Harvey Mudd College has won an online voting competition to bring pop country singer Taylor Swift to campus for a free concert in October.
Swift will give a live, acoustic performance that also will be filmed as part of a VH1 Storytellers series to air Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. ET/PT and 11 p.m. ET/PT.
The online voting competition was open to U.S. colleges and high schools, and voting took place over the past month.
HMC sophomores Travis Beckman and Yeahmoon Hong, both enthusiastic Swift fans, rallied votes from fellow students at HMC and the other Claremont Colleges by creating a Facebook event and inviting friends to join and vote.
“I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter and, in August, she posted about the concert competition so I went immediately to Facebook and started an event the same day,” said Beckman. “We set about inviting everyone.”
“Facebook was the ultimate networking site, amazing for quickly networking friends, friends of friends, family members and faculty,” said Hong. “In fact, I heard that several Mudd faculty were also voting in the Taylor On Campus Contest. It was an excellent way of bringing solidarity to a common cause among people that didn’t even know each other.”
Beckman read through the entire rulebook to see if winning was even a possibility. He originally thought that chances were slim, but then saw that the competition normalized the voting by school population. He realized HMC, with its small size, had a shot.
“I was posting once a day on Facebook trying to get people to vote,” Beckman said. “It wasn’t some big orchestrated thing—it was just two fans who got the word out.”
Beckman and Hong mixed a little Shakespeare with Tolkien to motivate friends to vote, writing: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; The 5C’s have a chance of winning this if we unite and put together our powers. We have a way of bringing Taylor Swift to our campus!…This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth I bid you stand, Women and Men of the West (Coast)!”
Beckman checked the Taylor Swift On Campus webpage every day, and then every hour in the lead-up to the announcement of the winning school. “I was hitting refresh over and over, and when I saw we won, I ran out of my suite at 7 a.m. and screamed ‘Taylor Swift’s coming to Mudd!’”
Hong was equally ecstatic when he saw that HMC had won the concert.
“I grew up listening to Taylor Swift, and often listened to her songs during the long homework hours of HMC’s Summer Math Program,” Hong said. “We can now see and hopefully meet her in person. I am looking forward to enjoying the concert with my friends. Personally, it was my friends who encouraged us to make the Facebook page so that we could vote for the contest.”
The concert is sponsored by Swift, Papa John’s and Chegg, an online textbook rental company, in partnership with VH1, CoverGirl and American Greetings. In addition to the concert, Swift and Chegg’s philanthropic program, Chegg for Good, is donating $10,000 to the music departments of each of the five schools that acquired the most votes: HMC, Seton High School in Cincinnati, Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, Terra Environmental Research Institute in Miami and California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
HMC is discussing how best to invest the grant to enhance student opportunities in music.
“I’m a typical Mudder—I’ve got mid-terms to prepare for,” said Beckman. “But once that weekend hits, I don’t know if I’ll be able to sit still for more than a few seconds at a time. It’s going to be amazing.”
Read Travis’ blog post about the Taylor Swift concert here.