The history of music is a vast landscape of activism, from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and the folk songs of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to the rock anthems of Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine, the political punk of The Clash and Dropkick Murphys, and the power pop of Madonna and Lady Gaga.
All of the above, and countless others, have written music with a cause, political leanings and a message to convey.
And so it follows that some of the most meaningful, enjoyable and memorable teambuilding events available today are those that are music-focused with a CSR element that furthers the social good beyond the interests and bottom line of the participating company.
“Music is a universal language, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t relate to music in some way,” said Andy Sharpe, CEO of SongDivision, the teambuilding company that at press time was scheduled to facilitate their popular Rock & Roll Game Show event at MPI’s World Education Congress in Las Vegas last month. “Often when we talk to organizers they are skeptical that their people will engage in the process. It’s a beautiful thing to watch how the power of music can change everything.”
Following are six wonderful teambuilding companies that help corporate groups make a difference via teambonding events that infuse music, the only language everyone understands.
Kidbilly Music—Team Building Through Song
Kidbilly Music, with offices in Nashville, Chicago, L.A. and London, also operates with the belief that music is a universal language.
“We’ve worked with international teams where a salesperson from Japan and a salesperson from the U.S. instantly find a powerful connection as they discover they share the same favorite song from childhood,” said the company’s founder, Billy Kirsch, who is also a Grammy- and Emmy-nominated, CMA and ACM award-winning songwriter.
Kirsch has found that clients are always looking for something fresh, and as a growing niche, musical programs are still new to many. Plus, music is memorable.
“On any given day, you may not remember where you put your car keys, but you can probably sing the lyrics to dozens of songs by heart,” he said. “Creating corporate songs enables groups to come away with their own memorable messages.”
A Team Building Through Song program has several phases, including ice-breaking, writing and recording songs, and performing.
“About half of the programs we facilitate are general sessions in which everyone stays together to create one song,” Kirsch said. “These sessions fill keynote speaking slots or conference openers and closers. Even with over 1,000 people, we have a method that allows everyone to participate in the songwriting.”
Kidbilly Music’s CSR components include participation by students from local schools and the donation of musical instruments.
“It seems that whenever budgets get squeezed, the arts are one of the first things to get cut,” Kirsch said. “So wherever our clients hold their teambuilding events, we match them with worthwhile schools in need of support for musical programs and instruments.”
Major companies in more than 20 countries have turned to SongDivision’s programs to enliven events.
Among the options are Lip Sync Battle, a contest that transforms everyone into rock stars, and Song Slam, during which attendees compose a song together.
“We work with the event organizers and company leaders to understand the goals and core values and then help the teams write songs that echo those messages and themes,” said CEO Sharpe.
For larger groups, there is Team Anthem, an activity that incorporates everyone’s input into writing a song that is then performed and also recorded for use post-event.
“One of the things that we see happen over and over again is when people who are more reserved come out of their shells,” Sharpe said. “Something about music changes them and they forget about their fear. They want to be a part of singing their company anthem.”
Over the years, SongDivision has developed relationships with several charitable organizations to accommodate CSR-focused groups.
“We offer programs where musical instruments are purchased and used during the event and then are donated to one of the organizations we support or one of the client’s choosing,” Sharpe said. “If there is an existing CSR initiative happening, we can create a custom musical program around it in a way that gets people excited and inspired.”
The brains behind R&D Events, which has offices throughout the U.S., realize that more traditional teambuilding activities involving sports and physical capabilities—think golf and ropes courses—don’t work for every group.
“They can quickly segregate a group since not everyone is physically fit or motivated by competition,” said Geoff Rhodes, R&D’s director of fun. “But with music, everyone has a relationship to that medium and can quickly find a common ground to work from.”
A signature R&D Events activity is Jam Session, which Rhodes described as an “over-the top” experience that’s been voted among the best give-back events ever created by top industry professionals.
The experience involves working with local at-risk high school students to write a jingle that’s presented to the entire group. The winner is selected based on audience applause, but all the kids are winners in the end as each is surprised with their very own musical instrument to take home.
“When you can create an experience that allows an attendee to be a part of a positive impact in someone’s life, it’s something that they will remember forever,” Rhodes said. “Our CSR experiences have a lasting impact on everyone that participates.”
Rock and Roll Team Building
Workshops led by Ciaran Gribbin, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and performer who has toured the world as the singer of INXS, are described as “a musical awakening” by Nicole White, Rock and Roll Teambuilding’s general manager.
Workshop segments include choir, during which the group learns to sing in four-part harmony with no musical backing; songwriting, during which Gribbin uses words suggested by the group to construct an original song with the event’s theme as the title; and rockstars, during which volunteers from the group are transformed to appear as well-known artists such as Madonna or Angus Young and perform with Gribbin.
“Singing live with Ciaran and the band, these volunteers always present some of the most entertaining and hilarious segments of our workshops,” White said. “The consistent feedback we receive from participants is that they’ve experienced many teambuilding programs, such as cooking, amazing race, trivia and problem-solving games, but never have they had as much fun as our workshops.”
Workshops also feature an abridged version of Gribbin’s keynote tale about never giving up on a dream and an evening performance.
It’s also worth noting that the original song produced in the workshop can be recorded on-site for use in follow-up events.
“A nice touch for clients is to use the song as an overlay track for an event highlights video shown at the final evening gala,” White said.
At present, a CSR component isn’t available to groups that book workshops in the U.S., though White says it will hopefully be available by the end of 2017.
In Australia, the company partners with charitable organizations, including the Australian Children’s Music Foundation.
Rock the Stars
The core teambuilding activity facilitated by Rock the Stars, which offers programs in the U.S., Canada and beyond, is U Rock, which involves participants forming a rock band, learning how to play a popular song and competing in a battle of the bands contest.
“The activity requires no musical background,” said Stewart Hall, the company’s president and founder. “Effective teams put the group’s goals ahead of their own. They find creative resolutions to disagreements, share responsibilities and empower one another to take risks in achieving their objectives. Great bands are no different.”
The CSR version of U Rock involves donating the instruments used in the activity to a school or nonprofit organization in need.
“We invite the recipients to accept the donation in person, providing an emotional, feel-good moment at the end of the activity,” Hall said.
He added that a CSR teambuilding event is a relatively simple thing any company can do to both benefit a community organization and give employees a sense of accomplishment that they helped in a small way to make the world a better place.
“This leads to more engaged, happy and loyal employees,” Hall said.
Catalyst Global, with offices on every continent except Antarctica, works with groups around the world that want to strengthen the team and further social good in the communities where they meet. The company offers a variety of teambuilding events, including BeatsWork and Orchestrate, two programs that mix music and CSR components.
During an uplifting BeatsWork event, a fun lesson in timing among participants, the group transforms into a big percussion band as each participant plays their part on cue.
They start in small groups, working with a professional percussionist. After the smaller teams learn the basics of samba beats and breaks, and get acquainted with their instruments, they come together for a lively finale performance.
Many groups that book a BeatsWork event choose to share the experience in the community, such as in a local hospital’s children’s ward or at a nearby nursing home.
An Orchestrate event is similar, but instead of samba beats, the group comes together to emulate the teamwork involved in being a great symphony orchestra. Attendees play strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion during a five-minute-long finale concert.
One add-on CSR idea is to have students at a local school compete with the group, and then donate some instruments to the school after the event.