and Dennis Graham and Les Paul pose in front of the
Club 400, where Paul and Mary Ford first played
guitars together in public. Dennis Graham, organizer
of the ROCKONSIN youth band contests that will see its
top acts playing Summerfest, hopes aspiring musicians
can take a musical cue from Paul.
- Hey, middle and high school students, are you ready to
rock? ROCKONSIN is offering young musical hopefuls a chance
at playing the Big Gig: Summerfest. Dennis Graham of Dennis
Graham Associates, in association with the nonprofit Madison
Area Music Association, is kicking off his 12th year of
producing a statewide youth band competition. He encourages
7th- to 12th-grade bands of all musical genres to enter.
Previously the competition was called Launchpad and the
organization worked with the Wisconsin School Music
Association. They have worked with over 500 high school
bands and had 59 regional shows. Graham said it was a great
run and terrific 11 years.
new format, called ROCKONSIN, is a welcomed change since it
now provides opportunities for younger students to apply.
great aspect is there is no registration fee,” said
has worked with the Summerfest crew for 25 years bringing
bands in and working with production and talent buyers. What
he enjoys about working with young artists is giving them a
format to play in. He said young musicians can’t get into
bars, which is where many garage bands start out.
new program will be a finals-only format for 12 statewide
garage bands of all musical genres to be held at Summerfest,”
finalists will play on the Johnson Controls stage on June 30
and the other six finalists will perform July 1. Shows are
from noon to 3:30 p.m.
you need to do
are asked to submit a video but Graham said participants
shouldn’t dig deep into their pockets. They can use a
smartphone or video recorder of their band performing a
cover or original song. The band needs to submit a link to
the video and fill out an application.
applicants’ video performances will be reviewed by a panel
of music industry professionals. Bands will be notified
by May 15 if they are selected to perform at Summerfest. The
finalists will all receive a Shure microphone.
winning band and the runner-up will each receive a second
45-minute session at Summerfest on July 10 on the
Harley-Davidson stage. The performances will be at 4 p.m.
and 5 p.m.
band will also receive a professional recording session,”
was the best
compared sports to music, saying there needs to be a drive
have to practice and have discipline,” he said.
reward for him is to stand on the side of a stage and watch
incredibly talented kids perform.
grew up in Whitewater and has known many well-known and
highly regarded names in the music industry.
One such person was Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha. He was
working with Launchpad and the organization wanted to do a
Lifetime Achievement Award for someone who touched a person
with music. He suggested Les Paul since he changed the world
of music with sound on sound. On Oct. 27, 2004 Paul was
given the first Lifetime Achievement Award in Music from the
Wisconsin Foundation for School Music (part of the Wisconsin
School Music Association). Paul also was supportive of
Graham’s format for young performers and the two became
for the Les Paul postage stamp discussion, he feels a stamp
in Paul’s honor should have been made years ago.
guy is a treasure; he is Wisconsin’s treasure,” Graham
said Paul was a sweet guy and loved Waukesha. Graham has
heard of musicians visiting his grave in Waukesha and
leaving guitar picks. He hopes the musicians of tomorrow
will follow in Paul’s footsteps by being kind and humble.
is moved by the talented people who come up to him and say
“thank you for the opportunity,” in true Les Paul style.
more information on the competition and ROCKONSIN, go to http://www.rockonsin.org/about/.