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NHS Grad Fundraising While Protecting Her Former Hometown

NEW YORK CITY — Beth Bogdan, the senior director of artistic relations for Republic Records, usually spends her days handling itineraries, calendars, and travel issues for “a certain number of artists on the label,” she said earlier this week.

“I handle their travel plans, keep track of their calendars, their tour itineraries, so when people need to know where they are, they call me,” she said. She also takes care of filling in those calendars, working with tour managers to orchestrate meet and greet events with fans, interviews with the media, and the like.

Lately Ms Bogdan, 41, has been spending the better part of most days opening mail, cataloging what has been arriving, and posting updates on Facebook, Twitter, and the MusicForNewtown.com website. Sometimes she’ll open the mail and find a CD that has been signed by Jack Johnson. Last week it was a guitar signed by Taylor Swift. A few days later another guitar, this one signed by members of The Eagles. Another day it was a tambourine signed by Lisa Marie Presley.

The Newtown native is the organizer of a two-day auction that will offer anyone who visits the website between 3 pm EST on Monday, March 25, and 3 pm Wednesday, March 27, the opportunity to bid on autographed CDs and vinyl albums, guitars, publicity photos, concert and show tickets, and other rare items that will be offered during the 48-hour window. Funds raised through the auction will be donated to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

Ms Bogdan created Music For Newtown to unite the community through music, and give back to those affected by the events of 12/14.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what I could do,” she said early Monday afternoon, from her desk at Republic. She was in the same office in Manhattan three months ago when she learned of the shootings in her former hometown.

“I had come to work, and one of my co-workers was buzzing me in,” said Ms Bogdan, “when she asked me if I heard about a shooting in Connecticut. I thought it was near Hartford, in a school.”

There wasn’t a television on in the immediate vicinity, so it was a few minutes before Ms Bogdan learned just how close the story was going to hit.

“Then my phone rang,” she said, “and it was my father. I told him ‘Yeah, Dad, I heard about the shooting in Hartford.’

“He said ‘No Beth. It was in Newtown.’”

Beth Bogdan has worked for Republic Records for 14 years. She has been with the company since its acquisition by Universal Music Group in 2000 and renamed Universal Records, through the Universal Republic Records era of 2006–12, and continues now that the label has returned to its former/original name, Republic Records. She knows a lot of people.

“It’s been a ride,” she said, laughing.

After 12/14 Ms Bogdan found herself wanting to do something for Newtown. Although her parents sold their Newtown home after Ms Bogdan graduated from college, the Bogdans all maintain contact with friends who still live here. Beth’s parents, who moved to Mystic full-time once they sold their home on Birch Hill Road, met up with their daughter in their former hometown in December shortly after the shootings.

“Right after Christmas I decided to visit town while I was on my way to visit my parents,” she said. The Bogdans met in Newtown for a visit, before all three headed to Mystic together. Ms Bogdan had heard about residents feeling overwhelmed by the media, and even by the number of events that were happening.

It has been about two decades since Beth moved out of Newtown, but she is still protective of its residents.

“It’s where I grew up. I spent a lot of time in Mystic there when I was younger — my parents had their second home there — but Newtown is where I grew up,” she said. She attended Head O’ Meadow, then Newtown Middle School (“There was no intermediate school when I lived there,” she said with another laugh). She graduated from Newtown High School in 1989, and then headed off to college.

“I think I would still be sad about [12/14] if I hadn’t grown up in Newtown, but this is my town. It’s part of me. This is personal,” she said. “I have so many great memories of Newtown.”

The Ice Cream Shop, skating on a pond with friends behind a neighbor’s home, playing football… those are all part of Beth Bogdan’s Newtown youth.

“It used to be ‘I grew up in Newtown. It’s near Danbury,’” she said. “Now you mention Newtown and people know exactly where you are talking about.

“But I’ve been very proud of Newtown, and the state, and how they are handling things. I’m proud to say I am from there.”

 

A Growing List Of Auction Items

Mixing hometown pride with a cape of protectiveness, Ms Bogdan began forming an idea.

“I was trying to figure out what I could do,” she said. “Being in the music industry, I have a lot of contacts here. I started thinking about doing something a few days after the tragedy.”

Knowing that music can be very healing, she said, Ms Bogdan decided to do more than donate money to a fund. She thought about arranging a benefit concert, “but I didn’t want to do anything in town that would cause even more chaos that was going on there. Being from Newtown, I was really trying to be careful about that.”

That was when she decided to stick with the music theme, but reach a wider audience. The Music For Newtown online auction was born.

“An online auction could reach out to more people, and still raise money for a cause,” said Ms Bogdan.

Republic Records is sponsoring the auction, and numerous artists have donated special limited edition items to the cause.

With Republic’s blessing, Ms Bogdan has been able to reach across record label lines for donations. Artists who have no ties to Republic have been donating to the auction.

“When I said to them that I wanted to include other labels —  Tim McGraw, Robert Cray [both of whom have donated items], they’re not on our label, but they were all looking at the cause — there was no problem [from Republic]. So many people were touched by what happened in Newtown, and wanted to help.”

A pair of tickets to see Tim McGraw on June 30 at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., and an autographed copy of the Robert Cray CD Cookin’ In Mobile along with a signed 8 by 10 photo of the musician were among some of the first confirmed Music For Newtown lots. This week, another autographed Cray item — a signed Nothin But Love limited edition deluxe version CD — was added to the list of offerings.

Ms Bogdan has been reaching out to artists, and has had friends reaching out to others that they know, to spread the word about the auction.

“We’ve been suggesting ideas, but also telling people to be creative,” she said. “Some have been a little more creative,” she added, hinting, perhaps, at the Archie Comics #196, “Veronica featuring special guest star Colbie Caillat,” signed by the singer-songwriter and guitarist.

“Colbie was very, very, very generous,” said Ms Bogdan. Signed Colbie Caillat songbooks, CDs (the singer-songwriter has donated autographed copies of all four of her releases) and a guitar have also been donated.

Bethel Music Center has also donated a guitar, which will be signed by multiple artists.

“We’re still working on getting a few more signatures for that,” she said Monday, March 11. “I know some more things are on the way. Tomorrow I’ll be picking up some items from Columbia … and more exciting things from Jack Johnson are coming.”

“There’s definitely some other big stuff coming in.”

Of Monsters and Men donated a signed drumhead that was played on the band’s 2012 fall tour, “which was pretty cool,” said Ms Bogdan. The band has also offered up an autographed limited-edition tour poster. In addition, Of Monsters and Men have collaborated with organizers of The Governors Ball Music Festival up to donate a pair of three-day general admission passes to this year’s festival, in Randall’s Island, New York City, June 7–9.

“They’ve been very nice,” Ms Bogdan said. “The generosity of all the artists has been wonderful. I’ve been very happy with it.”

Donated items as of March 14 also include an autographed guitar from 3 Doors Down; a four-pack of tickets for the May 27 taping of The Voice in Los Angeles, two tickets and Meet & Greet passes for MIKA’s April 9 show at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, and a T-shirt signed by all six members of Cimorelli.

Autographed vinyl has been donated by Jack Johnson (En Concert on vinyl, CD and DVD), The Avett Brothers (The Carpenter), and Florence + The Machine (Ceremonials). Johnson has also added a full catalog of his CDs, all signed, along with an autographed Best of Kokua Festival to create yet another lot.

Autographed CDs have also come from fun. (Some Nights), Thomas Rhett (Acoustic EP), Soundgarden (Superunknown, along with other items), Jewel (Lullaby), Five For Fighting (Slice), Owl City (Ocean Eyes and The Midsummer Station, as separate offerings), and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (a signed copy of Rattle Them Bones and, like Robert Cray, an autographed 8 by 10 photo), Jessie J (Who You Are), and others.

Gotye has donated items including a limited edition Australian version of Making Mirrors vinyl with autographed liner booklet.

An autographed copy of Florida-Georgia Line’s CD Here’s To The Good Times and autographed promotional photo of the country duo is also going on the block. Within the past week Ms Bogdan has also received four sets of lyrics from The Cab (“Endlessly,” “Take My Hand,” “Her Love Is My Religion” and “La La”), each autographed by lead vocalist Alex DeLeon, and an autographed posted and signed copy of Mat Kearney’s CD Young Love.

While the details had not been unveiled as of Thursday, March 14, Ms Bogdan did confirm that she had also received something from Elton John.

Additional items are expected, and updated information will continue to be posted on the auction’s website, its Facebook page, and announced via its Twitter feed.

“The artists [keep telling me they] were happy to be able to donate to it,” said Ms Bogdan. What gets to her, however, is what she has receives beyond the donations for the auction.

“People have reached out to me, once they find out that I’m doing this, and grew up in Newtown. They have asked what they can do to help,” she said, “and also just, ‘Beth, how are you doing?’”

Ms Bogdan has been back to Newtown twice since Christmas. The first time she was here, she helped sort some of the toys that were arriving during the initial wave of items being sent in from across the country. She spoke then, she said, with Social Services Case Manager/Administrative Assistant Ann Benore about wanting to help on a grander scale.

She also spoke, she said, with Bob Geckle about where the money could go if she did go forward with her fundraising idea.

“He listened, and helped me figure out what to do,” she said. “Obviously there’s going to be some long-term needs for Newtown. With the United Way waiving their fees, I thought that was a good place to send the money.”

She also returned a few weeks ago, for the Community Giveaway Day at Reed Intermediate School, bringing three local musicians with her. Dan Watson, Adam Rhodes, and The Energy offered live entertainment while residents pored through the piles of toys, bicycles, games, books, dolls, and other items that had been sent to Newtown.

Ms Bogdan is hoping to raise at least $100,000 later this month.

“I have expectations, but I don’t know if they’re realistic,” she admitted. “I’m hoping $100,000 will be the low side. It’s hard when you’re talking about autographed things. Some of the artists, they don’t sign a lot, so that makes things worth more.”

The Eagles and Soundgarden, for instance, are notorious for not signing many autographs. Ms Bogdan is hoping that will work in her favor.

“This has been like a full-time job,” she said of the time she has already put in to the online auction. “And I’ve loved it.”

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