His white headphones stood out against his gray sweatshirt as he walked. He held a sheet of folded paper with hand-written lyrics for “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift and kept looking for the student.
The student’s friend got up and spoke to him, telling him that the girl wasn’t there because she was sick. Fipps sat down at a table near them, still listening to “Blank Space” and reading over the lyrics, knowing he would have to reschedule and sing to her another time.
“This is the only song I’ve been listening to since Tuesday,” Fipps said.
Members of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at IU are fundraising $9,000 for feedONE this semester to build a kitchen in Tanzania to feed children. Fipps decided to fundraise for this cause in a non-traditional way — by singing to ?students.
“The general idea is that it will be in a public place so that way they can kind of embarrass their friends or like freak ‘em out or whatever,” he said. “And everyone so far has been, like, people I’m already friends with.”
Fipps said he calls his serenading fundraiser “Ernie Jo on Demand.” For $10, students can have Fipps sing to their friends in any place they choose, with any song they choose. For $20, he will wear an article of the friend’s clothing while he sings to them.
“I just enjoy singing to people. It’s a lot of fun even though I’m not good at it. I just like being weird and making people laugh,” Fipps said.
He said he sings the entire song to the student, which sometimes gets awkward.
“It gets kind of weird during the instrumentals because I’m just like standing there,” he said. “And they think it’s over but it’s not. So sometimes I’ll like try to sing the ?instrumental.”
The first performance he did was for his friend, senior Justin Thomas, who wanted Fipps to sing the “Friends” theme song to a group of his friends.
“My friends know that I love ‘Friends.’ So one day I asked Jo, ‘Be ready this weekend. Probably I will pull some prank on my friends,’” Thomas said.
Thomas said he sent his friends a text saying he was no longer worthy of their friendship and this was a goodbye.
His friends tried to call him, but he would hang up. He said he texted Fipps afterward to meet at his friend’s apartment in 30 minutes because they were meeting for dinner.
When they met at the apartment, Thomas said he stood outside of his friend’s apartment door and listened.
“So Jo goes inside and starts singing ‘I’ll be there for you,’ that stuff, and everybody’s like, ‘That is Justin’s song, he’s kind of depressed,’” Thomas said. “Right after that I told Jo to ‘come out, don’t talk to anyone, just come out.’”
Thomas said his friends yelled at him for playing the prank, but he brought cupcakes so they’d forgive him.
Although Fipps has only sung to one group so far, many students have already donated and scheduled a time for him to sing to their friends.
So far, he said he’s singing a Backstreet Boys song and a Taylor Swift song. He said the other songs have not been confirmed, but that he will hopefully be singing more in the ?upcoming weeks.
“We all are supposed to raise at least $100,” Fipps said. “I’d like to raise more than that if possible. I’ve got $60 so far.”
Fipps said he might continue singing to people after his scheduled appointments, just to keep fundraising for the charity.
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.