Students Keep the Beat Going On
Vermont’s Big Heavy World relies on – and empowers – student volunteers Big Heavy World, a Burlington-based non-profit that preserves and promotes local music, relies upon high-school and college-aged volunteers from the surrounding community. Through their love of music, volunteers are empowered to take on various responsibilities in a friendly, laid back environment that provides a safe, substance-free place in which to be challenged and to prosper.
Vounteer Profile: Nina Van Zandt By Jamie Holloway
Being involved with people who have the same interests can make them feel more like your family, said Nina Van Zandt, a University of Vermont student. Nina also learned that volunteering can help her feel connected to her community. The magic of her story lays in how she got connected: for the past two years, she has been a volunteer with Big Heavy World (BHW) working with their record label and interacting with artists.
“There’s so much stuff to do, anyone could find something they like,” said Nina.
Although working with the record label and communicating with artists was Nina’s favorite project, she worked on many others that guided and shaped her interests. She started doing band photography and working concert doors, and she ended by emceeing concerts and teaching seminars on the local music industry at Norwich University.
Many volunteers find BHW’s low key and laid back environment appealing. At the same time, volunteers play a key role in strengthening the music scene and keeping Burlington band-friendly.
BHW has become a role model for how to empower young adults and show them they can make real contributions to their community. BHW has created direction and meaning, as well as saved many from the dangerous realities that face today’s youth. Nina found that BHW helped her grow-up.
“Big Heavy gave me something to do with my time when I didn’t really know what I could do with it,” said Nina.
Nina is just one example of the many young adults BHW has empowered. A role model for other youth and an active participant in the Burlington community, she is an outstanding example of how volunteering with a local music organization can help youth redirect their interests to promote healthy communities.
Volunteer Profile: Anaii Lee-Ender By Jill Escott
Equipped with a scarf and gloves, Anaii Lee-Ender (a.k.a. Ninja) begins her walk down Church Street in Burlington, Vermont: a brick road in the heart of the city that is blocked off from cars. Throughout her stroll, she hears traces of live music radiating from the restaurants, clubs, and shops lining the street. An elderly man with a wrinkled face sits on a bench strumming his guitar while singing Eric Clapton tunes. Continuing on, Ninja passes a poster advertising the event she is headed towards: a free rock concert in City Hall.
Just by walking down Church Street, you realize how much music influences Burlington’s culture. This is, in part, due to the dedication and passion stemming from Big Heavy World, a non-profit foundation based out of Burlington. What makes this organization unique, in addition to its constant efforts to promote and preserve local music, is that it is run mostly by student volunteers.
Ninja, a volunteer from Burlington High School, talks about how Big Heavy World has affected her. Big Heavy has had a bigger impact on my life than anything I can think of, Ninja explains. “I have found something that I love to do.”
With Big Heavy’s laid-back attitude, accompanied by an expectation of professionalism, students feel comfortable taking on big responsibilities with proper guidance, of course.
There are countless projects to be tackled for the foundation: Big Heavy puts out compilation CDs, manages an online music library, hosts musical events, runs its own radio station, and archives music (just to name a few).
At only 16 years of age, Ninja is already planning shows and organizing interns. I’ve learned to do things like grant-writing, organizing and managing concerts, and writing letters asking for donations from other businesses, she says.
Ninja spoke of her first experience planning a show and how it changed her life. “The guy who set up and was supposed to be managing the concert got really sick,” she said. “I was a teeny little freshman, and volunteered to do it. Six hours straight on my feet that night, and I realized that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Big Heavy World encourages teens to break free of the limitations often put on youth. With this sense of freedom, students are empowered to make a difference in their community.
As Ninja approaches City Hall, watching people streaming into the concert that was advertised on the poster, she feels a sense of accomplishment. She put this show together; she made a difference and people notice. Letting the sounds surround her steps as she walks towards the stage, she realizes that she’s ready to take on this big, heavy world.
Volunteer Profile: Pat Floyd By Jacqueline Leveroni
I take a seat at the empty table outside UVM's WRUV radio station in the basement of the Billings Student Center. There is a speaker mounted above their sticker-covered door, playing the live broadcast going on inside the studio. I listen and I wait. The studio door then opens and out walks Pat. I watch him as he reaches up and turns the speaker off and starts to walk towards me. He is dressed like the typical college student: plaid, flannel shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers. He is wearing glasses and has a great haircut – one that reminds me of something one of the early Beatles would have donned.
He takes a seat, we exchange greetings, I turn my tape recorder on, and the interview begins. Pat starts by telling me about his band, Oh So Insidious, and how he first got involved with Big Heavy World.
“I was maybe a sophomore in high school (South Burlington) and I needed to find something to do for my extra-curricular requirements in order to graduate,” said Pat. He was always into music and enjoyed being in his high school’s radio club, which would air music over the intercom before homeroom. It was Pat’s guidance counselor who pointed him in the direction of BHW. He was told it was mostly all high school and college age kids who volunteer there, helping with concert promotions, photography, and compilation CDs.
Pat also knew about BHW through shows that they had put on in the past, like their New Year’s Eve show at Memorial Auditorium.
“When you are a freshman in high school,” said Pat, “this is probably one of the few cooler things you can do on the weekends. He later tells me that the majority of events that Big Heavy World orchestrates are targeted at being friendly to all ages.
Today, Pat still keeps in close contact with the gang at Big Heavy. “I still talk to Jim Lockridge, the main guy who runs it and I stop by once in awhile to say hello. They have been putting on concerts inside the BHW office lately. They opened up more of the rooms, painted them all nice. Once a month or so they put on a show in one of them which is pretty cool because it’s a tiny room with loud music and a ton of kids packed in.”
Pat has been able to experience Big Heavy from both sides of the spectrum: by giving his time and by receiving their help. BHW celebrated its 10th birthday last October with an event called IndieCon. By performing at the event with his band, Oh So Insidious, Pat learned more about the music industry, things like: how bands can book shows for themselves at places like Nectar’s and Club Metronome or through agents like 802 booking, advice on how to go about providing contact information and press kits to venues. BHW’s Vermont Band Guide has also been helpful to his band. It’s a bulletin board open to the entire Burlington music scene.
“This is the best way to promote an upcoming show,” said Pat, about BHW’s Vermont Band Guide. “Lots of turn-out just from the message board. This has really helped my band out. They also let us play at their shows, which is very nice as well.”
During his time at BHW, Pat mainly did grassroots-oriented things such as going to local businesses to get sponsors, putting up posters for shows, and retrieving submissions from bands. Pat says Jim was by his side the entire time, helping him connect with people in the community.
“You learn a lot about whatever field you’re interested in,” said Pat. “It’s nice because there really isn’t much busy work; they need you and there are plenty of important things for you to do there. Also, you meet a lot of people who are in the industry.”
Pat’s transition from Big Heavy to his current employer, WRUV, has been smooth thanks in large part to BHW. It taught him how to act in a corporate manner, which is a useful skill to have in the music business.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do before my experience with them, but now when I think back, I realize that they set a nice little path for me.”
On that note, Pat informs me that he has to get back to work. He gets up from the table, goes back over to the speaker on the wall, reaches up, and turns it on. He steps past the sticker-covered door into his studio and gets back on the air of WRUV.