The Syracuse University basketball team might be on its way to the NCAA Tournament, but the Carrier Dome will still be packed Friday, March 21. That’s when Grammy nominees including rapper J. Cole and singer-songwriter Elle Varner will perform at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Theta Xi chapter of fraternity Phi Beta Sigma’s “Friday Night Lights: Culture for Service Benefit Concert.”
The show commemorates the fraternity’s 100th year of service, and most of the proceeds will go to the March of Dimes, a charity that pays for research to prevent premature births, infant mortality and birth defects. The Phi Beta Sigma mentorship program, in which fraternity members mentor students at Nottingham High School, will also benefit.
The event is the first major concert sponsored by an SU fraternity–and it’s a fraternity with only nine undergraduate members.
“We wanted a new challenge and to do some bigger,” said Christian Harley, first vice president of the fraternity. “It is a 24/7 job and requires a lot of organization and constant communication to pull off.”
The fraternity hosted sold out concerts in Goldstein Auditorium featuring artists Big Sean and Fabulous over the past two years, but Friday’s show is by far its biggest event.
Tickets are $15 for SU students and $30 for the general public. Floor seats sold out in less than an hour when they went on sale earlier this month; within four days, nearly 2,000 tickets had been sold.
“I woke up right when floor tickets went on sale, but they sold out immediately,” said Yongabi Ngoh, a senior at SU. “We ended up getting general admission, which is fine with me.”
The fraternity attributes the high demand for tickets to Cole’s ability to appeal to both SU students and the general Central New York community and to the rapper’s recent mainstream success. Cole was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Collaboration for his song “Power Trip,” featuring Miguel, and Varner was nominated for Best R&B Song for “Refill.” Cole’s latest album Born Sinner sold more than 600,000 copies in its first three months and hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
“J. Cole promotes a positive message, which is rare in rap these days. That is one of the reasons I really like him,” Ngoh said. “He talks about his struggles, how he has a college degree, but still wants to pursue his dream of becoming a rap artist.”
“I saw a poster for the concert on campus,” said Brysan Brown, a senior at SU. “I only know a couple of his songs, but it definitely sounded like a good time and everyone else was going, so I decided to get a ticket.”