Last night was a first. My friend, Lori Guy, and I performed an online streaming show with Tom Olsen (piano) and Lauran Hunt (bass) through StageIt. Originally, Lori and I were going to experiment with this format by putting on a low key Christmas show for friends and family – sort of a holiday greeting. Then, a few weeks ago, a young woman at our church lost her battle with cancer. Summer Dale was only 16 years old. Before Summer died, she created Team Summer, a foundation that helps other kids with cancer deal with their illness and their treatments.
Lori suggested that we donate our online show money to Team Summer. I thought it was a great idea. What was a low key Christmas show turned into a major affair! We created a Facebook event on our Godfrey and Guy Facebook page, and I hyped it mercilessly. It would have been nice if I could have just advertised the show one time and then had the world beating down our virtual door for a ticket, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Each new Facebook post or email about the the show generated 1-2 ticket sales. Even if I made just one ticket sale through a new post, it was worth annoying my friends!
In the meantime, we needed to find a place to hold our concert. We had recruited Tom Olsen and Lauran Hunt to make it a quartet, so we needed space. My little apartment certainly wouldn't do, and Lori was in the middle of moving. I told Terry Davis, the minister at my church, that we were looking for someone at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation to host our show. It turned out that Terry and her partner Gail were holding a minister's open house on December 9, so why not have the show be part of the open house? Perfect! Now we had both an online and a live audience!
StageIt allowed us to create a special "soundcheck show." We could invite five people to watch and give us feedback through StageIt's chat feature. Four friends helped us out, and their input was invaluable. We worked on some technical problems through that soundcheck, and we enjoyed the interaction. Out of sheer paranoia, Lori and I ran another quick soundcheck the night before. It wasn't much of a show. We just wanted to make sure we still had audio and video up and running.
Our technical difficulties didn't end with the soundcheck shows. Using StageIt was a brand new experience for us. Through the first couple numbers, the viewers in the chat room were letting us know that the sound levels were too high. The levels in the room for the live audience were perfect, and it took us a while to realize that we could set the input levels directly on the StageIt site. Once we figured that out, the volume for our online viewers was fine. Halfway through the show, the computer crashed. We had no idea why at the time, but later Lori figured out that the computer was overheating. After a few tense minutes, we were up and running again. After that, we were fine. Fortunately, StageIt allows for a 10-15 minute "encore." Our online viewers stuck it out during the blackout, and we thanked them by using all of our encore time to play three extra numbers. The computer crashed again, but at least it waited until after the show was over!
Aside from the technical problems, the show was a musical success. We had a blast! Tom Olsen and Lauran Hunt were a welcome addition to our usual Godfrey and Guy duo format. Lori sounded wonderful, and I was happy with my own playing. We received good feedback from our online viewers, and the music was a big hit at the open house.
Most importantly, the fundraiser was a huge success. Between our online and in person viewers, we raised $960 for Team Summer! This went way beyond my expectations! I thought maybe we would be able to raise $200. I would have been ecstatic with $500. I had no idea that we would end up raising nearly $1,000! Even better, Summer's mom was there, so we were able to turn over the cash and checks from our open house donors right away. Some people wrote checks to the church, so those will go first to NWUUC to be processed and donated to Team Summer. It takes a couple days to process the online funds. Viewers get 48 hours to ask for a refund, so I need to wait a few days for those funds to go through. Once that happens, I'll write a check to Team Summer for the balance of the online ticket sales.
Overall, this was a tremendous experience for us. The fundraiser went even better than expected. The musical experience was a blast, and we enjoyed using StageIt.com. We liked the interactive, informal aspect of StageIt, the service was easy to use, and tech support was quick and helpful. We definitely want to do this again!
(If you would like to learn more about Team Summer or make a donation, please visit www.teamsummer.org.)