WARREN, NJ - An eighth-grade student at Warren Middle School, Danny Cole Lifson, organized a charity event to aid the Community Food Bank of NJ in support of the fight against hunger and poverty. 

At the beginning of March, he approached Jon Lidz, owner of a local Warren eatery called Little Shanty. He suggested an open mic night and Lidz enthusiastically agreed. Once the date was secured, Lifson recruited many musicians and singers he knew, and also discovered new talent through networking with peers.
Keeping in constant contact with all involved, to coordinate what they planned to perform, was paramount. Students who had never met before were matched up and practice sessions were arranged, thus forming many new connections. It is clear that only through teamwork, with so many students, was this special night made possible.
There were over 20 students from schools including Warren Middle School and Watchung Hills Regional High School. Lifson mentioned that social media played an important role in getting the word out. “As well as making and distributing over a hundred fliers, we promoted the event through our Facebook group, Twitter, and Instagram.”

Most of the songs performed were covers that appealed to a range of musical tastes from John Mellencamp and The Jackson 5, to Paramore and Foster the People. Mikey DeMarco, a 9th grader at Watchung Hills Regional High School, shared the role of MC with Lifson for the evening, as well as performed on vocals and guitar. Eighth grader Peri Martins sang solo, as well as with fellow Warren Middle School students on guitar, Michael Hopwood and Lifson. There were also several talented songwriters in attendance, and a stand-up comedy routine. Student artwork, including photography, was displayed for purchase. At the end of the evening, over $300 was raised, and Little Shanty contributed 10% of its sales.
Without a doubt, the event created a relaxed and positive atmosphere. It was a terrific opportunity for local Warren and Watchung middle and high school students to celebrate the arts and performers, as well as for people to enjoy live music and support students and the community.
Looking ahead to future events? Lifson said “All of the students who participated put a lot of work into what they did; their contributions were invaluable! We supported each other as well as the charity. So many people showed up that we couldn’t even fit everyone inside!” With interest like that, there is sure to be another event like this on the horizon.