The Hashem Assadullahi Sextet Reinvents 80’s Pop, Classic Americana, and Much More

Hashem Assadullahi began his love affair with the saxophone in the Lone Star State, Texas, when he joined the 6th grade band - nearly 20 years ago. Now, Hashem leads the Hashem Assadullahi Sextet - joined by composer and guitarist Justin Morell, pianist James Miley, bassist Tyler Abbott, drummer Ryan Biesack and the world renowned trumpeter Ron Miles (most well-known for his work with Bill Frisell, Madeleine Peyroux, Duke Ellington Orchestra and many others). This group’s sound draws on a wide array of styles including jazz, classical, pop, and movie soundtracks - it’s quite enjoyable and innovative. In early 2011, they recorded an album of music spanning many musical interests, from contagious hooks of 80’s girl pop to Americana. Hashem is leading the crowdfunding campaign that will get this record made. I spoke with hashem about what makes this sextet tick. One of the aspects I love about jazz is the freedom it allows for communication during the performance within the band, so the real impetus for this recording is that I love performing with these musicians: Justin Morell, James Miley, Tyler Abbott, Ryan Biesack and Ron Miles. I’ve been playing with these guys for years in various contexts and it’s been a few years since my last record came out. It felt like it was time to go back to the studio and record some new music. Each one of these musicians is a remarkable individual and it really comes through in his playing. This group has great chemistry and the ability to take the music into new territory each time we play together. Everyone shares the musical space and contributes to the overall arc of each composition. Consequently, we collectively improvise really well while allowing each piece or song to really shine through. You’re based in Astoria, Queens now - a vibrant and increasingly prolific musical community. How has your global community supported you in your crowdfunding journey? Crowdfunding has been great for me! It’s given me an excuse to connect on an individual level with fans, friends, and family all over the world! Contacting people to let them know about the fundraiser was initially pretty intimidating but everyone has been very receptive. This project is something we really believe in and I think that comes through in our outreach. People respond to that. We’ve had support from folks all over the US, along with Thailand, Korea, and Japan. Even if some people aren’t able to chip in monetarily, they have been very supportive with their encouragement, and for me that’s equally as important. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned? RocketHub provides some excellent advice to help “Creatives.” I tried to follow all of the advice about spreading the word. I’ve spent a great deal of time contacting friends and family to put the fundraiser on their radar. I try to contact a few people each day to help relieve the pressure on me and maintain momentum, providing an excuse to make posts about my fundraiser via social media. Some of my contacts are more responsive via social networking, texting, post cards, or carrier pigeons, while I’m more of an e-mail person. I’ve had to adapt to their preferences in order to spread the word more effectively. I also make sure to thank each and every contributor—I think this is vital. Great advice about gradual outreach and public “thank yous.” Thank you Hashem and thank you to the Hashem Assadullahi Sextet. If you want to give your ears a treat, click here. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • September 12, 2011

Cole and the Crooked Flower - The Children’s Book With an Awesome Mission to Fight Scoliosis

Jenn Leggett is the proud parent of two boys, ages 3.5 and 1. Her older son was born in 2008 with a rare spinal deformity, Progressive Infantile Scoliosis. Thankfully, with help from the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program Jenn’s family connected with one of only a handful of US doctors trained to cure her son’s condition. After nearly a year spent in serial body casts, her little boy has a wonderful prognosis: he is cured and they expect him to stay that way! During Cole’s treatment, Jenn and the family wrote a wonderful children’s book to help explain to young kids, their families, and friends about the treatment. They even got a professional illustrator to donate her time and talents to illustrate this beautiful story. Now, Jenn is utilizing RocketHub to crowdfund the initial publishing process and further support the Progressive Infantile Scoliosis cause. I spoke with Jenn about her mission. What was the inspiration behind the super pro-social project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? As we say on our project page, it all started with our son. It was a very scary experience as we slowly realized that there was something seriously wrong with his spine. We addressed it with our pediatrician multiple times, but we just got brushed off. We really have both Google and the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program [] (ISOP) to thank for pointing us in the right direction. Even after seeing a local specialist, we went from, “Don’t worry, its nothing,” to, “The best we can do is hold it off as long as we can until he gets years of painful surgery.” There’s a large active community of people with stories just like ours. A difficult road until finding one of the few doctors who do the correct treatment (Mehta casting). Our son is cured now, but without ISOP, we would be in a very different situation. The treatment we got was very time sensitive, and a lot of people miss the window because they don’t get the information in time. Most pediatricians and family doctors don’t know about progressive infantile scoliosis, and many specialists don’t know the right treatment. We want to use the book as both fundraiser as well as spreading the word itself in a format that can just be fun, but with a message. Finally, when we told the support group about the book, many of them just wanted a copy because the story is written as a metaphor for the treatment in a cute way that can be explained easily to small children. That’s an inspiring story - getting the word out seems to be vital. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of positive art and publishing - how are your supporters responding? RocketHub is amazing. To be honest, I was worried that this project would just never happen. ISOP is small, and does not have the resources to do it, even though it can hopefully provide them with a lot of funding when its made. Print on demand services are much to expensive to have any margin left. When we found RocketHub, we jumped on it! The support is wonderful! We’ve gotten support from other families involved in ISOP, but also friends and total strangers. And we’re hoping to get a lot more so that we can reach our goal. You’re well on your way to success and you’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? One thing that’s helped us, of course, is that there is a group out there that we’re making this book for, but we knew we couldn’t make it there with that support alone. We’re trying to spread the word to a larger audience, which is why we made sure the project should have a broader appeal. The story is a metaphor, but its very subtle and we knew it really needed to just be fun for any kid. To help it along, we’re trying to take advantage of social media and a little bribery ;) We also have a couple of giveaways going on out there from people hoping for the project to succeed (no purchase necessary of course). You get entries by posting to Facebook, tweeting, or Fueling! Giveaways: Thank you Jenn, thank you Cole, and thank you to the whole Leggett family. You’ve warmed our hearts and inspired the whole RocketHub team and community. Help make this book into a reality. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • September 9, 2011

Multicultural, Multinational, Lacerda Crowdfunds a Music Video

Lacerda is the epitome of the new music industry - a multicultural, multinational band that doesn’t fit any established molds, proactively connects with fans, and engages their community for financial empowerment. I spoke with Lacerda’s crowdfunding frontman, Milenko Vujosevic, about the band’s past, present, and future. Our multicultural background seems to help us everywhere we go. We tend to mostly tour the United States and even though Canada isn’t very culturally different in most ways, people seem to think there is something exotic about 5 guys who live an hour north of the border. So it has definitely helped in the crowdfunding sense because most of our amazing fans are from the States. But we never forget our loyal Canadian fanbase as well! The inspiration was simple really. We wanted to do something special for our fans, and a music video is something that we haven’t done yet. We thought, what better way to premiere new material, than through a music video. But of course music videos are costly and at this point in our career we need as much support as we can get. RocketHub has provided the vehicle for this support! What do you recommend to others trying to follow your footsteps? Our advice for creatives getting into crowdfunding is to set a realistic financial goal and reach out to your entire network. And by entire network we mean everyone you know. From fans, to friends, to family members. Anyone who is able to support your project even a little bit should be involved! Thank you Milenko and thank you Lacerda. Keep fighting the good fight. Friends, fans, and family can join the fun, here. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • September 8, 2011

From Toronto Success, MONARITA Tours Canada

MONARITA is a new play by Toronto poet Shannon Bramer that features actors Sara Tilley and Ruth Lawrence with Mark White, and is directed by award-winning film and theatre director, Sherry White. The play is a dark comedy about two women - dealing with the joys and challenges of life. The play has had much success at the Hamilton and Toronto Fringe Festival. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ruth about this unique play and how crowdfunding has fit into the larger fundraising efforts involved with a tour. What was the inspiration behind the unique theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you? In December 2008, Shannon Bramer sent her script MONARITA to a call for submissions to Women’s Work, a works in progress play development festival that is co-produced by (my company) White Rooster Theatre along with She Said Yes! and RCA Theatre companies. Before I finished reading it, I knew it was a play I wanted to produce. After Sara Tilley (the artistic director of She Said Yes!) read it, we agreed that the roles were perfect for us. Three months later, the playwright came from Toronto for the workshop and before she went home we asked for permission to produce it. Fast forward one year to March 2010, it was running in St. John’s, NL.   The play, and the subsequent response from audiences, really inspired us to pursue a Canadian tour. Shannon has a unique vision of the world and we felt we should share it. In July, we took it to the Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals, where again it resonated with everyone who saw it. Next up is Halifax and Winnipeg, and from there, who knows where will be next! Word of mouth really seems to be friendly to this show. Sounds like quite a whirlwind! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of innovative theatre in Canada - how are your supporters responding? Well, first of all, I was surprised at how soon the RocketFuel starting pouring in. We had [originally] raised $29,000 of the $30,000+ that we needed already but we ran out of ideas to pursue to get that last piece of the funding puzzle. Anyone in the arts knows how hard it is to raise money because we’re always doing it. For every single project.   I did some research on RocketHub before we jumped in, because if we were going to do it, I really wanted to do it right. As it turns out, we couldn’t have done better. Your site was simple, bright and user friendly. The ability to save and proofread is INVALUABLE. We took a couple of days to pull it all together before launching. We’ve had amazing support! After a very short time, we are 85% there and I know we will reach our goal. We used Facebook and email and talked it up a lot. I also did a radio interview with CBC that stirred up some interest in our fundraising. I started getting emails and calls and that’s when we set our RocketHub campaign in motion.  That makes a lot of sense - crowdfunding can be an important piece of a bigger fundraising puzzle. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? White Rooster is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and I teamed up with two other companies (She Said Yes! and RCA Theatre) that have a history of doing good work in the community. So my first bit of advice would be to have a history of success you can build upon. We also had a measure of success with this project by being named Outstanding Ensemble by NOW Magazine after our Toronto Fringe run. That definitely helps. Second bit of advice- have a recent track record to get people excited about supporting a winner.  And finally, I’m a fan of the soft-sell. We sent messages out via Facebook and email but did not pummel people with constant reminders. It can be a turnoff for some potential supporters. We DID however, publicly send thanks those who did support us, via email, Facebook and in talking it up to others. A big thanks goes a long, long way. Wow - spot on advice. A track record and credibility go a long way. Thank you for the awesome project - we can’t wait to see the play. Show your support, here. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • September 6, 2011

Happy Labor Day from the RocketHub Crew

Labor Day celebrates the economic, social, and cultural value of workers. The definition of work has greatly evolved from when Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882. Today, the new and expanding Creative Class takes on an ever-more important share of economic responsibility and cultural contribution. From James Portnow to Sara Barbas to Mladen Lijesnic to Jenn Leggett to Hashem Assadullahi to Michal Bilick, and to countless others - the RocketHub community is personified by great labor of love, inspiration, innovation, art, and utility. Our team is proud to support the Creative Class. From artists to entrepreneurs to philanthropists to awesome organizations (large and small), we work for and alongside some of the most passionate, talented, and interesting groups and individuals. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s all very good and quite rewarding. Happy Labor Day! -The RocketHub Team Images courtesy of Nasa Images.

Read the full post »

  • September 5, 2011

Alma Micic Soars To New Directions With 3rd Album

Alma Micic was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia. At the age of 16 she started performing with a local quartet and she’s been soaring ever since. Alma attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and has been residining in New York since 2000. She has performed at prominent venues such as the Jazz Standard, Scullers, Iridium Jazz Club, Cecil’s Jazz Club as well as various international festivals and concert halls. Alma is now engaging her fans to crowdfund a third album and is the second in her family to experience success on RocketHub - her husband, Rale raised nearly $5,000 last year for his jazz guitar project. I spoke with Alma about her path and inspiration. I wanted to record an album of songs which excited and inspired me in many different ways, and I didn’t stick to traditional jazz standards or sound this time. The songs I wrote for this album came out of my experiences in the past year, my faith and a life full of love which I am so thankful for. I have a beautiful family which is my strong source of strength and energy for writing songs. The tunes I picked to do covers of are not the usual suspects- Sweet Child of Mine by Guns n’ Roses shaped my growing up in Belgrade as a teenager and Bob Dylan’s What Can I Do For You is a praise song that forever changed me. My producer and associate, great guitar player Doug Wamble joined me on this project and was the driving force behind the album’s heavily soulful sound. My supporters are very excited about this project, which is the first one I am funding this way, and about the great rewards they will receive. I am so happy to have so many people wanting to be a part of it! In a few words, what advice do you have for other artists looking to take this path? Believe in your project and tell the world about it. I can’t wait to hear you sing “Sweet Child of Mine!” Thank you for your project and congratulations on your success. Get the album here. -Vlad Images courtesy of, Kevin Hatt, and Aleksandar Kostic.

Read the full post »

  • September 1, 2011

801 Miles to Crowdfunding Success at the Chicago Fringe

Tim MacMillan is biking 1,032 miles to raise funds and awareness for his theatre production of “Soul mates don’t die” in the Chicago Fringe Festival, Pilsen 2011. It’s quite a journey - physically, emotionally, and artistically. So we needed to get the lodown from Tim. What you’re doing seems both crazy and awesome. What was the inspiration behind your project “801 Miles” you are currently running on RocketHub? I looked up the area of where my play was going to be performed on Google earth and noticed that the area was littered with bike lanes. That started the wheels in my head. “Why not bike to Chicago?” I thought to myself. The idea turned into plans as plans turned into me biking up the Appalachians, run off the road by Ohio drivers and being chased by unleashed dogs as I cycled through Indiana. I have planned numerous fundraisers in the past that have succeeded and failed. I wanted to do something different, something really challenging and inspiring. This campaign with RocketHub has allowed me to explore why I am an artist as this entire experience encourages me to soar past my own boundaries of artistic capabilities. We’re glad to be able to help. How has your experience been as a crowdfunder in the world of theatre - how are your fans responding? They are shocked. Everyone, friends, family, fellow playwrights, strangers and even my campaign manager have been simply flabbergasted at the choice and gradual success of this campaign. People honestly don’t know how to respond when I relay my plan to raise money for my new play. The most inspiring thing about a crowdfunding website is talking about it. Hearing you, yourself relay your goals to strangers that aren’t aware of such possibilities. Dreams are real. They can turn into nightmares only if you allow them to drift into some that isn’t part of your goal. The average Joe, Charlotte, Quincy, Mary or Mohammed doesn’t have much in terms of financial capital. However what they do have is a hungry smile for inspiration something inspires them, feeds their smile, gives them something to believe in. Which is how this kind of fundraising works. Your momentum has been stellar. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Do it. Try it. The more planning the bigger the success! If you are one artist, a nine piece band, a company seeking funds to launch a show or any endeavor that needs more than just funds. RocketHub does more than just serve as a site to view your project as it refines your credibility as an artist in whatever community you thrive in. Rock on Tim. We’re closely following your journey and have your back. Join the journey here. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • August 31, 2011

A Movement Odyssey - Independent Dance Comes to Life

Caitlin Trainor lives and dances in New York City. She fell in love with the art form at Skidmore College and hasn’t looked back since - we’re proud to have her dedication and energy as part of the RocketHub community. Today she directs Trainor Dance and is on the faculty at Barnard College/Columbia University. Trainor Dance is a small dance company getting ready to produce its first independent show. This is where crowdfunding and RocketHub have come in. I spoke with Caitlin about her project and the uniqueness of crowdfunding in the dance world. There are two pieces on the program for the fall concert - and each is quite different in terms of inspiration. The first piece, Digital Origami, began with a scrap of movement that intrigued me. That scrap was something that I “found” years back, on another dancer, who moved in a completely different way than I do. His slender, delicately muscled body appeared to be collapsing as he moved; his actions appeared simply as a folding of the joints, each movement the inevitable outcome of the previous. In my robust, muscular body this silky movement felt foreign. I wondered what it would feel like to be in his skin, and began experimenting with this idea of folding, collapsing, inevitability, eventually developing a movement phrase around it.    Fast forward 8 years. While on artistic sojourn in Northern England, I found myself returning to the phrase. Only now, this bit of material started to take on a testiness, an insistent push and pull with the floor, not unlike what I was feeling as an outsider living in a traditional society. Coincidentally or not, I became interested in tight, traditional ways of organizing movement, such as unison and canon movement, which can be very satisfying visually but are considered somewhat passe in NY art dance circles.   From within this detailed and structured movement, some wild, uncontrolled outbursts of movement began to emerge. These were primal and loose, textured with vibration and full bodied partnering. As the piece began to take shape, the dancers appeared more and more to me to be like cogs in some kind of great machine on the verge of combustion. Animalistic impulses strain against precise, structured movements, not unlike the the individual pressing into a stratified society, or the human being interacting with technology. The functions of computers depend on sequencing of ones and zeros, yet human beings, for whom these machines have become so indispensable, are driven by appetite, impulse, and desire.  Also on the program for our concert is ORBit, a visual odyssey based around the use of giant meteorological balloons. In terms of inspiration, I just thought the idea of using these giant colorful balloons would be so incredibly fun! I have always been fascinated by the movement of cosmic bodies, and so we have used the ideas of planetary motion, black holes, shooting stars, magnetism and gravity as a springboard for creating the piece.   As for why the work is important to me, that is hard to say!  After survival, love and dance are the most important things in life for me. Like many artists, I suppose that on some level, I am on a quest for meaning. Somehow making art makes sense, despite it’s utter impracticality. The fact that art, something so unessential to physical survival, exists in cultures rich and poor, ancient and modern, amazes me. The persistence of the arts though out history and across the globe points to something very fundamental in the human spirit. And that unnameable something is what I am chasing when I get up every morning and pack my sweats for another day in the studio.   Your spirit comes across very powerfully. How have you translated this inspiration into your crowdfunding campaign? My experience as a crowdfunding pioneer has been great!  Supporters have been stepping forward to help out and we are off to a great start. My advice to anyone who wants to give it a shot is to be prepared to do the work that goes into making the campaign happen. In a sense, you really earn the money contributed to the project because the campaign takes a lot time to organize and implement properly! However, the process can sharpen your ability to write and speak clearly about your work, which is very useful in engaging audiences and potential contributors. That’s great advice. Thank you Caitlin for bringing your project to the world and the RocketHub community. Get your tickets and other rewards, here. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • August 29, 2011

Crowdfunding the First EP - An Important Success for Karl Remus

Minnesota-based Karl Remus is a young and talented musician who utilizing the power of crowdfunding to galvanize his fans and raise funds to make the important first EP. I took the time to catch up with Karl to talk about his success and his next career moves. So how has this process been for you? It has been a completely positive experience! To be honest I was unsure how this all would play out. But I’ve discovered that I have supporters that I never knew I had. Not only in Minnesota have people been fueling the project, but from various states across the US. As a musician on the rise and basically in the process of launching my career it is very exciting to see some much benevolence from people that I don’t personally know. The inspiration is solely life experiences. I wrote all the songs on the new CD over the course of the past year. You can learn a lot about me by listening closely to the themes, lyrics and different colors that fill each song. Each song takes on a certain emotion or feeling that I felt at some point, and I translated them into the language of music. Sometimes in a metaphorical way, sometimes extremely direct. Songwriting is a complete win-win in every way. It is therapy for me because I get rid of all the emotions I keep locked up. But not only does it benefit me, it touches the listeners in someway or another, whether it be melancholy or joy. Sweet! You’ve done quite well. Any advice for other musicians? The best advice I can give is be sincere in your purpose. Be honest and show gratitude to your targeted supporters and they will respond with great success. Give a plethora of information about your cause. Cover all forms of media; videos, audio and text. The more substance that you give the supporters, the more likely they will help out. Also set a modest financial goal, test the waters and don’t be afraid to take risks. Branch out to as many people as possible. Make personal phone calls and emails to directly explain the project to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep up the good work Karl. Hear Karl’s music and get involved. -Vlad

Read the full post »

  • August 25, 2011

Vergetone and Mike Baldo Keep the Music Alive in Buffalo, New York

Vergetone is a production company headed up by Berklee College of Music grad (and all around nice guy), Mike Baldo. Mike is “tripple dipping” in three cities with happening music scenes - NYC, Boston, and Buffalo - and has projects taking shape in each spot. His RocketHub campaign is for an album comprised of 10 of the Buffalo’s coolest artists and bands, and we recently caught up to get the scoop. What was the inspiration behind your music project “Best of Buffalo Benefit Album” you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it so important to you as an artist and community leader? The idea for the Best of Buffalo album came from my experience growing up as a musician in Buffalo and the recent budget cuts in Buffalo music education programs. It’s increasingly more difficult for aspiring musicians to get opportunities they need to learn and experience music in the city. I’m hoping that this project will raise awareness about the talented music community in Buffalo and that our donations to The Music is Art Foundation will help give young musicians the chance to pursue their passion.  How has your experience been as a collaborative crowdfunder in the world of music - how are your fans and community responding? The crowdfunding experience has been incredible. It’s given myself and Vergetone productions a surprisingly detailed view into the music community and industry. The loyalty in the Buffalo community is amazing, and we’ve really seen some strong support. It’s great to see such enthusiasm from our friends and fans who may not even be from Buffalo, but just want to help out a good cause and hear some great music! Any advice, tips, or tricks for other Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? My advice would be to stay as genuine and passionate about your project as possible. Fans, listeners, and supporters in the music industry are very intuitive. If you live for your art, they’ll recognize that and be eager to help. Hard work and passion in music will always deliver an amazing creative result and your fans will be sure to get involved. Much appreciate the good insights here Mike - great to have your talents and passion on RocketHub! Brian

Read the full post »

  • August 24, 2011