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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper


They didn't grow a mustache or a mullet, but members of the Midnight Ramblers did join singer-songwriter Ben Folds in a makeshift recording studio in Wilson Commons on Dec. 5 to perform his hit single "Army" for an upcoming anthology. Scheduled for release this spring, the recording will feature a cappella groups from around the country performing their versions of Folds originals. The Midnight Ramblers was selected from hundreds of other college a cappella groups around the country—via YouTube—as part of the project sponsored by Folds.

Midnight Ramblers rock Wilson Commons with Ben Folds

By Jenny Leonard and Melissa Greco-Lopes

A lot can happen in a few weeks. Ask Asher Perzigian ’09.

What began with a video post to YouTube culminated with a one-on-one recording session with singer-songwriter-performer Ben Folds, of Ben Folds Five fame.

On December 5, Perzigian and the other members of the Midnight Ramblers spent a few hours recording their version of the hit “Army” in a makeshift studio in Wilson Commons. The recording is for an upcoming anthology that will feature college a cappella groups from across the country performing original songs by Folds.

The group got an e-mail from Folds a few weeks ago letting them know that out of hundreds of submissions theirs had made the final cut. Proceeds from the project, sponsored by Folds (www.benfolds.com/acappella), will support music education programs.

"Actually, Chris, one of the band members who is studying abroad this semester in Vienne, was the first to read the e-mail from Ben," says Perzigian. "He called us really early from Austria to tell us the good news."

Perzigian, who has been a member of the Ramblers for four years and now serves as the group's general manager, says meeting Folds and having the rare opportunity to work so closely with him was "incredible, hands down."

"Ben couldn't have been more down to earth. He wanted us to have fun. Clearly he does music because he loves music. That's why we do it, too. In the end, that's what it's all about and that's the message we try to share—the passion, the love, and the enjoyment of music. You don't have to be a rock star to get that," says Perzigian.

Perzigian says the recording session was much more relaxed than he had expected. "I had anticipated a more formal situation. But it was really laid back. There was Ben, his sound guy, and us. We had lots of laughs. At one point I was running around trying to find an extension cord for Ben, while another Rambler, Mark, ran downstairs to get cereal for Ben because he hadn’t eaten breakfast. On one level, we couldn’t believe we were hanging out with Ben Folds, but on another level, it just seemed like a really fun jam session with friends."

The recording session with Folds comes in a week when the group announced other big news. The Ramblers are launching a scholarship in fall 2009. The $5,000 award is the first permanent scholarship funded through a student-alumni partnership at the University and will be offered to an incoming freshman who demonstrates an appreciation and passion for music innovation.

"The Ramblers have been giving to the University community in extraordinary ways for the last 10 years," says Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid. "This is one more example of their dedication to the success of musical performance here."

Funds for the scholarship are raised through the sale of the Midnight Ramblers 10th anniversary anthology CD, which was created last year. A portion of the money earned from live performances also will supplement the scholarship endowment. The group plans to increase the amount of the scholarship over the next few years.

"This scholarship is especially meaningful because of the partnerships between the Ramblers, the admissions office, and our alumni," adds Perzigian. "One of the founding goals of the Ramblers has been to enrich the community through a cappella, and this is a new, innovative way for us to meet that goal, and it's made possible through their support."

Since its inception in 1998, the all-male singing group has produced seven studio albums and has been featured on the nationally acclaimed Best of College A Cappella compilation CD. The group has also been invited to sing the national anthem at several Major League Baseball games and other sporting events around the country. The Ramblers volunteer throughout the City of Rochester and will head to New Orleans in March to perform in several of the municipalities stricken by Hurricane Katrina. Hear samples of their music online at http://midnightramblers.org/music.

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