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Singing for a Cause

Project 497 - why that number? source: Matt Yim
Project 497 – why that number? source: Matt Yim

Article: John Loeppky – Contributor

Josh Gonzales uses his love of music to help others in need.

Josh Gonzales is a fellow student who has started a fundraising project through his music. We sat down with him to talk about it:

So, just as we begin, you could just tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Josh Gonzales, 24, I’m a psych major doing my Honours degree this year.

Project 497, could you explain that for us?

Basically earlier in the summer, I think it was in May, I just really had this desire to do something for charity or do something that would make a difference in the world.  The whole goal is to get 497,000 downloads of this new single by April 2014.

Could you explain what you are supporting?

We ended up doing it with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) because I love to do research and their founder is an economist at Yale who also blogs for Freakonomics. I was trying to find a more efficient way of people spending their money because, a 99 cent download, that’s not a ton of money, right? You want to get the most bang for your buck. I chose IPA because they help out with school-based deworming programs and so, on average, it costs about fifty cents for one child’s treatment.  The slogan is: “Buy a Song, Change a life.” Just having something that, you know, every song downloaded could possibly really help a kid out. That’s for six to twelve months of treatment for a small pill.

Just out of curiosity, why did you pick the 497,000 number?

Because 500 is too much (laughs). I was trying to think of a number that would be big enough to be recognizable but something that we could potentially hit.  It still felt like something that was possible and so the numbers themselves don’t mean that much because it was more about connecting as many people as possible. It rolls off the tongue pretty nicely.

Where is your inspiration musically?

I wasn’t sure about who I would donate to at the time, but I wrote it with the full intention of donating all the money to a charity. So I knew there were certain aspects of it that I would need. It couldn’t be super depressing or anything like that. In terms of who my inspirations for the song would be, I can’t really say. I mean, John Mayer-ish. I don’t want to say just him, but in that kind of genre.

How did your experience as a U of R student influence this project?

It’s really that I’ve had this amazing opportunity to come here and learn from all of these amazing people. I wanted to do something with education because I’m doing my Honours degree. Obviously, school is very important to me. I think it does help a lot of people and so I wanted to give kids in these impoverished countries the same opportunities that we would have. With this school-based deworming, kids are more likely to show up for school because they don’t feel as bad and they end up earning, on average, something like 20% more as adults.  When you are in these settings it is easy to get lost and lose track of everybody around you so I kind of wanted the lyrics to connect with people. Just enjoy it while you can because you don’t get these opportunities all the time. You should be taking advantage of all the opportunities you are afforded, not just at school.

As a person who wants to download the song, where do we have to go? What do we have to do?

The song is called “Young as I’ll Ever Be”. It is pretty much anywhere you want to find it. We do have a website which would be http://project497.com/. All the details are on there.

Do you have any words for students on campus looking at attempting a project as ambitious as your own?

The important thing is that it is something that really connects with you because people can smell bullshit right away. They are looking for that story out of it. Learn your marketing skills. It is a really important skill to know how to sell and if you are going to do something like this for a non-profit then you need to know human-social dynamics. Get in touch with people who care about this kind of thing. That’s what I’m doing with The Carillon.  People I know that care about this, I am trying to get it out to them. If I can connect to more people like that, that’s awesome too.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I’m not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.