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Greg Allen Morgoglione: Press / Reviews

He'll swap land for a dream
Details trade, goal on Web site
By Bryan McKenzie
Daily Progress staff writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

With shaved head and rock-and-roll demeanor, Charlottesville Realtor Greg Allen will never be mistaken for Monty Hall even though he desperately wants to make a deal: his land for enough money to keep his pet project rolling

Allen wants to trade more than 8 acres near Walnut Creek Park in Albemarle County for an endowment to fund SongSharing, the Central Virginia nonprofit that organizes professional musicians to perform for those who have little or no access to live music.

Allen has posted his plan on craigslist.com to make a series of trades along the lines of those arranged by craigslist.com user Kyle MacDonald. MacDonald started with one large red paper clip and within a year wound up with one Main Street house in Kipling, Saskatch-ewan, in Canada.

Some Canadians might argue that MacDonald came out on the bad side of that deal, but the idea of trading something small for something big stuck with Allen. He figured if he started with something big, he could wind up with something bigger, a bequest for SongSharing.

“It sounds crazy, but it seems like the thing to do to make sure SongSharing can continue to operate,” Allen said. “Greg Allen Realty is something my father and I do to make a living and the music is what I love. In this case, the property is something that my father and I bought as an investment and we decided to make the investment in SongSharing.”

He’s a Realtor. He knows he has the goods. The property is 8.6 acres along Old Lynchburg Road, about 2.7 miles south of Red Hill. There’s one hillside home site that has passed the perc test. That means soil on the site percolates, that it’s absorbent enough to install a septic system. Another home site is at the bottom but it has not had a perc test yet. Albemarle County has valued the land at $84,000 for tax purposes.

He has no set price for the property, but he does have a dream.

“I’m hoping for something like $1.7 million over seven years to keep [SongSharing] growing. Maybe someone will offer improvements or trade it for part of an estate,” he said. “If a man can start out with a red paper clip and wind up with a house, who knows what will happen?”

Faith in future

Allen is optimistic that his plan will work. He points to MacDonald’s success as the best motivation.

MacDonald started with a red paper clip and traded it for a wooden fish pen. He traded the pen for a ceramic doorknob, the doorknob for a camp stove, the stove for a generator and then things got weird.

He traded the generator for a portable party including beer keg and neon sign. That was swapped for a snowmobile that was swapped for a trip to Yahk, British Columbia, that was bartered for a moving truck that was swapped for a recording contract that was exchanged for a year’s room and board in Phoenix, Ariz.

That was traded for an afternoon with rock star Alice Cooper. MacDonald traded the day with the Billion Dollar Baby for a Kiss rock band snow globe. Although he questioned the trade at the time, he was vindicated when Hollywood actor and moviemaker Corbin Bernsen traded a credited, speaking role in a movie for the globe.

That’s when the town of Kipling upped the ante with the Main Street house.

“If you can trade a red paper clip for a house, why not trade property to make a nonprofit venture more viable?” Allen asked.

Everything about the looming trade is an opportunity to Allen.

“There are a variety of things that can happen. Because SongSharing is [an Internal Revenue Service-recognized] nonprofit, if a builder wanted to build a home on the site or someone wanted to do some improvements it could be a tax write-off. That would up the desirability and the value. That’s more for SongSharing,” he said.

Allen’s desire to make SongSharing self-sufficient comes from his love of music and the program. The idea started after he volunteered with friends to perform in a nursing home and the reception he received convinced him of the need.

“It didn’t matter whether we played music they knew. They just enjoyed the performances,” he said. “I now play about 10 or 12 times a month as a volunteer. I’m always calling up groups and performers and saying, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on in a couple of weeks, can you do it?’ The idea is to include people in the local culture and they seem to appreciate it.”

That they do.

A good show

Officials at the University of Virginia Children’s Medical Center/Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center say the performances are enjoyed by staff and seem to calm anxious children awaiting doctor appointments.

At The Cedars Nursing Home, where Allen plays every other Friday and other musicians fill in when available, the residents are eager to listen.

“The residents love it,” said Tiffany Wade, human resources officer at The Cedars. “They look forward to it. It’s something they enjoy and it seems to lighten the mood.”

Although Allen can organize performers and book gigs, he readily admits that his head is not in business. The property trade - he refers to himself as a “realanthropist” - could help assure the organization runs properly.

“It would be nice to know there’s enough money available to keep SongSharing going, to make sure everything’s taken care of financially and business-wise and that the organization can grow,” he said.

Allen said trading the property on behalf of the nonprofit rather than selling it and pocketing the profit is his way of keeping faith.

“My life is good. I have no one who wants to fight me and no one I want to fight with,” he said. “If you hear my music, you’d see that it’s the kind of thing I write about. I’m just trying to live my own lyrics.”

Contact Bryan McKenzie at (434) 978-7271 or bmckenzie@dailyprogress.com.
Sound Off
Our picks for the week in sound

Katherine Houstoun
Monday December 19, 2005

Wednesday, December 21

Grasping at Laws at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

As if the poignant light-filled garden and ginormous decorative Christmas tree weren't enough to get you into the spirit, how about adding some skillful musicianship and affecting lyrics? You may get so swept up in holiday cheer that you join in and sing along. Grasping at Laws, a Charlottesville-based duo specializing in understated "eclectoplasmacoustic folk 'n rock," pays its second visit to the Garden this holiday season. Trust us – you don't want to miss this. 7 p.m. Gardenfest of Lights admission required. Call (804) 262-9887 for more information.
What local band is about to make it big?

Steve Donaldson: "Of groups, I like Grasping at Laws. I'm just blown away by the musical talent in Charlottesville. You never know if the guy serving you coffee will be the next Dave Matthews. Charlottesville is an incubator for artistic talent."
Thomas Jefferson reflected the spirit of the times in 1776. Chuck Berry mirrored the American zeitgeist in 1958. While Chuck Berry was locked away in prison in 1963 Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys were the iconographic images of the musical landscape of the times. Time was on their side.

Among the multi-colored mirrors I see and hear today is Greg Allen with Grasping At Laws. Beginning with "contucius: on shoes" the music (from the CD "01") leads us thru the looking glass with it's haunting melody and barefoot lyrics.

"Story of Our Lies, The" is also the story in her eyes. I can see you... you can see me... and then we're gone.

In "What On Earth??" the boys and girls are set to figure out the world. 1, 2, 3, and 4 and then they are out of time.

"cirkle" is a musical journey through the past from 1765 - waiting for freedom and equality as the pendulum swings over the heads of them all.

"Yugen" evokes (images of) time that stops in the moment when the writer "wonders aloud questions I cannot phrase", then "so thorough your silent reply", and "I don't mind anything you say..."

"ifSOWhat" is the question, as the musical scythe swings around you, it is time for accounting for words and actions - and time is up.

This is some of the best musical representation of our times that I have heard since Tim Buckley said "Goodbye and Hello".
Travis Nees - Wadi (Richmond, VA)