A group of students walked up the stairs to the Campus Center, following signs reading “Beats for Brian: Tomorrows Tonight.” They headed toward the open doors, blue and purple flashing lights calling their names. Suddenly, they glanced to their left and stopped. Their eyes scanned the yellow and green poster board, tracing gondolas cascading through mountain tops and messages from of students remembering a lost friend.
“Rest easy buddy. I know you’ll be ripping up the biggest mountain up in the sky. I love you kid,” one message read.
The students continued in to find junior Paul Chrisman performing John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” alongside sophomore Adam McCaffery, junior Keith Haley and others.
Chrisman said the purpose of the benefit was more than raising money for a charity in honor of Brian Dagle, who committed suicide a week earlier.
“I think it’s about bringing people together and giving them as many opportunities to express those emotions as possible. It’s a chance to move forward from what happened,” he said.
Performing at Beats for Brian had special meaning to McCaffery, who went to high school with Dagle. After a performance by professor Robert Wuagneux, he grabbed his guitar. McCaffery sat, leaving one open seat next to him and addressed the crowd.
“Thank you so much for being here. The main reason we’re here tonight is for Brian. He’s right here watching us play and interacting with us. I wish you were here…”
He continued on, playing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” McCaffery said he felt Dagle’s presence with him that night.
“There was an empty chair next to me. He was there helping me through that,” he said.
Other student groups participated in the event. The Intervarsity club created a memory board and students were encouraged to create cards with thoughts and prayers to give to the Dagle family.
Junior Adam Brathovde, creator of Ceyloe clothing company, made shirts with the help of those who knew Dagle best. The outcome was two designs: One highlighting his love of snowboarding and the other with his face imprinted on a twenty-dollar bill.
The Nov. 19 event was hosted by Student Activists for Africa under the lead of Dagle’s good friend, junior Brenden Beer. Admission was $3 and all proceeds from the night were donated to the East Lyme Youth Services Organization.
SAFA’s Samantha Young said although several members were close to Brian, it’s the clubs slogan, “local action, world awareness,” that really drove home the meaning of the event. The group is raising money to go to Kenya this summer, but members said “equally important is our own community.”
“We care and are committed to our community as much as our drive to help Africa as well,” she said.
SAFA also hosted a candy sale to raise money for Dagle’s family at the Nov. 14 Monday night movie. They collected over $220. Members said they realized the sale was bigger than just a fund-raiser, though, when the students began donating twenty-dollar bills, but weren’t interested in candy.
Over $1,000 was raised from all the events, but Young said money wasn’t really the point.
“Money was more of something that could happen as we brought people together. It was an added bonus to it,” she said.
Besides raising money, Beats for Brian was a chance to share good memories, good food, good music, and good laughs in honor of, as the poster said, a “soul who rocked a small school.”