On Saturday, September 16, a record 35 musical performers will take the stage at 12 venues in downtown Leesburg for the annual Crossroads Music Festival. The festival is organized by BENEFIT Live, which has newly incorporated as a stand-alone non-profit to unite people with music to raise funds and awareness for charities making a difference in our area. That’s a mouthful, but trust us, this year’s offering will be even better than the promised 35-course meal.
The head chef in this case is Amy Bobchek who co-founded the organization with Ara Bagdasarian. Amy, who by day is Senior Vice President of Sales for Everfi, also performs locally with the band Big Bad Juju at least once a month. As she describes the origins of BENEFIT, it started with the realization that Loudoun County indexes lower than its neighbors for charitable giving as a percentage of income, despite its relative wealth. “We got to thinking about that problem. Why is it that people aren't giving? One theory was that it is a pretty transient community – people live here but commute to D.C. for their jobs. So, maybe there was an opportunity for us to create deeper connections with people living here and becoming more dialed into the needs of our neighbors? How do you change that? Well, being musicians, we've all experienced the magic that happens when you are delivering live music to an appreciative audience. You see people dancing and singing along and the joy that comes out of people, so we thought we'd put those two things together and create a culture that makes people want to give because they're so swept up in the joy that live music creates. That’s what we’ve been doing since 2017.”
The event has grown every year by every measure – the amount of money collected and distributed to non-profits (a total of $134,000 since 2017), the number of musicians (7 more than last year), the number of venues, “It’s just grown organically every single year,” says Amy. This year, the group gave $25,000 to eight non-profit organizations from proceeds of the show, even though no tickets are required. Sponsors like Toth Financial and Keane Enterprises donate for marketing consideration and individuals can donate in advance from $20 for a mobile pass to $500 for the designation of “Superfan.” Donations of any amount are welcome the day of the festival.
This year’s grants totaled $25,000 to A Hand Up – NOVA, which operates the Northern Virginia Diaper Bank (https://novadiaperbank.org/), Food For Neighbors (https://www.foodforneighbors.org/), Ryan Bartel Foundation (https://www.ryanbartelfoundation.org/), LAWS Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services (https://lcsj.org/), Legacy Farms (https://www.legacyfarmsvirginia.org/); Loudoun Literacy Council (https://loudounliteracy.org/); The Salvation Army of Loudoun https://loudoun.salvationarmypotomac.org/loudoun-county/), and Just Neighbors Ministry (https://www.justneighbors.org/).
Growing beyond being a program of the Paxton Foundation and becoming its own entity gives BENEFIT the freedom to serve charities that go beyond the children of Loudoun County, says Amy, though they remain a priority. “We love kids, but the main idea is that many people that live here don't necessarily feel a connection to the needs in the community. You may not even know that we have people that are food insecure, or people that can't pay their electric bills. We wanted our grant-making process to be adaptable and dynamic and able to respond to the needs that are right in front of us right now.”
Amy now serves as vice president and president elect of her own board, and Michael Gauvereau is chair of the events committee. In that role, Michael helped with band and venue coordination. An airplane broker by day, he also performs with several bands including Jumptown. Crossroads' slate of performers favors original music to promote a diverse group of local musicians to the local Loudoun audience. Both are excited that this year’s roster includes jazz for the first time.
Amy says having its own board also provides a succession plan that helps BENEFIT maintain its “big tent” community commitment. Some 200-250 volunteers including performers will take to the streets this year, passing out maps and schedules to attendees for shows from 5-10 p.m. at Black Walnut Brewery, Buford's Biscuits, Delirium Café, Dynasty Brewing Co., Goosecup, GreenTree, the Town Green at Leesburg Town Hall, Loudoun County Courthouse, King’s Tavern and Wine Bar, MacDowell’s Beach, Schmidt’s Barbecue and Sidebar. More details are available at https://crossroadsmusicfest.org/, and there are still opportunities to sponsor and volunteer. See https://benefit.live/.