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10/09/2012 13:45:33

A Swift Windfall: Students Benefit from Online Contest

Despite the best efforts of a group of students, Taylor Swift will not be performing at Caltech. The upside? The Institute's music program will soon receive a $10,000 boost.

Caltech recently placed among the top five in a month-long competition presented by the online academic hub Chegg and by Papa John's, in partnership with CoverGirl and American Greetings. The voting competition encouraged people to "like" Grammy Award–winning singer Taylor Swift's Facebook page and to vote for their high school or college. The grand prize of a VH1 Storytellers performance featuring Swift was promised to the school that amassed the most points by voting and "liking" the competition's sponsors. Grants would go to the top five finishers to help support music education.

To get the word out about the competition, Caltech sophomores and Taylor Swift fans Alex Cioc and Shalini Majumdar started a Facebook group that reminded members to vote each day for Caltech. Eventually, the group had more than 1,700 members.

"We loved the idea that we could help Caltech while also getting a chance to meet one of our favorite artists," Cioc says.

In the end, the competition website announced that more than 14,000 schools had competed and that Harvey Mudd College in Claremont had won the live performance. Caltech finished in the top five along with Seton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio; Terra Environmental Research Institute in Miami, Florida; and Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California. The Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Allston, Massachusetts, also received several major donations as a result of the competition.

At Caltech, several active music groups play a vital role in helping to realize the Institute's mission of "educating outstanding students to become creative members of society." Credited music classes include chamber music, concert band, jazz band, symphony orchestra, glee club, and guitar class. In addition, students lead a cappella groups and the pep band.

Although William Bing, the director of bands at Caltech, says he is not yet sure how the grant will be used, he adds, "It's a good problem to have. That's for sure."

Written by Kimm Fesenmaier