Max combined his two great interests—fundraising for local charitable organizations and the music phenomenon that is Phish.
Philosophy major Max Shatzkamer spent much of the 2014 fall semester completing an internship with the WaterWheel Foundation, established by the legendary Vermont-based band Phish (which once performed in the GMC dining hall during the group’s formative years). The experience engaged two of Max’s great interests—fundraising for local charitable organizations and the music phenomenon that is Phish.
The primary mission of WaterWheel’s Touring Division is to raise funds for non-profits in each community where Phish tours. After volunteering with WaterWheel for much of the summer, Max participated as an intern for the band’s fall West Coast seven-city tour, which concluded with a Halloween concert in Las Vegas. WaterWheel started in 1997 when Ben & Jerry’s launched its “Phish Food” flavor in 1997. Proceeds from some of the sales continue to go to the Lake Champlain Initiative, which seeks to protect the natural resources and water quality of the lake. As a member of WaterWheel’s Touring Division this fall, Max helped solicit donations to local charities at each venue.
“The name of the organization uses a water wheel as a metaphor to show how you can create positive impacts in local communities,” Max said. “In other words, the fans act as water that pushes a wheel to produce donations.“ Max set up tables outside each concert venue to sell official merchandise and fan-donated art. “Fans drop off t-shirts, stickers, posters, pins, hand-made jewelry, Phish nail polish, Phish underwear . . . you name it,” said Max.
Part of the genius of WaterWheel is that by using donated merchandise and keeping overhead low, almost all the money raised goes directly to the charities. “The band likes to support grassroots organizations that concentrate on making a difference in each community,” he said. In Seattle, the group Stewardship Partners was a primary beneficiary. The organization works with local landowners to reduce their environmental impact and advises farmers and suburban homeowners on how to build riparian buffers and rain gardens to prevent runoff.
Of course, the added benefit for Max, who has been an avid Phish fan since 2009, was proximity to the band and its improvisational music. He met the band’s keyboardist Page McConnell this summer during his volunteer gig. A native of Great Neck, N.Y. on Long Island, Max discovered GMC while doing research online about environmental schools. After spending some time living in Vermont he decided to attend GMC. Eventually Max would like to use his education and experience gained at GMC to work as a fundraiser for a non-profit organization.