Putting our hands together for humanity

Amherst students Kimmie Weeks ’05 and Sarah Godwin ’05 have been planning a showcase of fine arts for six months in order to help raise awareness about the plight of the world’s children. The Fall Musical for Humanity was an idea hatched last year as part of programs to be undertaken by a new campus organization, Youth Action International. Established at the College by Weeks and Godwin, Youth Action International now has close to 14 chapters on the east coast. Youth Action International works on programs to better the lives and well-being of children all over the world.

The audience greeted perennial Amherst a cappella favorites the Zumbyes, the Bluestockings, Route 9 and DQ with fervor. Amherst’s finest were joined on the stage by two women’s a cappella groups from Mt. Holyoke: the V8s, the nation’s oldest continuing women’s a cappella group, and the Nice Shoes, Holyoke’s feminist a cappella group who sing songs written for and about women. Though the audience seemed slightly taken aback by the Nice Shoes’ boldly feminist content, no one could deny their amazing talent as they belted out powerful and moving classics. For a slightly different twist on the a cappella music scene, the Amherst College Madrigals made their first appearance of the school year with early music skillfully arranged by classic composers for the voices of 13 men and women.

However, the evening did not stop with a cappella. Michael Fedor ’05 and Gregory Dibelius ’05 regaled the audience with creative acoustic guitar covers. Their fingers flew over guitar strings in an impressive musical show. Particularly popular was their comical rendition of “Tribute” by Tenacious D.

In addition, UMass contributed a showcase of dance talent from the “Stage Crew” dance team. The student-run team performed excerpts from dances in a multitude of styles including jazz, lyrical, modern and ballet. Toes tapped in time with the rambunctious beats of Janet Jackson and the moody soul-singing of Fiona Apple.

All in all, the concert was a hit. Youth Action International charged an entrance fee of five dollars, raising an impressive $1,315, all of which will go to UNICEF. Weeks, the director of Youth Action International in both the United States and overseas couldn’t have been more enthusiastic with the musical’s reception. “We were very pleased with how the concert went. Honestly, we never expected to sell out the show. We’ll have to find a bigger space to hold the crowds next year,” he said.

All the money will be used by UNICEF to provide education, health care, nutrition and other basic necessities for children around the world. According to Weeks, “The money we raised will really make a huge difference for millions of families who don’t even earn a dollar a day. For us, it sounds like very little but even $17 can help a child survive who otherwise would have died of hunger or a preventable disease,” he said.

The concert owes its success to work done in its planning stages. The Office of the President, the Office of the Dean of Students and Five College, Inc. provided approximately $1,500 to cover the costs of the show, allowing Youth Action International to donate all the proceeds to the children’s charity.

Time and energy was volunteered by all of the local student groups who performed, the emcee all the way from Columbia University, the Omnipoet and the DJ who hosted the event. Youth Action International had to go shopping for new sponsors when the AAS denied their requests for funding twice for planned events such as the Fall Musical for Humanity.

The organization will have to double its fund raising efforts and sponsorship campaigns in order to fund next year’s Musical and the upcoming Spring Exhibit on Refugees. Weeks is excited about the upcoming event, “I believe that the Exhibit will be even more spectacular than the concert. We have tons of ideas rolling around,” Weeks said.

Praise for the show was plentiful. Jenny Horowitz ’06 said that she “loved a cappella” and “thought that it was really great to hear groups from different schools as well.” Many students were particularly amazed at the participation of the Omnipoet whose trip from New York was testament to his devotion to the event’s worthy purpose.

“It’s so great that so many musical groups were willing to share their talents for such an important cause … there was so much energy there,” said Hilary Levinson ’06.

Judging by the impressive outcome of their first effort, Youth Action International promises to have a strong impact in the future.