Q&A with VH1 Save The Music’s – TRELL THOMAS Talks About How He Brings Memorable Events Together With Beyonce, John Legend and More!
Posted On 25 Nov 2015
Tag: #millennial, Aaliyah, Adele, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, allaccessmusicnicole, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Chrissy Teigen, Daniel Leon-Davis, Elias Hightower, Elle King, Getty Images, Global Grind, Hamptons, iTunes, J. COLE, Jason Derulo, John Legend, John Mayer, Just Dance, Justin Bieber, KATY PERRY, Leon Bridges, Man in the Mirror, Mariah Carey, Mathew Eisman, Megan Trainor, Michael Jackson, Miguel, Nia Mack, One In A Million, Snowcoming, Soundclound, Spotify, Spotify Music Management, Stevie Wonder, SXSW, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tori Kelly, Trell Thomas, VH1, VH1 Save The Music, VH1 Save The Music's SNOWCOMING, VH1 Save The Music's SNOWCOMING Young Benefactors Gala, YouTube
VH1 Save The Music is nearing 20 years as a non-profit whose supporters are music’s biggest names: Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, John Legend, John Mayer, Jason Derulo and more, but the non-profit organization that brings music back to schools works to engage the next generation as well. That effort is led by TRELL THOMAS , talent relations for VH1 Save The Music.
At any music event in town, you’ll find Trell with his signature hat, stylish attire and boundless humor and enthusiasm working to connect with the next generation of music execs and artists. Save the Music has brought more than $51 million worth of instruments to 1,900 public schools in 231 districts around the country since 1997.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had the pleasure of catching up with TRELL THOMAS as he prepares for Save The Music’s “Young Benefactors” Snowcoming fundraising event gala, hosted by STM’s Young Benefacators, on Friday 12/4 at the New York Public Library. Read more in Nicole and Trell’s chat below!
Hey there Trell! How are you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
Today has been crazy in a good way – of course, Snowcoming is just around the corner, so finalizing logistics for that (we still have some tickets!). We have a lot of exciting partnerships in the works that we’re finalizing. One is a cool new in-game feature we launched with Just Dance. It’s called “community remix,” where players can literally dance to Save The Music within the game, and potentially win $10K for their local school.
Planning for our 2016 has also kept me busy – we’re bringing back our Musically Mastered Menu dinner series where we pair an artist with a chef for themed musical dinners. On top of that, we’re planning for SXSW, as well as our next Save The Music Moment (where we partner with an artist to raise awareness about the foundation through an intimate performance and an in depth Q&A session about the effect music has had on their lives—these often include some sort of instrument donation by the artist). It’s been a good, busy rush before the holiday!
For those not as familiar with you and all the wonderful nonprofit work you have done and continue to do as the Press and Talent Relations Manager at VH1 Save The Music, which has bought more than $52 million worth of instruments to 1,964 public schools in 233 districts around the country since 1997, how did you get your start, Trell?
It’s funny, I actually immersed myself in Save The Music just by volunteering. For everything. I met a girl who used to work here (Nia Mack, formerly with Save The Music), one event led to another. It got to the point where I was volunteering on my lunch break while at my day job. I ended up volunteering so much that someone was just like, “have you ever thought about just working here?” and I said, “all the time!”
Fast forward to 2013, where I got the opportunity to lead a fundraising auction for Save The Music’s summer Hamptons benefit. My personal goal was $20K, but we ended up raising close to $30K while I was with the organization part-time, helping out purely for the sake of wanting to do it. I knew then that this was an opportunity to do something that I’m really passionate about and take to the next level. I didn’t play an instrument, but I’ve always had a natural affection for music, education, and the arts in general. I sang in the choir since I was a kid and grew up watching VH1 Save The Music’s commercials and specials in awe. I thought, why not combine my love of music and desire to give back, and make it into my life’s work?
How has VH1 Save The Music evolved over the years since you started and where do you want to see it go in the future?
Our voice has changed as the times (and our audience) have evolved. Our social numbers have doubled in the past year; we’re engaging a much younger audience than the brand used to see. Before, it was mainly educators and parents who knew what Save The Music was about. Now we’re bringing in a vibrant, more millennial audience who also want to give back, so it’s been a blessing to work hand-in-hand with young people to provide those opportunities.
We’ve started to work with artists in a different way – shifting our approach to contacting musicians who are organically excited with what the Foundation is already doing. We started reaching out to artists who reminded us of ourselves, whom already in their daily lives were dedicated to saving the music – and the change has been so evident. Elle King is a great example. We reached out to her after seeing a YouTube video performance of her killing it, and she’s been so phenomenal to work with ever since. Jason Derulo has a very organic tie-in as well.
We’ve always done cool brand partnerships, but I think the way we look at them now has changed too. Rather than offer a blanket or a la carte menu approach, we sit down with our partners, discuss goals and create something very special and catered to everyone’s goals. Continuing to do more major organic partnerships like Just Dance is an ongoing goal.
I’m also excited to continue the growing demographic of those getting involved with us. I want to tell our story across borders and eventually, expand VH1 Save The Music internationally. I want us to continue bringing artists and students together in a way that encourages dialogue on how music can impact children’s lives beyond becoming a performer. Music is brainpower (and sometimes celebrity), yes, but it’s so much more. It touches everything across our lives. Music is a confidence builder. Music helps with self-esteem. Music helps with health issues; music is an escape. That’s the story of music we’re heading toward and want to change the rhetoric of.
You are currently in the midst of putting together VH1 Save The Music Snowcoming Gala on Friday, 12/4 at the New York Public Library, which I understand this year has a “millennial twist”. Can you tell me more about the event, Trell?
Yes. We have this phenomenal group of Young Benefactors, which is our youth board. I started off as one years ago. Snowcoming was born from the idea of wanting to create something to reward and thank our YBs for all the work they do, while also supporting Save The Music’s core mission. Before we knew it, we built upon this idea of a next-level holiday party: a gala thrown by and toasting music’s next generation of influencers, while allowing ourselves to give back in a way that’s authentic to our generation and Save The Music. With the coming of winter, the generosity of the New York Public Library (how many millennials can say they’ve gone to a party there?) and every single element carefully curated by our YBs (from the chosen artist to the theme and food), Snowcoming came to life. Our objective is to make this the annual kick-off to the holidays for young music industry movers and shakers every year.
Tickets can be purchased at on.vh1.com/snowcoming and we’re offering a special buy-two-get-one-free ticket deal for music industry professionals, to incentivize coming together for a great cause.
You have also partnered with some very talented and inspirational young benefactors of Save The Music which include: Daniel Leon-Davis (Global Grind), Elias Hightower (Spotify Music Management) and others. How has their inclusion complimented your efforts?
Immensely. To have people on your side who are in positions of influence in the music biz, with their fingers also on the pulse of what’s important to the Foundation, is a dream. To be able to merge those two worlds (and the wide-ranging networks of each of our Young Benefactors) is very helpful and inspiring.
As a Talent and Relations Manager, who do you have your eye at the moment?
We would love to do something huge with Megan Trainor. Other artists we love and want to work together with in the near future (some we’ve worked with in the past, others we simply admire): Beyoncé, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Leon Bridges and Tori Kelly, to start.
Since we are a music publication, I must ask…everything nowadays is so instant, you press a button and it’s yours ala Spotify, Soundclound, iTunes…what was the first album you actually went to the store and bought for yourself?
Aaliyah, One in a Million!
What was the first song you fell in love with that really struck a chord with you and why?
Michael Jackson, “Man In The Mirror.” My dad was playing it in the car one time when I was about six, seven years old. I looked in the rearview mirror and just started singing it to myself; I was hooked. My dad was like, “what are you doing?” I just kept singing and requesting him to play it over and over.
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
Adele, J. Cole. I really like this indie-meets-country group called Hey Monea!, whose songs I can never get out of my head. I love Miguel. Justin Bieber, man, I can’t get his new album out of rotation. Not ashamed.
What’s on tap next for you, Trell? What are you most excited about for this year?
I’m just really excited about taking Save The Music to the next level. My confidence in myself and my team has grown so much since joining because of the awesome leadership team here. Everyone is so supportive, inspiring and motivating. No idea is too crazy. I’m looking forward to our 20th anniversary, which we’re marking with a huge blowout gala in 2017. And overall, continuing to make our events and initiatives edgier, more accessible, and continuously cooler. So come out to Snowcoming and see what we, and our Young Benefactors are about. It’s going to be amazing.
For Information + To Purchase Tickets to VH1 Save The Music’s SNOWCOMING – Young Benefactors Gala on Friday, December 4th, visit the site HERE .
Also visit VH1 SAVE THE MUSIC website HERE to keep up to date on all their events and wonderful work they are doing throughout the year, how you can contribute, participate and more!