A loved one’s diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis can be devastating news, but two Stevens students are choosing positivity over fear.
Stevens Electrical Engineering major Patrick O’Brien – one of about 70,000 people worldwide with the disease – and his roommate, Stevens Music & Technology major Michael Crino, recently launched a nonprofit organization called Music Gives Back. The charity uses music to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people with Cystic Fibrosis live longer, healthier lives, and advancing research which will lead to a cure.
“Patt and I share a love of music and we decided we wanted to start a record label that would make a difference,” Crino said.
The duo spent last semester tapping into their scores of music industry contacts for support. Crino has been embedded in the music business since he was a teenager – he’s worked at music studios and record labels, freelanced as a live audio engineer and owned and operated Buffalove Custom Drums, which specializes in drum staining, custom wraps and acrylics. O’Brien is the lead singer of Gravity Against Us, a pop-punk band with a large and growing fan base which performed at Bamboozle, a well-known three-day music festival in New Jersey.
“Together, we had a ton of connections and they were all willing to help,” said Crino. “A lot of the bands were actually really close to the cause, too. They knew someone with Cystic Fibrosis, so they were happy to write a single for us.”
The first project by Music Gives Back was the release of a pop-punk CD called “Open Your Heart,” a compilation of 17 tracks from nationwide bands from three sponsor labels – Bridge Nine, Broken Rim Records and Panic Records – and other lesser-known New York-New Jersey bands who agreed to donate songs. Crino mixed a few of the songs on the CD. O’Brien’s band, Gravity Against Us, was featured on one of the tracks.
The “Open Your Heart” benefit concert and CD release party held at Maxwell’s in Hoboken in July raised approximately $1,300 from ticket and merchandise sales.
“That was our big charity kick-off,” said Crino. “It was great because it became clear we’d created a community. Even people who weren’t necessarily into the music wanted to support the charity, so they came out to the show or bought t-shirts online.”
O’Brien and Crino have released a YouTube video describing the mission of Music Gives Back which has garnered almost 15,000 views. This month, they offered a pre-sale of 50 copies of a four-way vinyl split they produced, and the interest of more than 4,000 supporters crashed their website.
“The Cystic Fibrosis community is really on board, and we are realizing the sky is the limit,” said Crino. “We want to keep growing. We want to keep putting out records that sell out in minutes.”
Between royalties paperwork, setting up recording contracts, booking studios, producing songs, and marketing efforts, Crino and O’Brien have spent hundreds of hours growing Music Gives Back since they first had the idea to launch the nonprofit back in February. But Crino said his brothers from Alpha Sigma Phi, the duo’s friends and families, the countless bands willing to donate songs, and the record labels which selflessly donate their artists are the real engine that keeps the organization moving.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Crino said.
Crino is excited for the organization’s future. An Entrepreneurship minor, he plans to grow the venture using the knowledge and skills gained in courses such as Project Management and Financial Accounting.
“This is stuff I can actually put into everyday use,” Crino said. “Stevens has given me an excellent balance between the kinds of classes I can take – from music technology to the business side of the music spectrum.”
Next up for Music Gives Back is an appearance as a sponsor at Fest 11 in Gainesville, Fla., which will feature performances by a dozen bands featured on “Open Your Heart.”
To buy merchandise from Music Gives Back, visit the web store at www.musicgivesback.bigcartel.com.