by Jalon Howard, Class of 2016, Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year student
For many, the University of Rochester’s fifth-year programs offer an opportunity for students to extend their scope of knowledge and further celebrate the pursuit of creativity and understanding. For me, the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) Program represented this and more. Spending the year executing a novel entrepreneurial venture, I have an opportunity to inject myself into the legacy of the University and give back to the community that has given me so much.
As a member of the collegiate a cappella community and student of international relations and business, I wanted my project to be the culmination of my intersecting interests and to serve the Rochester community. Thus, the ROCAppella Music Festival was born.
The ROCAppella Music Festival invites high school a cappella groups from Monroe County schools to the University of Rochester for a day of workshops and a showcase concert in the evening. The main purpose of the event is to help support youth arts education in Rochester. But it also encourages community among schools, exposes students to higher education institutions, and provides collegiate musicians with mentorship and teaching opportunities.
The journey to planning this event was rewarding in itself. I had the opportunity to work with music directors, administrators, deans, and students at Rochester whom I might never have met otherwise. These people and their passion for music became the foundation of ROCAppella. Their collective insights, advice, encouragement, and support elevated this project to new heights. About one year ago, I began planning what would evolve into the ROCAppella Music Festival and I am proud to say that April 14, 2016 marked the successful commencement of the event. It was a day full of fun, laughter, learning, and most importantly, music.
Though I was dedicated and driven, organized and meticulous, and persevered through countless setbacks, I could not have imagined then the fruition of ROCAppella nor its impact on me. I have gained a wealth of experience organizing this event, but I learned a great deal more about Rochester and the power that music has to foster community. The positive feedback from the event was overwhelming. I was touched to see the students have such a great time expressing themselves through music and I was astounded by their talent and appreciation. The positive reviews bode well for the future continuation of the ROCAppella Music Festival. Plans for next year’s event are already underway.
The KEY Program has allowed me to challenge myself and demonstrate all that I have learned at the University of Rochester. This past year has been memorable and I am beyond grateful to have had the chance to return a fraction of what I have gained from my time in Rochester. I cannot wait to see how this event continues to grow and evolve over the coming years.