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Booher family organizes concert to benefit scholarship fund

A piano in the Booher household holds photos and Zach's ashes. (photo by Yvonne Gonzalez)
A piano in the Booher household holds photos and Zach's ashes. (photo by Yvonne Gonzalez)

Cold beers at Casey Moore’s in Tempe marked the last time Shannon Conley saw Zach Booher, who in the summer of 2012 had a fresh degree from ASU and plans to follow the Vans Warped Tour to promote his band While We’re Up.

“I just left being so inspired that they were following their dream,” Conley said. “They were just so excited about it.”

The community coordinator at Taylor Place and political science graduate student got to know Zach through supervising him when he was a CA at ASU’s residence halls. Conley said Zach would work the McClintock Hall front desk while jamming on his guitar with future bandmate Steven Rouk.

“He made it more than a job,” Conley said. “He was able to really blend it and make it a lifestyle.”

On July 8, 2012, a flat tire caused the car the band was driving from Chicago to Minnesota to roll over. Rouk and Trevor McCoy, who was traveling with the band, were injured, and Zach was pronounced dead on the scene.

Almost a year later, Conley is part of an “unofficial network” of people at ASU helping to coordinate a benefit concert for Zach on June 1. Zach’s parents, Joanna and Scott, and his sister, Samantha, began raising money almost immediately after his death hoping to create a scholarship in his name.

“He was so unique and so special that we wanted him to be able to live on in a way and something good to come out of our tragedy,” Joanna said.

Almost $20,000 later, the family has about $5,000 more to raise in order to fund the perpetuity. Warped Tour collected about $11,000 to donate to the cause, and Scott’s co-workers collected a little more than $1,100.

The scholarship was initially intended to go toward a music student, but the family decided it would be better suited for a student who created a music video that “captured the essence of what Zach was about.”

ASU’s School of Theater and Film created a temporary scholarship until the perpetuity is in place, and they awarded the first at this year’s capstone screening.

“Zach, I realize his passion was music, but I look back and even when he was young he was into making pictures,” Scott said.

Zach directed the music video for While We’re Up’s single, "Someday," with ASU’s Tempe campus as the backdrop.

Conley, who bonded with Zach over a mutual love of music, planned TaylorFest downtown and Barrett, the Honors College’s Concert to Benefit the Hungry. The Boohers were busy with plans for what would have been Zach’s 23rd birthday, and Conley volunteered to take over the coordination of the While We’re Up Benefit Show.

She called her friend Aaron Hopkins-Johnson, the owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing in Phoenix, and asked to use his space as a venue. From there, the eight local bands that will perform at the festival-like show fell into place.

Watch for Rocks, a group made up of geology students and a religious studies student at ASU, will perform at the benefit show. Vocalist Sarah Robinson said the concert is a way to support artists like Zach who are part of Arizona’s growing local music scene.

Black Rose Mansion’s frontman Todd Hoover said Conley has invited the band to play at events in the past, and they were excited to participate in Zach’s cause.

“When I found out all the money was going toward a scholarship to sort of functionally commemorate (Zach), I thought that was really really great,” Hoover said.

Justin Lucia, A Careless Skyline’s vocalist, said the band will perform a song he originally wrote after his dad died. Lucia and bass player Jordan Robinson met Zach and Rouk by going to a While We're Up show. Robinson kept in touch with the Boohers after Zach’s death, and Joanna invited A Careless Skyline to play at the show.

“I give (Zach's) mom so much credit,” Robinson said. "She's doing so much, and she's definitely turned it into something positive."

A piano in the Booher household holds photos and Zach's ashes. (photo by Yvonne Gonzalez) A piano in the Booher household holds photos and Zach's ashes. (photo by Yvonne Gonzalez)

Hopkins-Johnson said while he never booked a show for While We’re Up, he’s hosted bands who played with the duo and worked with volunteers at the store who knew Zach through ASU. These ties compelled him to get involved.

“When a student or even someone from the local music scene passes, it’s always a huge blow to the community,” he said. “(The concert) is a way to have a wake or funeral, a way to celebrate his life and the things he thought were important.”

Music, family and friends were Zach’s driving forces, his family said.

“Music makes people happy,” Scott said. “If (Zach) could make people happy, that just made him over the moon.”

In the time since Zach’s death, his family members have turned to their faith, Compassionate Friends support groups, the music he left behind and advice from a family friend to “just keep swimming,” in the words of Dory.

Scott’s left forearm is nearly covered in a heart logo that Zach designed for his band, with his son’s name in the center and “Beautiful Son 1990-2012” beneath it. The inside of Samantha’s right upper arm bears a small dream catcher and the popular Death Cab for Cutie lyrics, “Every plan is a tiny prayer to father time.” She and Zach had planned to get the tattoo together.

Samantha, a communications senior, said listening to "Stars," a song Zach wrote about how he would feel if his sister died, is bittersweet for her. She and her brother were only two years apart, which she said made them incredibly close.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard to listen to the CD,” she said. “But it’s nice to hear his voice. That’s a blessing that I’m sure a lot of people don’t have.”

Donations to the scholarship fund can be made through the ASU Foundation.


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