By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 21, 2006 at 5:03 AM

Say what you will about local music, but you can't deny that local musicians look out for each other. When it became known that WAMI-winning keyboardist Sam Steffke was suffering from a rare blood disease, his compatriots sprung into action.

There will be a "Jam for Sam" benefit concert, Sunday, Feb. 26 from 1 to 6 p.m. at Long Wong's 5320 W. Bluemound Rd. to help raise money for the treatment required by Steffke, a veteran local musician who has performed with Streetlife, Eddie Butts Band, Greg Koch and many others.

"Sam has been extremely influential both as a teacher at Bradford Music and as a working musician with Streetlife, Grooveology, Mr. Lucky Swing Syndicate and Deidre Fellner and the Whole of Soul," says Westown Association director Ellen Winters, who is also a jazz singer. "If there is a top band in Milwaukee, they either know of Sam's talents or they have worked with him."

Steffke is currently recovering at home after spending a month at Froedtert Memorial Hospital undergoing a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. The benefit will attempt to help Steffke and his family make up for lost income and help cover his hospital bills.

"The benefit came about as some of Sam's dear friends were sitting around talking about his looming health issues and the amount of time he was going to be out of commission," says Winters.

"The catalyst behind it is Debi Kossoris of the band Pavanne. Debi has known Sam for 20 years and wanted to physically do something to help him. She invited me to be her partner in this because I was able to put together a similar benefit concert for Jack Grassel in 2004, which raised upwards of $14,000. This is very much a group project but Debi was the catalyst."

So far, the benefit concert will include performances by Winters, Butts, Koch, Streetlife, Mrs. Fun and others. The response from local musicians has been overwhelming, according to Winters.

"Eddie Butts, Streetlife, Mr. Lucky Swing Syndicate, Greg Koch and others have been beating down our doors to play at the benefit. I think it is also important to note that two other ailing jazz artists -- Kaye Berigan and Rick Aaron -- are offering to play at Sam's benefit," she says.

The list of performers and other details are available on a benefit concert Web site,, which is being continually updated as more performers are added.

"We are hoping for a turnout of 200-300 people and while we know that is ambitious, we also know that this event is going to be amazing with regards to the lineup," says Winters.

"We think and hope that the fans of each individual band will help bring people in the door. Plus, we expect that people will come in and out throughout the five hours that we're doing this. Through the benefit and the silent auction, we are hoping to raise $5,000-$10,000 for Sam and his family.

Admission is $10 at the door and there will be a silent auction and a special menu (not included in cover charge) available.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.