HARRISONBURG — What started as a class project has evolved into much more for a small group of James Madison University students and the surrounding community.
The students have taken what they’ve learned in a concert production and promotions class and put it to work to raise money for Mercy House — and further their careers in music management at the same time.
The JMU group formed a nonprofit organization called Apples to Artists, which started out with just a couple of fundraising events for class in the fall. The events raised money for Mercy House, a Harrisonburg homeless shelter for families with dependent children. But five students decided to keep it going through the end of the school year and will host their biggest event, Shenandoah Spring Fest, at Three Brothers Brewery on May 3.
“I’m really excited because this is kind of what I’ve always wanted to do,” said senior Shelly Reed, 24, of Waynesboro, a talent buyer for the group. After graduation, she plans to move to Asheville, N.C., and hopes to eventually organize a large-scale music festival.
Apples to Artists has been a great career experience for her, she said, adding that she’s enjoyed the autonomy Three Brothers has given the group.
“There is some learning curve there obviously, but as we’ve met multiple times throughout the whole process, I would just give my insight and experience of setting things up there,” said Jason Shifflett, one of the Three Brothers’ owners who have been working with Apples to Artists. “From the get-go, they had good ideas and ambition to do it, and I just tried to lend some knowledge … but overall I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done.”
Shenandoah Spring Fest will feature The Trongone Band, Big Leg Emma and Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wildhearts. The event will start at noon and end at 9 p.m., and proceeds will benefit Mercy House.
Twila Lee, executive director of Mercy House, said the organization is grateful for Apples to Artists’ fundraisers — they’ve already received a $1,000 check — and for its relationship with JMU as a whole. Students run a tutoring center at Mercy House and intern there as well.
“I think we are very much a classroom for [students] in that they learn a great deal,” Lee said. And the students give a lot back to the shelter as well.
“It takes us a step further in how we help people,” Lee said. “We really appreciate and are very thankful for our relationship with JMU.”
Reed said she has enjoyed being part of the group, even though it’s been a lot of work coordinating events outside of class.
“It makes a big difference when it comes from your heart and your passion rather than having to do it as a school work assignment,” Reed said. “I think that’s very true of the five of us. All of us are genuinely really passionate about music.”
Tickets for Shenandoah Spring Fest are available at Three Brothers Brewery and from Apples to Artists members and cost $3 in advance and $5 on the day of the concert. For more information, visit applestoartists.com or threebrosbrew.com.
Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org