Band Together helps aspiring young musicians do just that
Parents of kids who take up classical instruments like violin, trumpet or piano generally have good insurance that their money is well invested.
Between school programs, community bands and even college majors, their kids have ample opportunity to make good use of their musical talents.
But for parents of kids who dream of rocking out to sold-out crowds on a guitar, bass or drum set, opportunities are more limited. It was with this in mind that local musician and teacher Ryan Schiedermayer joined with Cascio Interstate Music in New Berlin to create Band Together, a program focused on giving promising young musicians a chance to learn more about the business of being in a band.
"I thought of this just two years back, but it was probably brought on more by other parents of other students that I have that are like, 'You know, I've invested all this money in Nancy or Jimmy, but how can we get them to play with other players?'" said Schiedermayer. "To me, the whole experience is about playing with other people."
Schiedermayer has had more than enough experience in this arena as drummer for Milwaukee Bucks house band and multiple WAMI Award-winning group Streetlife. In addition, he also teaches at UW-Milwaukee, conducts clinics at schools and music stores and teaches privately at Cascio Interstate Music, where the Band Together program is held.
According to him, Band Together helps fill a crucial gap in this type of music education.
"If you're over 21, you can go to a jam session, sit in with other musicians at a club and that's how you can start to learn your ensemble chops. It's just more limited if you're a younger student," he said.
Geared toward these school-age musicians, Band Together assembles them into their own "bands" and gives them full-spectrum instruction on what they need to know in today's musical climate.
"It just connects the dots between private lessons and ensemble playing," he said. "That's what this is about, is to provide a venue so that younger players can network and maybe develop a musical relationship that could carry on for years."
On top of learning how to perform in a group setting, students also have the opportunity to hear from guest clinicians about other industry aspects needed to succeed in a career in music.
"The last couple of weeks I've had other people come in and help out and give their perspective of the music industry and their knowledge and things like that to share with the kids," said Schiedermayer. "At the same time kind of running congruently with that I had a music marketing promoter friend of mine come in and talk about the business or promotional side of music."
Band Together's inaugural session brought together 20 students ranging in age from 9 to 21. Since the session series started on May 1, Schiedermayer has seen his students develop a whole new mastery of their skills.
"It's been incredible. They've really made some great progress in taking command of their instruments," he said. "The first few weeks everyone is a little guarded, you know, they're amongst their peers and they still want to be 'cool.' They had their heads down, looking at their instruments. But now they're looking around and looking for cues, like, 'Okay, now the guitar has a solo section.' Before, they didn't know it was coming. They're more comfortable in their setting and that's starting to come out in a more natural way."
To show off everything they've learned, Schiedermayer and Cascio will present a final concert by each band Sunday, July 31 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. From there, a top band will also be chosen to perform on WMSE 91.7 Frontier Radio.
"At the final concert I want to present it sort of "American Idol"-style, have a panel that decides the band that takes it," said Schiedermayer. "I also want to have some sort of personal video montage just of the experience and maybe talk with the kids about what they learned, and show that before they play. Yeah there's that radio slot, but I want it to feel like everybody gets something."
Of course, students have already received something from Band Together – the invaluable experience gained from working as one to hone their craft and create music.
"I shared this quote – 'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts' – and that's kind of what I'm trying to stress," he said. "The idea is that collectively, as a whole unit, everyone is communicating, listening to each other and playing together and playing tight, and that makes the song all that much better."
Kudos to Ryan! Great job. The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music has been putting together jazz, blues and rock combos of kids and teens with similar talent levels for years. Brass Bell Music has great success with their RocKamp program for many years, too! There are opportunities out there for kids of all ages. Parents/ caregivers just need to know where to look. Thanks for the insightful article.
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