My 12 year Journey to Burning Man
by Hyacinth Belcher, CEO Onstage Systems
My first trip to Burning Man was back in 2016. Prior to my first visit, I’d already been to regional Burning Man events before and I’d been invited to Nevada every summer for the last 12 years. Unfortunately, running my own business made it difficult to schedule a trip down to Nevada so I never got a chance to truly enjoy the wonders of Black Rock City.
I’ve always been a burner at heart, I just never made it to Burning Man. Then in 2016, I bought my first ticket, picked up all the essentials for my 9-day adventure, and began my journey to Burning Man.
My First Night at Burning Man
On the night of my first day at Burning Man, my friend — the same one who’d been bugging me to go for the last 12 years — turned to me and asked, “Well? Is this what you expected?” “Yes!” Burning Man was everything I had hope for. The music, the artistry, and the community exceeded my wildest expectations. And this was only the first night. When I returned to Burning Man for a second time in 2018, I found myself deep in the playa when I heard music from all the stages melt into one. Then an idea hit me. I immediately nudged my friend John and said, “I can’t just be a spotter anymore. I have to do a camp next year. “ Experiencing Burning Man as a witness was a memorable milestone, but I wanted to take it to the next level and create something special. Once I arrived home from Burning Man, I received a call from a close friend. “Hey, what do you think about doing a camp?” One call was all it took. We immediately started working on a plan to create our own camp. And that’s how Sonic Soul Tribe was born. When it came to naming our crew, we threw out a few names and ideas — some not as catchy as others. So we looked at our group, the gift of music we wanted to give to Burning Man, and the heart and soul we invested in creating a masterpiece bigger than ourselves. We combined all three elements (music, passion, teamwork) and came up with a name that perfectly embodied our work: Sonic Soul Tribe.
The Making of Sonic Soul Tribe
Once I arrived home from Burning Man, I contacted seven of my core friends to start planning. We’ve all known and worked with each other for 20 years, and I knew we had the potential to build something amazing together. say something like, we had all been friends for 20 + years, they were the ones who finally got me out there – and it just made sense that we all do this together. it was meant to be. In our day jobs, the seven of us build what clients and promoters need. But at Burning Man, we explored our imagination, combined our talents, and created our own gift to the burners at Black Rock City. When the first doppelganger’s of music hit the playa, I actually cried. I don’t think the word doppelgängers works here – when our friend took the stage and performed a beautiful ode to the desert with his flute, a drum and a soulful voice – I actually cried. After 9 months of planning and learning to work with people in new ways, our creation was complete. When I finally took a step back and looked at all our progress, I was overwhelmed with emotions. All our hard work and late nights lead to this one magical moment. Our small tribe of seven people achieved an impossible dream 9 months in the making.
What I Learned From Running My Own Camp at Burning Man
Running your own camp at Burning Man is like managing a little city. The needs of Sonic Soul Tribe and the skills that each person brought to the table were varied. Once we started, I quickly learned that unlike the employees at my company, volunteers at Burning Man are completely different. They come from different backgrounds and they all require different things to stay motivated. I realized I had to switch gears and adopt a new approach to inspire Sonic Soul Tribe and 50-60 campers who’d never been a part of such a big project. It was challenging work, but I was fortunate to have the help of my camp co-lead, Don Gentry. When it comes to communication and management, Don and I were opposite sides of the coin, but we worked through our differences in pursuit of Sonic Soul Tribe’s grand vision. Working together taught me the value of approaching projects in new and inventive ways, and it was helpful to have a devil’s advocate in my corner who challenged me to come up with better solutions. It’s been over a year since I last went to Burning Man, but the desire to create, to overcome challenges, and turn a vision of creativity into reality is what inspires me to be a burner for life.