Meet SingStrong's Jonathan Minkoff!

Her Campus Adelphi is excited to announce that SingStrong New York will be arriving to Adelphi next weekend. From Feburary 5th to February 7th, book your schedule to have your mind blown by of all sorts of a cappella goodness. Between classes, concerts, coaching, and competitions, you will undeniably get to satisfy your ear drums and learn the ins and outs of this incredible artform. We got the opportunity to speak to SinStrong's producer, Jonathan Minkoff. Aside from being apart of Blue Jupiter featuring Diana Preisler (from Lifetime's Pitch Slapped), he's the driven and devoted brains behind making SingStrong as successful as it has been.

 

HCA: What inspired you to create SingStrong?

JM: A cappella is naked. It’s real. It’s raw. But it’s also layered, intricate, even fragile. It’s the oldest form of music, and the very cutting edge of creativity. But a cappella isn't just singing; it’s singing together. A cappella is about shining selflessly. Yes, you have to be incredible, but you have to put the group first. Someone who can do that is almost always someone who wants to give back to the community. SingStrong was created to foster this amazing art form and focus that giving spirit to help communities.

I know it sounds corny, but it’s really true. Seeing SingStrong is nothing short of inspirational. You can’t experience that staring at YouTube on your laptop. That’s the pale imitation. This is the real deal. You have to be at SingStrong, live to really get this. It’s a full-on, life-changing experience.

HCA:  What made you choose Alzheimer's to be the cause you raise money for?

JM: I’ve seen how brutal this disease is, up close, with my own family. So we start with urgent need. We need to act. Alzheimer’s research is tragically underfunded and expected to affect as many as half of all families. It’s the 3rd leading cause of death in th elderly. There is no cure.  There is no treatment. And 2/3 of those who suffer from this disease are women. We must find a cure in our lifetime. SingStrong is part of the solution.

But beyond need, there’s also a connection between music and the fight against Alzheimer’s. Studies show that even after this disease makes us forget our loved ones and our lives, we still hold on to music until the very end. It’s at our deepest core, the very last thing to go, and sometimes the bridge back. There are stories of barbershop singers who can barely remember how to feed themselves, but miraculously, can still sing their old harmonies.  And more, when they do hear those songs and join in, they are set at ease. They are aligned, and seem to return to something closer to who they truly are, and not what the disease has made them. It seems very fitting that the kind of amazing people who come together for SingStrong, also help fight Alzheimer's.

HCA: Give us a brief outline of what happens at SingStrong.

JM: SingStrong is to a cappella what comic-con is for superhero fans. It’s the center of the aca-universe!  SingStrong is a weekend-long a cappella music festival, featuring groups from around the world performing every style under the sun, from barbershop to doo-wop, pop to jazz, beatbox to overtone singing and beyond. Profits support music programs and the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.

You can read more on it at http://newyork.singstrong.org/overview.html, and the class schedule is at http://newyork.singstrong.org/class-schedule.html

HCA: What should class and coaching attendees expect to get out of each session?

JM: SingStrong classes are focused on the people who attend. It’s a fast-paced combination of networking, education and entertainment. If you just want to dip your foot in the a cappella pool, you can do that. There is nowhere else that you can sample this wide a variety of world-class performers in one place. If you want to sing with a group, we have one you can join: The Single Singers. If you want to take your own group to the next level, we can help you!

HCA: How do SingStrong competitions work?

JM: ACA-IDOL is on Friday at 7. Collegiate and Semi-Pro groups compete for $1,000. ACA-Celebrities judge live, on mic! The audience votes by cell phone!  Rules. And the event is co-hosted by Diana Preisler, star of the TV show "Pitch Slapped" on Lifetime. It’s sassy, fun and really exciting! It’s also great real-world experience. In real life, you don’t get judged in categories against nearly identical groups. You get compared to all kinds of groups, and then you either “wow” them or you don’t. And when you win, you get paid. That’s how ACA-IDOL works.

The HS Competition is fast-paced but far more academic in its focus. Educated judges give written comments to the groups and the best of them get some spectacular shiny trophies to bring back to their schools. Once upon a time the HS competitions were sweet, but a little shaky. Those days are fading fast! HS kids are the strongest class of singers we’ve ever seen.

HCA: How has it been working with Paws & Rewind to make this event possible?

JM: Paws & Rewind are working hard to build the a cappella community at Adelphi and SingStrong is very grateful for everything they do. They are digging in and creating a legacy for years to come. These guys are the founders, and they should be very proud of their achievements and their work with SingStrong!

HCA: What's your favorite part of SingStrong?

JM: Impossible to choose! What sound like more fun? The world champion beatboxer, or a live-looper featured at lollapalooza that seems to weave sound together, or hearing rising TV stars? Or is it seeing beloved friends, or singing or meeting fantastic new people, or is it learning something just for the joy of it?

HCA: What's the most difficult part of running SingStrong?

JM: Promotion! We spend so much time making sure that the concerts, classes and coachings are world-class that we often have trouble getting letting the world know. That’s where we need the most help: spreading the word about SingStrong. And one thing we’ve found is that what matters most is when a friend reaches out to another friend and says, “Hey, this SingStrong? This is special. You do not want to miss this. You and I are doing this, so clear your weekend!”

HCA: Do you have any interesting stories from past SingStrong fests?

JM: One of our other producers, Diana Preisler, now the star of the TV show "Pitch Slapped”, brought her sleepy baby daughter, cradled in her arms, out on stage. And quietly, delicately, the entire audience of 600 people sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to her in perfect harmony to put her to sleep.

That’s a sweet story, but we have spicy ones too! We just sang at the wedding of a fantastic couple that met at SingStrong. And I know a bit about finding love at SingStrong, too. I met my wife, Judy at the very first SingStrong. We locked eyes at the concert, flirted at the afterglows and made beautiful music together in our a cappella improvisation class the next day.  I actually proposed to her on stage at SingStrong. And if we’re not extremely careful, we’re going to have a baby at this SingStrong! Seriously, though, she’s due in February!

HCA: Is there anything unique about SingStrong NY compared to past fests?

JM: Absolutely! SingStrong New York is a virgin festival! Everything is new! New groups, new space! And we’re taking risks. Instead of starting small, we are actually going bigger than ever. There are more concerts and more classes at this SingStrong than we have ever had at any SingStrong.

 

 
 

About The Author

Adelphi Campus Correspondent. Natalie is a sophomore at Adelphi University where she studies Acting and English passionately. In between her studies, she enjoys jam-packing her schedule through writing for contentBase.co, holding a chair position on the Student Activities Board and shining on the stage in school productions. She loves cats, coffee, fashion and music almost as much as she does writing. Her goal as a journalist is to inspire as many ambitious, young people, like herself, to make the most of their lives as possible.