses,” I say, “Couldn’t see you.”
We are civil at first, but then we start shouting. “I thought you didn’t want to talk,” she says.
“I’ll always want to talk to you,” I say.
She introduces her friends, who are computer engineers working on a project. “I’m working on a non profit music event,” I say. “Happening this summer.”
My team was completed with two engineers that day.
2. Ownership of the vision.
If the event collapses, it’ll be my fault. I have no illusions and will own up to it. However, each team member must also own the vision to contribute the 110% that the team needs to run. I wanted team culture.
Walking into that first meeting, I was thinking, please let this feel like a party. I’ve had too many meetings where my ears are telling my mouth to shut up but no one else is willing to speak– I picked amazing team members, but first meetings can be shy.
Above: Benta & Amir, two of our team mates.
I’m early and grab a table at the cafe as the team trickles in. As we zip through the meeting agenda, I realize there’s no way it could be awkward.
“What should our event name be?” I say. “This is completely open right now.” We cycle through basic ideas, like Jam Fest, but get stuck quickly.
“Before dinner on Friday, a few friends and I went into this fun candy store, classic swirls and all,” I say. “You won’t guess what we found.”
“Cockroaches and scorpions inside lollipops.” I say. “One guy started sucking on a scorpion lollipop after dinner.”
“That’s disgusting.” Especially for the girl who had to kiss him.
“I made cookies with crushed bugs,” Benta says. “There’s a lot of protein in bug.”
“Really?” We make noises.
“I was lifting that week, and noticed a real difference after the bug cookies,” she says, flexing her bicep. “You guys should try it. My friend imports the bugs.”
“You know what?” I say. “The candy store is overpriced. Open your trash can and you’ll find maggots that are free, fresh, and organic. Not to mention free-run.”
We fill up another page of name ideas, and one guy says, “What about Elevation?”
“What does that mean to you?” I say.
“I was thinking, lifting people up, bringing people out.”
I run through the top ideas and cross out half of them; we’ve been discussing the name for 50 minutes. “Elevation is our favourite?” I ask. It has potential for a second, larger event next year.
“So,” I say, “We are Team Elevation!” Then of course we put our fists in and cheer before leaving.
A few days later, I shorten the event name to Elevate because it’s more dynamic. And easier to talk about when texting.
3. Follow through or fail.
With just under two months, this needed to be a pop-up event: finding the fastest way to lift off. We decide to partner with another event happening on Canada Day (July 1st)– so we don’t have to worry about venue. I design a logo and graphics for Elevate to put on Facebook; branding is important on the internet. I make a group for musicians to mingle, and an event page for the actual event. From here on, it takes drive and execution.
When looking for performers in a 7 day period, we didn’t get a single signup for 2 days. Musicians had to submit a sample of their playing so there was some level of commitment (we wanted to “hear their genre”). People who knew they were good performers wanted to be paid to play. People who didn’t think they were good performers were not confident enough to perform– these people liked to say that they “didn’t have enough time” to prepare a set.
The ELEVATE Team
We know that music isn’t easy; performing isn’t easy, producing a music event isn’t easy. But the most rewarding activities aren’t meant to be easy and really, we were sick of easy– we want meaningful.
What’s meaningful is doing something you’ve never done before, and you’ll only get there by trusting yourself to find people who will support you; trust these people to help you out, because if you don’t trust them, it means you don’t trust yourself, and that is a recipe for self destruction.