hillsborough music festival 2019

In mid-2019, I volunteered with Donnetta Johnson to assist her in the organization and execution of Hillsborough Music Festival 2019 in New Jersey, which was, for the first time ever, done in conjunction with the Hillsborough Township's 4th of July celebrations. The festival has been held annually for the past decade, to serve as a platform for local artists to showcase their work, and to raise awareness on youth suicide prevention.

I met Donnetta and began helping her with this event just one month before the event day, which made it an extremely hectic month! I served in whatever capacity was required, which included liaising with event artists and vendors, coordinating pre-event preparations, designing the program booklet, event-day stage management, and event photography.

Donnetta and her partner Yuri have become great friends of mine, whom I would hope to meet again soon. The experience taught me a lot and was immensely rewarding. Donnetta has kindly written for me this beautiful testimonial regarding our time together:


I started actively participating in the pre-event preparations perhaps 2 days after I first met Donnetta and Yuri. They gave me an orientation of sorts in those early days, and I started off by helping them refine existing documents pertaining to their sponsorship packages. As time passed, I became more involved in various aspects of the project, and began helping them liaise with vendors, Township committee members, and performing artists. Later, I also helped them design the program booklet for the event, which you can check out below.

event day

My main role during the event itself was as a Stage Manager. This became somewhat challenging at the beginning because it decided to rain that day in the afternoon, when we were supposed to be preparing for the event (it was an outdoor event). We were not able to do things as scheduled, but fortunately the rain soon began to let up and we made do with the time we had and the artists who remained.

It was very tricky to coordinate the event given the large outdoor space, practically no walkie-talkie, and with other event crew members being mostly too busy to check their phones for updates. Nonetheless, we managed, and it turned out to be a beautiful community event with local artists and businesses coming together to celebrate the 4th of July. The community enjoyed a variety of vendors, music performances, as well as fireworks to end off the evening.


On top of Stage Management duties, I ended up snapping a few photos along the way too, doubling up as event photographer :) you can see some of the photos I took below.

post-event reflections

I learned a lot from this experience, not just from the hands-on opportunity to assist with the event across many different departments, but also from Donnetta herself. I was deeply inspired by her "just do it" attitude, choosing to commit to this event despite the short deadline (due to the collaboration with the Township, the Music Festival was shifted from August to June), not sure how it would go but trusting that she would manage. For a perfectionist like myself, that energy was refreshing and enlightening.

The day after the event, I made the decision to start a daily drawing journal, which I thought would simply die out after a few weeks considering my track record of being horrible at any form of daily rituals. Surprisingly, the habit stuck for more than a year, and it has had far reaching effects in other areas of my life in combating my tendencies for perfectionism. For that, I am immensely grateful :)

Today, the daily doodle journal has shifted to a dancing doodle journal. It is no longer a daily thing, as my recent commitments make that no longer viable, but it has now become a music-and-dance type of creation, an experiential thing. You can check out the journal on my Instagram page here.