MUSIC Matters began with 10 freshmen and $100 in the summer of 2011. The idea was to introduce a capstone event at the end of the year consisting of daylong festivities finished off by a concert that raised money for charity. Each year, the charity would change.


The logo for the “Big Thinkers” scholarship

“At the time, I was hoping that we would scale up,” LSA senior Phillip Schermer, the president of the organization, said. “I was hoping that there would be a day when we could give big gifts.”

Monday, that day came as MUSIC Matters unveiled its $50,000 endowed “Big Thinkers” scholarship. The need-based scholarship is entirely student-funded — the first of its kind at the University — and is the club’s second gift to the school following its inaugural donation of $10,000 to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in 2012.

The initial endowment funds were raised from ticket sales at the group’s Ben Folds concert in April.

Materials for the scholarship are likely be released either at the beginning of the 2014 academic year or the following year.

The idea behind the scholarship is that, every year, MUSIC Matters students will work with University administrators to determine a theme for the “Big Thinkers” applications materials. The first year’s topic will tackle social sustainability.

“It will force applicants to think about big problems and what they can do or what we can do as a community to help solve those problems,” Schermer said.

Schermer said UC 270, a course taught last year by Martha Pollack, University provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and former provost Philip Hanlon, inspired the group to form a scholarship. Schermer added that providing those in need with the opportunities the University offers seemed like the ideal way to “pay it forward.” At a private ceremony for the scholarship last week, Pollock agreed.

“On behalf of all of the faculty on campus, our number one goal in the upcoming capital campaign is financial aid for students,” Pollack said in an address to MUSIC Matters members. “You are right there and I couldn’t be happier.”

“MUSIC Matters is one of many great student organizations — such as Dance Marathon, Galens Medical Society and Alternative Spring Break — that fundraise to support great causes,” Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development, said in a statement. “That Michigan students would engage in philanthropy on campus to support not only the university but also their peers, is what makes our students special.”

Schermer hopes that in the years to come, the endowment will grow to meet this financial goal on an increasing basis. Part of the success of this fundraising will rely on changes to the group’s day of springtime activities, called SpringFest.

The club plans to expand the event, basing its structure off of South By Southwest, a nine-day spring festival in Austin, Texas that is a hub for music, film and technology.

“It’s going to be eight hours, and it’s going to be an experiential arts festival, a film festival, an innovation,” Schermer said.

He also hopes to upgrade the venue for the concert. The group booked J. Cole in 2012 and Ben Folds in 2013, and both artists performed in Hill Auditorium.

Schermer wants to fit more students in, and said the Crisler Center and Yost Arena are both possibilities for this year’s concert, although nothing is set.

“The whole idea here is to make it as big as possible,” Schermer said. “More students enjoy it, that’s great. More money for charity, that’s great. The bigger the venue, the cooler the things you can do in the concert.”

Ken Fischer, president of the University Musical Society and an advisor of the club, lauded MUSIC Matters for its success from its establishment onward in a speech to organizers.

“The success that you’ve had is unprecedented,” Fischer told members of the group at the private ceremony. “We talk about you among university presenters all over the country, because it’s not supposed to be this way. You’re supposed to have a set of failures, but you’ve organized yourselves in such a way to be successful from the get-go.”

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