It’s that time of year again!
Spring is approaching and so is UT’s 81st annual Songfest, a singing and dancing competition between student organizations on campus.
Songfest began in 1937 with a group of six fraternities singing songs on the lawn behind University Hall, fourth-year marketing and professional sales major Ja’Vawn Marbury said.
Marbury is vice president of Blue Key National Honor Fraternity, one of the two sponsors, and the master of ceremonies of Songfest.
He is working alongside the Taylor Bowen, mistress of ceremonies, fourth-year healthcare administration major and Songfest representative from Mortar Board National Honor Society.
This year’s theme is “Billboard Hits: No Time Like the Present.”
All the National Panhellenic Council sororities will be competing in this year’s event, along with nine of the 10 InterFraternity Council fraternities, the Catholic Student Association, Epsilon Alpha Pi and University YMCA, Marbury said.
“It’s so much fun watching our fellow students and peers come together within their own chapters to put on a great show,” Bowen said.
There is a philanthropic mission attached to Songfest, and this year’s chosen recipient is Veterans Matter, a national organization that subsidizes housing for homeless veterans, Marbury said.
“We chose Veterans Matter, so we can help give back to those that gave so much for each and every one of us,” Bowen said.
Veterans Matter was founded in 2012 under the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization 1Matters and has since housed over 2,000 veterans in 18 states, said advocate-in-chief Ken Leslie.
Veterans Matter has attracted support of over a dozen artists including John Mellencamp, Katy Perry, Kid Rock and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Leslie said.
“We partner exclusively with the VA, and one can only access funds if he or she is a homeless veteran going into this long-term housing program and getting case management,” Leslie said.
Leslie said he was a homeless veteran himself, so now he devotes his time to be sure others like him don’t have to sleep on the streets.
“I’m honored Veterans Matter was chosen as the philanthropy for Songfest,” Leslie said. “We’ve partnered with UT for so long, and what that means is that these incredibly passionate students who care about homeless veterans want to be a part of this.”
Leslie said he credits Patrick Ryan, fourth-year professional sales major, for getting Veterans Matter engaged in Songfest. Ryan is the philanthropy chair for Songfest and a member of Mortar Board.
Ryan has worked alongside and for Veterans Matter to bring awareness and raise money for homeless veterans. He is also a “Black Hoodie”: a nominated leader, advisor and helper at 1Matters’ annual “Tent City” in downtown Toledo.
Started in 1990, Tent City brings the entire community together in one weekend to provide medical and dental services, food, clothing, the return to housing and other services to those in need.
“He has such powerful compassion for homeless veterans,” Leslie said of Ryan. “He’s been a wonderful advocate for getting students engaged.”
In the midst and at the end of the production numbers, award ceremonies are held for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places and several other recognitions regarding the event, Ryan said.
“We have a goal in mind of $25,000,” Ryan said. “With everyone’s passion and commitment, I don’t think we’ll have a problem reaching that at all.”
Leslie said donations to Songfest can be made and tracked at on the Veterans Matter website or by texting UTSongfest to 71777. So far Songfest has raised $9,389.80 for Veterans Matter and has had 247 donors and 178 fundraisers.
Songfest takes place March 24 at 5 p.m. in Savage Arena on UT’s main campus. The event is free for all to attend.
“Every dollar donated houses a veteran, and every dollar counts,” Leslie said.