A cappella group performs to benefit heart health

Marco Cepeda, Staff Writer

The UVM a cappella group Hit Paws and nonprofit organization Team Heart joined forces the night of Jan. 19 at Southwick Hall to present a charity concert.


Matt Dooman

This charity concert was initiated by first-year Lauren Eisel. Recently, Eisel was flipping through stories in the New York Times when she came across a story that tugged at her heartstrings, she said.

The story, entitled “Where a Sore Throat Becomes a Death Sentence,” is about Team Heart which is an organization of roughly 60 UVM and Harvard experts in the medical field who aim to provide sustainable heart care for sick patients in Rwanda.

Every February, this team of doctors, nurse practitioners and other kinds of medical professionals fly to Rwanda to conduct screenings.

After the screenings, they perform procedures on the patients in attempt to save their lives, according to the September 2018 New York Times article.

After reading the story, Eisel followed up with public health trip coordinator Anne Leavitt and discovered that there have hardly been any funding efforts to support Team Heart, Eisel said.

“After hearing about this, I was motivated to organize a charity event and take on the role of fundraising which I have a lot experience from in high school,” Eisel said.   

When Eisel learned that her roommate’s friend, sophomore Maddie Barnes, sings for Hit Paws, an idea for a fundraiser materialized, she said.

From there, Eisel contacted Barnes and Hit Paws President Lindsay Ross, a senior, to plan a charity concert collaboration, she said.

Eisel came to their rehearsal one day and explained Team Heart’s mission, Ross said.

“We agreed to perform and from there we began the process,” Ross said.

Other leaders who helped plan the event included senior Gillian Goolkasian, junior Grace Callahan and sophomore Olivia Wimble, and music directors Rose Chase and Ryan Darling.

“As the business manager this year, it’s pretty much been working with SGA to create a budget for the club and making sure we have enough money for sound and lighting for each of our shows,” Goolkasian said.

There are several marketing platforms Hit Paws uses to advertise their concerts and persuade audience members to show up.

“We use Instagram and Facebook. We also make posters and hang them up around campus,” Ross said.

Sophomore Matteo Luban, who sang with the group on Saturday, said he enjoys performing with Hit Paws.

“We’re a very tight knit group,” he said. “We have similar personalities and sense of  humor, which works out very well.”

A few well known songs the group sang include “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, “Call Me Al” by Paul Simon and “Somebody to Love” by Queen.    

The audience cheered and applauded between songs and when the soloists sang out.

Sophomore Isabel Birney, who came to watch the performance, said she enjoyed the show.

“I haven’t seen many a cappella groups in my life and I thought their song choices were really cool,” she said. “A couple I’d heard and a couple I hadn’t so it was nice to get exposed to some difference in that.”

According to Eisel, Team Heart raised approximately $600 and the next Hit Paws concert will be Feb. 9 in Southwick Hall.