Out of the Classroom and On the Road | The Coyote Bandits

Original Article posted Sept. 16, 2013 by Darla Martin Tucker 
[edited and updated for additional content by John Razzouk]
Photos from The Coyote Bandits Dec. 5 concert at La Sierra University available here.

“Create Value, Make a Difference,” the motto of the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business and a personal challenge given to each of our students. And since the Summer of 2013, a special group of our students have been showing the world just how good that difference can sound. 

The Coyote Bandits, left to right, Scott Wilson, Sterling Spence, Jaylene Chung, Doug Stowers, Michael Aguirre, and Christian Liang. Photo by Natan Vigna

The Coyote Bandits, left to right, Scott Wilson, Sterling Spence, Jaylene Chung, Doug Stowers, Michael Aguirre, and Christian Liang. Photo by Natan Vigna

Meet the Coyote Bandits: Scott, Sterling, Jaylene, Doug, Michael, and Christian; a talented group of La Sierra University students and alumni on a mission to raise $100,000 for health services in Micronesia.

It all began as an entrepreneurship class assignment – develop a viable venture and demonstrate market acceptance through social media.

Business management and religious studies major Sterling Spence, a member of the business school’s “Principals of Entrepreneurship” class, settled on a path of launching a social venture. He first considered a vegan restaurant and a lifestyle center. “I chose the tour because I realized I wanted to put together a plan …that would incorporate avenues of service,” he said.

Spence devised a business plan for a band tour which now has become a vehicle for bettering the lives of thousands of impoverished residents of Micronesia, an area of 3,000 or so islands in the South Pacific. His business plan and YouTube ‘elevator pitch’ video, made with the help of friends, earned him an A in the class and the support of the business school.

John Thomas, dean of the business school and professor of the “Principals of Entrepreneurship” course described Spence’s approach as an “out-of-the box idea worth exploring. He uses a social entrepreneurship model to raise funds and is hoping to help people in Micronesia,” Thomas said. “The business plan he wrote is realistic and viable compared to other plans that made claims that were hard to execute.”

Spence co-founded the Coyote Bandits two years ago to write and perform original music blending old hymns, folk, indie, gospel, blues and bluegrass genres “in search of what it means to be people imagining a better world.” The group’s early local performance venues included Back to the Grind coffee shop in downtown Riverside, California and the La Sierra University Church for worship services. They have been featured on Coyote Radio at California State University, San Bernardino and in 2012 released their first recording, “Riverside Revival” featuring folk, indie and rock music. They have since produced two additional albums, “Heaven’s on the Side of the Revolution,” and “The American Dream.” Their music can also be found on their Spotify artist page  or purchased at cdbaby.com or itunes

Spence’s business plan called for the group to produce a summer West Coast tour, the Wayfarer Tour, to raise $100,000 for Canvasback Missions Inc. in Benicia, Calif. The 501(c)3 nonprofit, established 32 years ago, provides free medical and dental services, diabetes and nutrition programs and other aid to residents of the tiny islands of the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

After a tremendous response to the idea, what was initially proposed as a two-week venture turned into a three month tour up and down the West Coast. From coffee shops to churches to retreats to private homes, The Bandits had stolen the show at fifty four venues by the end of August, 2013. A full tour schedule can be accessed at http://www.thecoyotebandits.com.

The band has been seeking various contributions for Canvasback including cash, in-kind donations, tour sponsorships, and stipulations through wills, trusts and gift annuities. All tour proceeds will go to Canvasback. The Zapara School of Business and the university’s Advancement office are investing $5,000 to cover basic expenses including gas, food, lodging, compact disc and t-shirt costs.

Band members include Scott Wilson, electric guitar, Doug Stowers, bass, Michael Aguirre, drums, Jaylene Chung, vocals, violin, mandolin and keyboard, Spence on vocals, guitar, banjo and mandolin, and Christian Liang on guitar and vocals. Member Alex Hirata serves as band manager and roadie. The male band members except for Liang share a house and often break into impromptu jam sessions, the musicians said.

The tour allows band members a vehicle for expressing their love of music and interests in outreach. Spence, Wilson and Hirata have previously served as student missionaries on the Micronesian islands of Yap.

Chung graduated from La Sierra with a Master of Business Administration in nonprofit management and is pursuing a master’s in theological studies. She studied music as an undergraduate at Pacific Union College in Angwin. “Mixing it [music] with theology and nonprofit work is a good way to combine everything I’ve been interested in and have a passion for,” she said.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” said Wilson at the start of the tour. “It’s pretty exciting. Hopefully it will be a huge success.”

And it has. Today, the Coyote Bandits have raised $60,000 for the work of Canvasback Missions. As each dollar donated to Canvasback results in up to twenty dollars worth of care, the potential impact of these students is extremely impressive. But the group isn’t stopping there. In one final push to reach their tour fundraising goal, The Coyote Bandits will be closing out the year in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business at La Sierra University. Open to the community, the event will be held on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 6:00 with a concert and special presentation by the band members. Individuals can RSVP and help spread the word on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/211711479009253/ or simply show up for the event. The Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business and La Sierra University are pleased to support the passion of such incredible students. We invite you to join us for this event or contribute toward their fundraising goal at http://www.thecoyotebandits.com/

About Canvasback Missions

Canvasback, established in 1981 by Jamie and Jacque Spence, serves an area of approximately 150,000 residents annually through teams of volunteer health care providers and educators who travel the far-flung islands that comprise the Micronesia region. The Spence’s story, relayed on their organization’s web site, began with the construction of the 71-foot, aluminum-hulled Canvasback, “one of the world’s largest sailing catamarans.” Staffed with volunteers, the Canvasback brought free medical, dental and eye care to residents of islands reachable only by sea. Their first territory consisted of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and later branched into the Federated States of Micronesia.

By 1998 the program had outgrown the catamaran, and eventually also outgrew the services of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, donated by the United States government through an act of Congress. Canvasback sold the cutter and continued developing health care and educational services for the Micronesian islands and Marshall Islands, including providing supplies and equipment for government-established island hospitals and education for island health care workers.

Canvasback has provided more than $23.6 million in medical and dental services, health education and relief supplies to Pacific Islanders and completed more than 52,300 patient exams and 30,587 dental procedures in the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, the organization states.

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  1. Cheryl’s Weekly Roundup | Dec 2-6 | La Sierra University | Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business - December 5, 2013

    […] concert and presentation on Thursday, December 5 at 6:00 P.M. in our Troesh Conference Center. Click here to learn more about the Coyote Bandits and the wonderful work they are […]

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