For Face Vocal Band tenor Cody Qualls, choir class was a safe space for him and other kids who struggled under the oppressive yoke of school bullies.
“I got pushed around a lot in middle school,” Qualls says. “A lot of people were bullied and have stories of not belonging. The choir room was somewhere I always belonged. We were able to geek out in our own way and be accepted and celebrated for that.”
It’s in that spirit that members of the the Boulder-born, all-vocal five-member group raised about $20,000, most of it from its headline show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre this summer. The money will go to TIGER (Technology, Instruments, Guests, Experiences and Resources) grants. The grants, between about $400 and $2,000 each, will be parceled out to schools and districts throughout the state, for music programs to use for anything from printing out sheet music to getting a saxophone repaired.
The members of Face, which started in 2002, credit much of their success, including TV appearances, headlining shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a show next year at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall, to their time in school choirs or bands. They often make appearances at schools to work with kids and, hopefully, inspire them to take up music.
“It’s a matter of showing up for who you are and what you do, and persevering though struggles,” Qualls says. There are challenge and ups and downs, but you can do anything. If a local a cappella group can headline Red Rocks, anything is possible. None of us saw that happening when we were starting out.”
Face is taking the stage at the Rialto Theater in Loveland on October 19. The band sings a mix of everything from ’70s hits to Leonard Cohen to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The crooners have also been writing original songs the past five years or so. Bandmembers say that although they are an all-vocal group, they are “not your grandfather’s a cappella group,” and audiences should expect a rock-and-roll show that is fun for people of all ages.
During the show, the band will present a check to the Colorado Department of Education. The CDE will collect applications for the grant money and will dole out the funds later. The grants have already helped nineteen school districts in the state and more than fifty schools, according to a news release.
“FACE Vocal Band’s continued commitment to supporting music programs in Colorado schools is making an incredibly positive impact on our students,” CDE Commissioner Kathy Anthes said in a statement.
The band, which averages about 120 live shows per year, estimates that over the course of its existence, it has raised more than $100,000 for music education, including the grant program and individual fundraisers for schools. The money has mostly been given to Colorado schools, but some has gone to support programs nationwide, according to vocal percussionist Mark Megibow.
Megibow says that the band first raised grant money in 2017, and it was shocking how little some schools — some of them in rural areas — had in the way of musical programs.
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“There were some schools that didn’t have instruments, or maybe they had a wood block and a tambourine,” Megibow says. “With the grant money, they were able to buy classroom guitars or classroom keyboard instruments. At least one school was able to start up a legitimate music program where there wasn’t one before.”
Qualls says that humanity is connected to the arts, so music and arts education is important.
“Where there is a gap in funding, we are possibly being shortsighted in what a lack of that education can do for our culture as a whole,” he says. “The idea that math and science — and of course those are important skills for everyday life — but the idea that they are more important is, I honestly feel, a sign of our times.”