by Cormack O'Connor in New Music on Tuesday 5 March 2013

AdvertisementRockCorps is starting to kick along nicely here in Australia. With The Script, Tinie Tempah and Guy Sebastian taking to the stage in a matter of months, we had a chat to RockCorps CEO Stephen Greene about all things volunteering and music. LAEM: You’re the CEO of RockCorps. How did you gain that position? SG: There were 7 of us that started the company a little over ten years ago. We were all friends that were working and living around Los Angeles; it was just after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. We wanted to do something positive that was based around music, had a youth focus and we wanted to kick it off in New York. I guess I became CEO after drawing the long straw while we were sitting around a table discussing it (laughs).

LAEM: How many RockCorps events have you produced since you started?
SG: We’ve done over 40 concerts and had over 135,000 volunteers so far with around 500,000 volunteer hours. Australia is the eighth country that we’ve done it in, but over the last few weeks we’ve seen that it will be one of the best yet. The enthusiasm of the volunteers has been great!

LAEM: Are you surprised about how the idea has grown and spread all around the world?
SG: Yeah we are! We weren’t sure if it was going to actually work when we first started. We wondered whether people would be up for doing volunteer on that scale for concert tickets. It didn’t make it easier that our first event was in Radio City in New York; it isn’t a small venue. We were either going to fail big time or do something spectacular and luckily it was the latter. We then had a feeling that RockCorps wasn’t just an American thing and that there could be global applications. We certainly could never have imagined this.

LAEM: Do you pick out the activities that the volunteers participate in?
SG: We do. Every volunteer project is done in partnership with a not for profit organisation. We don’t know the issues intimately in a place like Sydney, so we tap into the local knowledge and learn from the people that really do. We like to set up relationships between the volunteers and the organisation as well so hopefully it continues when the concert is over. We also do it to cover a really wide range of issues.

LAEM: Do you have a favourite project that you’ve been involved in that comes to mind?
SG: Yeah! When people’s bikes get vandalized or stolen in New York they are often just dumped because they are missing parts. The police used to just scoop them up and chuck them in a dump somewhere. However, this non profit collects them and then put the parts together in a warehouse in Brooklyn before giving them to kids who can’t afford to have a bike. We think it’s very inventive!

LAEM: In regards to the musicians that come on board, do you find them supportive of the cause?
SG: Well we wouldn’t want to work with someone if they don’t get it. We want them to be enthusiastic because part of the booking requirement is that they do four hours of volunteer work too. Working with a-list talents is never the simplest thing but when the artists and managers hear about it, it’s not an easy thing for them to turn down.

If you want to find out more or volunteer, check out RockCorps.