Earlier this year, Terry Swanger was elected public relations chairwoman for the Clintonville Community Choir.

Earlier this year, Terry Swanger was elected public relations chairwoman for the Clintonville Community Choir.

"And had no clue how to write a press release," Swanger admitted, "no clue who to send it to or how to get our name out."

Swanger's daughter-in-law suggested contacting the marketing department at Ohio State University to see if students might be interested in helping her out for extra credit. When that brought no result, Swanger reached out to Columbus State Community College, and her request eventually came to the attention of Clintonville resident Paul Carringer.

The former area commission member teaches at CSCC and is also an adjunct faculty member in the masters of marketing and communications program at Franklin University.

"The program for students provides theory, so they get the traditional academic theory, but then they have to develop real-world examples of theory implemented, so they're not just reading books," Carringer said.

That real-world experience comes through working with community groups throughout the region, but Carringer said that he had never before had the opportunity to bring the effort so close to home.

"This time to see Clintonville as a part of that was a fun piece of it for me," he said.

Carringer admitted he was not himself all that aware of the existence of the community choir, now in a sixth year of "making beautiful music together," as the nonprofit organization's website states.

"It gave me a chance to see another example of Clintonville that all the people who live and work there can be proud of," Carringer said.

"We were looking for better ways to market the Clintonville Community Choir to take a little of the burden off of our membership," choir president Jack Raidiger said.

One of the major things choir members were hoping to receive help with, according to conductor Tom Maxwell, is getting people to understand just how different live music is from recorded. For convenience, music lovers have mostly abandoned the high fidelity of records for the lesser quality of compact discs and the even lesser quality of MP3s, iPods and YouTube. Practically a whole generation doesn't have much awareness of how different recorded music is compared with live, said Maxwell, conductor from the choir's inception.

"You can't replicate that," he said. "There's a sense of community and vibrancy in a live performance that you just don't get when you're listening to something that's been recorded.

"Building an audience is a difficult thing to do for arts organizations in general," Maxwell added. "We wanted to make sure we reached out in places where we would find people likely to be interested in what we do."

Swanger met with Carringer's class of masters in marketing science candidates, providing them with an overview of the choir and outlining some of the goals they had for connecting with the students.

These included improving the choir's visibility, increasing sponsorships and adding new members.

The students then broke up into three groups and began working on ideas.

"When we first approached it, we had a completely different mindset," student Courtney Hering recalled. "We thought, 'Hmm, what do we have to work with here?' "

Old music that needed to be updated was what one of her team members thought, according to Hering. Then the students attended the spring concert of the Clintonville Community Choir, one of three annual performances that follow eight rehearsals.

"We were just blown away," Hering said. "They have this great nostalgic feel to them. They've got a great sound. We were like, 'Don't change a thing.' "

"Basically we exist just to provide enjoyable, quality music to the community, but that does take money, so that was primarily our object in going out getting help with marketing," Raidiger said. "They didn't want to change any of that."

After changing their thinking, the three groups of students put in weeks of thought and effort which culminated in presentations to community choir board members and officers earlier this month.

"They were amazing," president Raidiger said. "First of all, the amount of knowledge that they were able to find out about the Clintonville area and the Clintonville Community Choir in such a short time was incredible.

"Then the ideas that they came up with were not only usable for us but also doable for us."

Some of the suggestions came with no price tag attached.

"Which really excited us," Raidiger admitted.

Even those that require some investment won't bust the choir's budget, he said.

"I felt like we got some very clever ideas," Maxwell said. "The students were creative as they were considering their marketing presentations to us. The nice thing, too, is these individuals want to build their portfolio to use after they graduate and they can do that through opportunities to provide marketing materials for various entities, and that's one thing we were very excited to know, that that was a possibility.

"I was just very much impressed with their presentations."

"To me, they went above and beyond what their assignment required," Swanger said.

Both sides of the equation benefited from the project.

"The biggest thing I took out of that is how important it is to know your client or your target market," student Neha Sharma said. "We really got to understand what the Clintonville Community Choir is all about.

"I really would hope they understand that we put our heart and soul into this project."

"That's a great learning opportunity a student wouldn't get if they weren't forced into the field," Carringer said. "The theory is important, but without understanding how that applies, it's words in a book."

The organizations participating in the project, he added, receive a "fresh look at their communication challenges.

"I think more than anything else that fresh look from folks who may not have been engaged with the organization is very helpful," Carringer said. "It gives a new perspective. And with that, they get new things they can apply."

"My humble little question of, 'Help me, I have no writing skills,' turned into this amazing, amazing opportunity," Swanger said. "They came up with most amazing ideas."