When we think of collaboration, we often picture a corporate setting or consider the remote worker connecting from home. In the early days, that was probably accurate. Yet, with video and productivity apps becoming far more common, the only barriers we have now are the limitations of our own imagination.

What about the novelist and publisher who want to exchange ideas and house all versions in one place? Or the graphic designer who wants real-time reviews and feedback? Or the musical group that needs to collaborate from a distance?

I’d like to introduce you to Operation Encore – a group of musical artists I’ve come to know well.

In 2013, my husband Keith, a U-2 pilot stationed at Beale Air Force Base in California, learned of an opportunity he found both humbling and exhilarating. He was invited to be part of a new musical project offering former and active duty military members a venue for sharing their stories.

Operation Encore’s founders, Eric Brine, Rob “Trip” Raymond, and Chris “Snooze” Kurek, sought out songwriters from across the military and veteran communities to record original music for a compilation CD. The group spans the various military branches and includes a variety of career fields from pilots to medics to paratroopers, and even the spouses that support them.

Operation encore - Stage
Operation Encore’s mission is to help raise awareness of veteran issues, encourage collaboration among veteran artists, and produce music inspired by service.

In watching Keith’s engagement with the group, I saw that they relied on email for sharing song ideas and audio files, and then had to wait on replies. It was a tedious and inefficient process, made even more challenging by the geographic separation. Many of the artists were still Active Duty and thus stationed all over the world.

“While working on our first CD,” said Trip “I remember holding my iPhone in front of my computer screen so Snooze could see the mixing software on my laptop via FaceTime. It wasn’t very tech savvy, but was the only way we could think of to work on the final song arrangements together.”

We learned last year, in 2015, that Operation Encore had plans to begin work on a second CD. Keith is not involved this time around, but we continue to support the group’s efforts because we feel so strongly about their mission.

Having focused on #Collaboration over the past few years, I’ve watched the technology evolve. So it occurred to me that I might be able to help solve their communication challenges. Enter Cisco Spark.

I introduced the group’s founders to Spark via one brief demo and then had them download the free app from iTunes. That was all it took. We met again to check their progress and they informed me that they had already created several virtual Spark rooms because the app was so “user friendly.”

Now they can share and store files, communicate real-time through group messaging, and start meetings all from one location, or Spark “room”.  They can create separate rooms for different projects, such as small work groups by song, larger groups for general messaging, or even just one-on-one. Plus the meetings feature will allow them to screen share – a big step up from using FaceTime to send video of Trip’s desktop.

“Posting CD artwork, for example, so that  everyone can comment in one place is going to be a big time saver. This will greatly improve how we can work together.” -Erik Brine

Preparing for the launch of their second CD, the Operation Encore team is now finalizing their songs and planning for the release party in Phoenix this November. I plan to monitor their progress and collect ideas for improving the user experience – something Cisco is always looking to do.

That said, this is only the first installment on Operation Encore and their Spark experience. Stay tuned for updates as they work toward the November CD launch!

Learn how Cisco Spark can help your organization, and follow Operation Encore on Facebook

I’d like to close each post by introducing one of these amazing artists, starting with the extremely talented Stephen Covell.

Stephen Covell
Stephen Covell enlisted in the Army in 2006. Having served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a combat medic in the 82nd Division, he uses music as an outlet for processing the effects of war. Stephen’s vivid and meaningful lyrics transport listeners to a different time and place. Check out Stephen’s song from the first Operation Encore album, Sand Hills to Sandals, about a soldier returning home.



Erin Broecker

No Longer with Cisco