2014 is a big year for the Rotary Club of Saginaw, as this long-standing entity celebrates both it’s 100th Anniversary and also prepares for their ambitious 11th Annual Saginaw On Stage Music Festival, which this year will be held on Saturday, April 19th with stages at two legendary venues: The Temple Theatre & The Saginaw Club.
Originally conceived by brothers Nick & Dave Oppermann with the dual objective of showcasing the varied and high-caliber musical artistry of the Great Lakes Bay Area while simultaneously raising revenue for worthwhile community organizations, since its inception 11 years ago Saginaw On-Stage has evolved into the pivotal fundraising vehicle for the Rotary Club of Saginaw. And to date the group has raised over $140,000 for community organizations and projects.
This year with the move away from Apple Mountain and to a pair of historic downtown venues, Saginaw On Stage will be able to expand its musical output from five to six stages and feature over 40 divergent bands & styles of music. Running from 4:00 – 11:00 PM, tickets are $25.00 for adults and $10.00 for students, with a buffet dinner from 4:00 – 8:00 PM for $15.00 and cash bar.
As for the 93rd Rotary Club of Saginaw, which was chartered on February 1, 2014, it began back when there were a mere 16 Rotary clubs existing throughout the entire United States. Among its many accomplishments, Rotarians organized the predecessor to the United Way, combined three separate libraries into one system, built the first Chamber of Commerce building and organized the first city planning commission. Today the Saginaw group has participated in humanitarian projects in South Korea, Brazil, India and Haiti.
Sitting down with Rotarian & Saginaw On Stage organizers William Koepke, Dave Oppermann and Eric DeVos (aka Red Hawkins) to discuss this year’s latest & revamped musical offerings, we began our discussion about the Saginaw Rotary itself. Given the numbers of service organizations throughout the community, what is it about the Rotary that distinguishes it from other organizations?
True to form, Oppermann begins by joking that of the three men sitting there, he is the only one that has been involved with the group since the beginning of the organization. “I’m a 3rd Generation member and my Grandfather was the second president of the club back in the early 1900s,” he explains. “My father was a long time member and so am I. Basically, Rotary was the original networking organization that pulled together the idea of having a doctor, a banker, a lawyer, or a member of one unique profession that would teach other members about their occupation. I’m proud of the fact we exist to do good in the world; and the fact Rotary will be responsible for the eradication of polio is something that appeals to me, even though every time we think we’ve got it licked, something slips up.”
When asked who the recipient of their fundraising efforts will be in 2014, Koepke notes that while the group is still in partnership with Covenant Kids, this year the benefactor will be the community and the gift is a surprise. “As part of our 100th Anniversary celebration we decided to present a gift to the community that will be announced later this Spring. It’s still in the works but will be really cool.. We can’t divulge it right now, but it will be a public display of significant dollars.”
“Covenant will have their annual Telethon happening the same day as our event down at the Children’s Museum from noon to 6:00 PM, so we will supply some of the music for their program,” explains Hawkins. “One of the bands performing is called Carry It On, and they are a Peter, Paul & Mary Tribute band – the female member is very reminiscent of Mary Travers and has a fantastic voice, so they will probably do a few tunes down at the museum with TV-5.”
“The great thing about this year is that we have more stages,” adds Koepke. “We’ll have three floors of the Shriner’s Hall at the Temple and three floors at The Saginaw Club. One area will have a Hootenanny going on, so technically we’ll have seven performance areas.
While many familiar faces will be returning to Saginaw On Stage such as Brush Street, The Robert Lee Revue, Laurie Middlebrook and Oppermann’s own New Reformation Jazz Band (celebrating their 45th anniversary this year) several new artists will also be thrown into the mix around with unique collaborations. “Jeff Schrems and Nate formerly of Cornpone are into electronic rock now,” notes Hawkins, “so they will present their new group b.o.d. that should be interesting to see. So we’ll be featuring them in the same room with Sprout and Holy Gun. Plus Equinox is evolving a very unique sound and hitting a high point, in my opinion. They are moving in the direction of a band like Pentangle in terms of quality.”
Other new groups that will be featured this year include Dani Vitany & Ten Hands Tall, Sins in Stereo, White Oranges and The Scott Hozzle Band, along with the Saginaw Area Youth Jazz Ensemble, recipients of last year’s Review Music Award for Best Big Jazz Band under the direction of Leslie Campbell.
“We keep moving forward and are hoping by bringing this event back Downtown to the Temple & Saginaw Club it will be bigger and better than ever,” concludes Koepke. “Finally, we cannot extend enough appreciation to our major sponsors, Covenant, Stevens Van Line, and WNEM TV-5 as well as Delta Public Radio. Their generosity is a huge part of what drives this ambitious event and pulls it all together.”
Tickets for Saginaw On Stage are available from the Temple Theatre Box Office at www.templetheatre.com or by phoning (877) 754-SHOW. You can also check out the full itinerary of this year’s event by going to www.saginawrotary.org.
Saginaw On Stage Festival Spotlight
Sins in Stereo
Comprised of drummer Cory Sheppard, bassist Tim Stroh, lead guitar/sax/vocalist Ben Nolan and rhythm guitarist & lead vocalist JD Dominowski, Cory, Ben, and JD previously played together from 2009-11 in a local cover band called Seventh Vail.
“It was fun and a great way to sharpen your skills, but after 2-plus year of playing other people’s music, I was bummed out and it wasn’t where my heart was at,” explains JD. “I’d written a few songs that I thought might be of some value and told everyone I wanted to start an original band. Ben and Cory both agreed and were of the same mindset, so we decided to form Sins in Stereo.”
“We had a few recording sessions with Andy Reed and it became clear we needed a bass player if we were to forge ahead with a large scale project, so Cory worked with Tim and asked him to a practice and the line-up came together and has been the same ever since.”
“Our goal from day one has been to merge 90's Alt-rock with Classic Rock and Classic Country music. I'm not sure why but it seems like Country music today embraces rock and roll, but rock music doesn't like to reciprocate very often. From the onset I've been writing "country" songs and I still continue to. The only difference is when the rest of the band assembles to bring the song to life, all the rock and roll gets painted on. I don't see many bands out there doing what we're doing. We have a real focus on creating a sound that is unique, but not far fetched.”
“I love when people say "that sounds like something but I'm not sure what". That familiarity is something that I think is lacking these days. A lot of bands seem like they're trying hard to push the boundaries into almost 'ambient' or 'art-rock' directions. We're doing something that's totally opposite. We're using what people are already familiar with and making those pieces fit together in a unique way.”
“Adding the saxophone to the mix really diversifies things too. It's quite a luxury to have a musician in the band like Ben who can lay down the lead licks on guitar and then pick up the sax and take a song in a totally different direction. I love the fact that we can sound like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band one second and Nirvana the next. That diversity is what Rock and Roll music, to us, is all about.
The Scott Hozzle Band
This 4-piece project out of Midland is named for a fictitious frontman who never manages to show up for gigs. Hence, the group’s introductory line: “We are the Scott Hozzle Band, but Scott couldn’t make it. Consisting of Trey Elegante on guitar and vocals, Benacious D on keyboards, Shuga Beignet on bass/vocals and Matzoh World Peace on drums.
Serendipitously thrown together in a dank, rat infested jail cell in Nepal, four musically inclined individuals discussed plans to form a band if they could figure a way out of their current predicament. Soon thereafter a thin, unkempt, wild-eyed individual was unceremoniously tossed into the small, poorly lit room. Bill, Dan, Mike and Ben had just been introduced to the now infamous Scott Hozzle. They soon discovered that Scott was very well traveled and was no stranger to such situations. He was able to finagle the release of all five of the boys after some sort of “interaction” with a female jailer. They all then went their separate ways, vowing to meet up someday in Midland, Michigan to form a band.
Over the years the boys have been forced to use aliases for various reasons, and their names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent.
Dan was discovered at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans at 4:30 am completely covered with powdered sugar.....he has been known as Shuga Beignet ever since. Shuga was shaped by the sounds of progressive rock and Acid Jazz bands like Yes, Rush and Kansas with players like Geddy Lee, and Chris Squire who inspired him to build his Bass chops. He also lays down a sweet layer of vocals.
Bill was playing a gig at a country club when he agreed to enter himself into the evening’s fundraiser. A rich woman with a “big hunger” yelled continuously, while bidding… “he’s mine”… He’s Tres Elegante. And he truly is. He has been arrested in 6 cities, and convicted in 2 for being just too darn sexy.
He did not start out sexy… Trey started out playing with a Marshall ½ stack in his dorm room. He entered and won the “who’s louder than me?” guitar contest (truly, he did). Over time, he filled out his repertoire and grew into an outstanding lead and rhythm player. He is most inspired by anyone that can move a crowd with a solo.
Mike was in Israel for the Hasidic Handfishing championships. He reached into a hole under the bank of the River Jordan, and instead of pulling out a huge catfish he discovered a pound and a half of Nova Lox, a dozen sesame bagels and some schmear, which made him locally famous.
While celebrating that evening he was watching an LA Lakers game and got an inspiration. One of the players had a quirky, unusual moniker. It was there and then Mike that decided to take the name Matzoh World Peace. Matzoh holds down the rhythm section, playing the drums and cymbals. A lover of New Orleans grooves & inspired by Stanton Moore of Galactic, Matzoh blends swamp, funk and rock together to deliver his own brand of drumming.
Ben was falsely accused of picking a Trillium flower and was sentenced to 12 years in the Charlevoix county jail. Activists from around the world organized the Free Benacious movement. Benacious D was born. It is rumored that Benacious D is the inspiration for the Jack Black duo Tenacious D. Apparently they worshiped Benacious and wanted to honor him. Jazz Influenced Rock, Funk, and classic rock were the foundation for Benacious. A great musical talent, he began performing on Guitar and harmonica. Today he’s planted firmly behind the keyboards, bringing great organ, piano and clavinet grooves in addition to lead vocals.
The band says they all have a love for New Orleans funk music as well as classic rock tunes. “We blend rock and funk in our sets, and mix original songs with covers that we feel aren't being played by other local bands. We feel that we play an eclectic mix of music that we hope will appeal to a wide range of musical tastes.”
“We were formed from a Jam style and evolved into much more structure, but we've never left the Jam spirit behind. We're always excited to indulge solos and full on jams when "the moments" are happening. It creates great fun and great energy. We are always pushing ourselves forward. Last fall we set aside all of our tunes and started to build an entirely new list. We look forward to debuting them at the show on the 19th.”
“We care about each other and work hard to support each other, both in our band life and in our personal lives. We are "brothers" and we hope to stay that way for a long time. Clearly from the band story above you can tell that we don't take ourselves too seriously. None the less we still work very hard to be better musicians and better performers.”
Hailing from Saginaw County, Equinox draws its inspiration from the music of Ireland and Scotland. Playing the traditional instruments: fiddle, whistles, concertina, bodhran, flute, bagpipes, guitar, bass, drums and voice, yet, with their own unique arrangements, Equinox transforms those familiar jigs, reels, strathspeys and hornpipes into reverent music that is both dynamic and contemporary.
The group currently features Vern Pococke on low whistle, drums and vocals, Jean Marie Learman on flute, whistle, concertina and vocals, Leslie Gregory on fiddle, and Kathy Morris on guitar, bodhran, whistle and vocals. Joining Equinox on Scottish Bagpipes is Dennis Lowe, along with their latest addition, bassist Ryan Fitzgerald..
Beginning nearly twenty years ago as an amateur trio sharing Irish Pub songs at social gatherings, Equinox soon added more experienced musicians and developed an ear for the Celtic Revival Bands of the 60's and 70's. According to Vern, their appearance at Saginaw On Stage will be different than in prior performances. “Our former bassist adopted a child, so he wasn’t available. When we added Ryan Fitzgerald to our line-up and because he plays with other groups, this year we will be performing on the same stage as Holy Gun, Sprout and Barbarossa Brothers, which is basically a rock stage.”
“Because we’re an acoustic band Ryan plays a big double bass with us and he is phenomenal and adds another dimension to the music,” continues Vern. “Most bass players we’ve hired will fill-in, but Ryan comes to rehearsals and actually contribute to the arrangements. We’re not used to somebody filling in and then actually coming into the fold and adding solid ideas to our arrangements. He does a bass solo on his double bass on one our songs Are You Sleeping Maggie? that causes chills to run down my neck because I never know where he’s going to go with it.”
“We cherry picked our repertoire for this upcoming performance and our set is more intense and rock-oriented,” reflects Vern. “We’re excited to be on this stage and play for people that probably haven’t heard us before because they think of us as a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Band, and we’re not like that. In fact, Ryan told me that he plays with a lot of bands but finds he needs to take lots of notes at our rehearsals because our arrangements are sophisticated and precise, so he can’t just hang back. We’re trying to keep a little harder edge to what we’re playing and keep it more interesting.”
“I’m excited to have an opportunity to get our music in front of a younger crowd that hasn’t heard us before and will be interested to see how it goes,” concludes Vern. “We lost two of our younger members, so I’m happy that Ryan finds our music interesting because he is bringing youthful vitality back into the mix. We’re not quite ready to go out to pasture yet and are working on two CD’s right now, a Winter Solstice and a Vernal equinox CD that are slow in developing.”
“But I’m truly excited about our new direction. We’ll have a lot of pipes in the show this year and most bands will play and stop and then have a pipe tune, but we are actually trying to incorporate pipes right into the music. It should be interesting.”