Two years ago at this time, the KVBA was struggling. There was some doubt whether we would be able to put on another festival, after eighteen years of bringing the best in local and national blues acts to the Kalamazoo stage each summer. The KVBA scholarship (given to an area high school student to further his or her education in music and related studies) hadn’t been awarded, due to lack of funding, for a couple of years. Membership was dwindling. Morale was at an all-time low. The future was looking grim! Then…a group of “new people” stepped up and volunteered to be on the board, bringing new skills, resources, and ideas to the KVBA’s governing body. Their energy gave the organization a shot in the arm, sparking a revitalization that culminated in the outstanding celebration of this summer’s 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival.
In 2013, our membership is strong and getting stronger, our newly established KVBA Boogie Bob Peters Scholarship is funded for several years, and our 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival was one of the most successful we’ve had–all positive developments that have stemmed from the renewed energy and purpose in the KVBA, and the fantastic dedication and efforts of the members of the board. But as is the case with any vital organization, challenges remain, and we are once again seeking “new people” to step up and join with us in promoting the message and the future of the blues to Kalamazoo and southwest Michigan.
Be a part of it!
As one of those “new people” (I came on as newsletter editor in 2011, and joined the board in 2012), I can speak personally about the rewards of being involved at this level with the KVBA. It’s hard work, and challenging at times, but remarkably satisfying, not to mention a lot of fun! As I went about the grounds of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival this summer, I was always aware of how proud I was to have been part of the team effort that made it such a success, and how happy I was to be there and be part of it. It was a great way to celebrate our first two decades, and a wonderful promise going into the future.
If you love the festival and you want to be a bigger part of it, join the board. If you love Kalamazoo and want to be a part of a group doing good things here, join the board. If you are looking for an opportunity to use your knowledge, skills, experience, and enthusiasm to help promote blues music, history, culture, and performance, join the board. Instructions for “applying” are on the KVBA website.
If you want to ask me or the other current board members any questions before applying, their emails are all here. We hope to hear from you soon. Application deadline is October 7.
By Michael Gee, member of the 2013 KVBA International Blues Challenge contestant band (Bosco-Gee)
With another year checked off the calendar and the 20th annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival in the books, the fall approaches. With the change in the weather comes the annual “KVBA Blues
Challenge”, to be held Sunday, September 29, at the 411 Club in Kalamazoo. Five area bands will compete for the honor of representing Kalamazoo in the Blues Foundation’s 2014 International Blues Challenge (IBC), held on Beale Street in Memphis January 21-25, 2014.
For the benefit of the participating bands, as well as our panel of judges, some of whom will receive a crash course in the IBC scoring guidelines just prior to the event, I am hoping to provide some insight as to what to expect in both arenas.
For the bands: I know many of you may have entered local competitions before, or perhaps even made the trip to the IBC. For you, none of this will be anything new. Last year’s local competition, which sent my band Bosco-Gee to Memphis, was my fifth. But for those of you who may be hoping for that ‘first time” shot at the IBC, keep reading.
The panel of judges selected for the local competition will come from various locations throughout Central and Southern Michigan. None will be KVBA board or committee members, thus providing an impartial panel. The Kalamazoo competition has a bit more of an expanded “footprint” than some of the others. You may see bands from Lansing, Muskegon, Grand Rapids and areas south of Kalamazoo as well. The judges score the bands on a scale of 1 to 10 in specific areas, this criteria defined by the Blues Foundation. These include Overall Talent, Vocal Talent, Instrumental Talent, Stage Presence, and the most heavily weighted category, Blues Content.
In the local competition, your set will be 30 minutes. In Memphis your sets in the quarter finals will be 25 minutes, but be prepared to trim them to 20 with very little notice if they get behind schedule. It is virtually impossible to win or advance in either competition if you exceed your time limit. However, there is no point deduction for going short.
So you have won the local competition and you are bound for Memphis… now the real work begins. Skip back up to the previous paragraph and read carefully about the “all expenses paid” trip to Memphis. That’s right, it doesn’t say that anywhere! The KVBA is going to award $1000 to the winning act. If you drive a car that gets 50 mpg, stay in a hotel 20 minutes out of Memphis (if you can find one), you don’t drink alcohol and eat little more than fast food, that $1000 will cover one of your band members for the week. It is up to you to pay for the rest of the trip. We took a seven piece band to the IBC last year. We were very fortunate. With the help of many friends, fans and one very generous $1000 donor, we raised nearly $7K prior to the trip. We stayed across the bridge in West Memphis, AR ($70 rooms as opposed to $170+ in downtown Memphis) and we did just OK. Please keep that in mind.
Now, let’s backtrack a bit. In regard to the dreaded “Blues Content” category: the only way I can describe it is “subjective”. Experience tells me that this category might more aptly be renamed “Traditional Blues Content”. The “opinion” of what is and is not “Blues” may vary from one judge to the next. This may not mean a lot in your local competition, but in Memphis it is HUGE. Many of you attended this year’s Kalamazoo Blues Festival and got to see last year’s IBC winner (Selwyn Birchwood). A great show, no doubt. And Selwyn is just a wonderful guy! Selwyn showed us a bit of mainstream modern stuff, broke out his lap steel and some acoustic slide. Having seen his show at the Flying Saucer at the 2013 IBC, I assure you his show at the IBC was substantially more “traditional” than what you saw at the blues festival. Please bear in mind that that “down home traditional blues style” is well within Selwyn’s regular bag. Just something to think about….
Last thoughts for the bands: upon winning your local competition you will start hearing advice from every direction. I will keep mine short and sweet. “Be yourself and put down what you do best.” If you have done the work and paid the dues to put yourself in a position to go to the IBC, you and your band have found your comfort zone and you have a style and sound that is “yours”. That is no small feat. There are a million bands out there that can churn out three chord (traditional) blues ditties with a great degree of success. But true blues devotees and even casual “fair weather” blues fans can tell the difference between mechanics and something “real”. If you try to reinvent your band to fit a style you think the judges may want, you lose the magic and what makes you special. Danielle, of Trampled Under Foot (2009 IBC Winners) in a backstage conversation at the State Theater, told me “Don’t even think about playing a cover tune at the IBC”, while I understand that the 2012 winner played “all” covers. And the only band advancing to the semi-finals from our venue (The New Daisy Theater) who played all originals was “Lady Sunshine” (representing the Detroit Blues Society).
This brings us to the IBC judges. The only way I can describe it is “Luck of the Draw”. Not that luck has anything to do with turning in a good or even great performance, but how individual judges receive you may seem to have neither rhyme nor reason. I have hard data to support this belief and will happily offer our Thursday night scores from last year’s IBC as an example. Two of the three judges from Thursday night gave us all 8s and 9s in every category, and one gave us a 10 in the vocal talent category. According to the Blues Foundation, the 8-10 ratings are indicative of an act headlining major blues venues and sharing the stage with major national headliners. Then we have judge #3… The highest rating on the score sheet was a 7 for vocal talent. This came along with a 6 in the dreaded “blues content” category and a 5 for stage presence. Again, “subjective”. Did all these judges see the same band? I am not complaining, that is just how it felt. Getting to the IBC in the first place is something to be proud of and “just the experience” makes it worthwhile. Even if your band doesn’t win, you should make every effort to go to the IBC. If you love the Blues, you won’t regret it.
Good luck to all of you and “Enjoy the Beale Street Experience”.
by Dennis Massingill, KVBA Event Coordinator
The Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association will once again do a series of Sunday fundraisers to help finance the 21st Kalamazoo Blues Festival, continuing a tradition begun in 2008. These popular shows, each featuring two area bands, will be held at Kalamazoo’s 411 Club, as in the past.
We are pleased to announce that this year’s 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival actually had a small profit after paying all of our bills. The festival, however, is a very pricey event, and it took the combined efforts and financial contributions of a great many people, from KVBA Board members to the many wonderful businesses and individuals who provided sponsorships and donations of cash and services, to make it possible. Many thanks to the bands that volunteered their time and performed at the Sunday Series, to make this year’s festival a success. The blues is very much alive in Kalamazoo!
This year we are only doing four Sunday fundraisers, as opposed to six in previous years. Scheduled dates are:
Watch this space for announcements of band line-ups and other details, and mark your calendars now for these Sundays. The Sunday Series shows are a great opportunity to get out on a Sunday afternoon, meet old and new friends, enjoy the great refreshments available and the wonderful hospitality of the folks at the 411 Club, hear some outstanding blues, and support the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, all at the same time!
by Sue Weaver, KVBA Newsletter Editor
The 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival has come and gone, but how it lingers in our hearts! The culmination of many, many months of hard work by KVBA Board members, volunteers, sponsors, and so many other supporters, the Festival was all we hoped it would be. From the fantastic lineup of performers, to the perfect weather, to the crowds of happy folks who showed up, it was one great party. Enjoy the gallery of photo memories, as well as the reminiscences of many who were involved. And don’t forget–it’s not too early to start looking forward to next year! See you at the 21st!
by Ralph Yingling, KVBA President
We’ve been sleeping – we really needed to. The 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival was exhausting, exciting, exhilarating and debilitating all at the same time! Absolutely PERFECT weather conditions, a stellar line-up, a wide variety of food vendors, all-time high number of corporate sponsorships, and favorable alignment of the sun, moon, and stars all contributed this year to make this festival a success from perspectives financial and critical. You all deserve a huge pat on the back and an even larger THANKS from all of us at KVBA HQ.
We’ve heard about the nice things folks have said about the new “national” acts (Victor Wainwright, JP Soars, Selwyn Birchwood) as much as the veteran “national” acts (Lil Ed, Deanna Bogart, Kenny Neal, Janiva Magness). I was personally awed by our local acts; they ALWAYS kick it up a notch at this huge showcase and this year was no exception.
Many have shared that they really enjoyed the addition of “shade tents” in the seating area – we want to do this again so our patrons are comfortable in the heat of the day…maybe have a few more if we can figure out how to do that without compromising the blues fest seating arrangements you’ve all come to know and love. We are continuing to look at the after-fest “all star jam” configuration – we really want to continue this tradition…perhaps by making more of a contractual arrangement to insure their appearance. We are not so much for creating new traditions as we are about solidifying and enhancing the traditions that have been in place all along.
Definitely realized: 20 Years Strong!
by Nancy J. King, Volunteer Coordinator
Words cannot express the gratitude the KVBA organization has for all the volunteers who made our 20th Blues Festival absolutely great. Without you, it wouldn’t have happened!
Our invaluable supervisors who spend three days at their various posts include: Cheryl Beltz, Larry Bevins, Tom Deyo, Tom Duffield, Ben Flaten, Brianna Grace, Mel Grace, Tim Hazard, Sheila Hicks, David Hunt, Donna Keith, Joel Krauss, Nick Hatinzkolis, Brook Lamm, Sue Markus, Eric Martin, Alden Miller, Jeff Mitchell, Mike Muszynski, Pat Olsen, Jodi Omness, Mark Patrick, Jim Sadler, Paul Schneidenback, Matt Smith, Sue Srackangast, Lynda Stewart, Tina Truax, Dennis Tuttle, Sue Weaver, Kurt Weber, and Ann Wittenkeller. Each of these individuals volunteers long hours of time and dedicates him or herself to making sure a specific area of the festival runs smoothly, no easy task!
The amazing volunteers, who numbered about 200 strong at this year’s festival, each donate a minimum of 3 hours on one to three days during the festival. Many of these volunteers return year after year to staff the many areas needed. Some of these folks are proud of collecting volunteer shirts for each of the 20 years of the festival. The KVBA recognizes and greatly appreciates all that our volunteers contribute to the Kalamzoo Blues Festival. There would not be a festival without all the folks who help each year.
THANKS to the board members of KVBA who were not only on the festival site all three days of the festival, but who have worked throughout the year to organize the festival.
It was a very successful festival. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather and great crowds during the weekend.
THANKS TO ALL who made the 20th Annual Blues Festival one of the best!!
by Dennis Massingill, KVBA Event Coordinator
“… to promote, educate, and preserve the rich history of blues music …” is the central theme of the KVBA mission statement. Nobody has done more to fulfill this commitment than Mike Irelan and Doug Beckman. Since I joined the KVBA Board of Directors in 2000, these two bluesmen have been the backbone of our Blues in Schools program. They weren’t the first ones (that would go back to Annette Taborn), but they are the only ones I have worked with on our Education Committee these last 13 years. Over that span of time and longer, they have presented the history of blues music at libraries, book stores, and schools, impacting hundreds of Kalamazoo area school children as well as the community at large.
The presentations were pretty straightforward. Mike would tell the story of how blues music started in southern Delta region of America and trace its evolution to today. Along the way Doug would provide the sound bites that illustrated what it might have sounded like. Starting with primitive stringed instruments like the diddley bow and progressing through a cigar box guitar, a national steel, and finally a modern stratocaster, Doug would take you through guitar history to match the music of the times.
This blues project, which mostly took place during regular work hours, would fit nicely into the day of a retiree. Neither Mike or Doug were retired, though! This meant actually taking time from work to go to schools and talk to students about the significance of this music so its history would be understood and honored.
Mike and Doug have finally decided to hang it up, and retired from this project this year. Newly retired Mike has found many new interests (biking, frisbee golf, the Air Zoo, and being a grandparent) and Doug has now gone back to playing in a band. They have done their part to “promote, educate, and preserve” this music we hold sacred. Mike will still host Bluespower on WIDR-FM, and Doug can be heard playing keys with the band Big Trouble. Meanwhile KVBA will try to find someone to fill their shoes … not an easy task!
On a personal level I can say that they are both great guys and it has been my pleasure to work with them. I know the time they have put in. To these soldiers of the blues I, and the rest of the KVBA, say, “thank you for your service.”
Do you have a vested interest in the future of the local blues community? Would you like to have a voice in the direction that the KVBA takes? Do you want to be a part of a group that is working to keep the Blues alive? Then joining the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association (KVBA) Board may be just the thing for you.
Election time is here are we are looking for a few good folks to join the KVBA Board of Directors and/or to work on various committees. Qualifications are not unique but we are looking for folks that have any of the following skills/attributes:
- Independent/critical thinking skills
- A positive attitude and a willingness to work on projects independently and with others
- Connections to resources in the business community
- Proven/demonstrated leadership skills
Some specific areas we currently need help:
- Accounting/bookkeeping/records management and reporting (especially with experience in non-profit accounting)
- Blues in the School program management
- Membership; growing & maintaining and membership activities
- Fund Raising; Grants, Sponsorships, Fund Raisers
- Promotion/Public Relations
- Alliances with other non-profits
Some time commitments that come along with joining the Board include attending and participating in:
- Monthly Board meetings (usually held on the 2nd Thursday of each month)
- Periodic Blues Community Meetings
- Various fund raisers (the Sunday Blues Series, Mardi Gras in Michigan, etc.)
- The annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival (2nd weekend in July)
- Additionally, committee meetings/work is conducted outside the board meeting and can be quite involved at times (depending on the committee)
If you are interested, email us at email@example.com and include a paragraph about why you are interested in being a part of the KVBA Board and how you feel you can help (what skills you can offer). Include your full name, phone number and the best times to reach you. Also make sure to include “KVBA Elections” in the Subject line. Please respond no later than Monday, October 7.
Interviews will occur in October at the KVBA Office. Prospective candidates will be contacted to schedule specific dates and times.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (269) 381-6514.
Doug Olson is the visionary that put together the very first on-going series of blues jams that began at Wonderful’s and have carried on to this day at The 411 Club (and other venues as well)… Doug was also the founder of Crossroads which, if you have followed the evolution of Kalamazoo’s Blues Scene in the slightest, has been the nexus of several other bands in the area. Come out Saturday for a NO COVER Tribute Show…check event details for artists that will be featured..this is going to be a memorable event and you really want to be there.
Join us in a fun filled night of music in recognition of Doug Olson!
Featuring live music from:
OUT OF FAVOR BOYS
FIFI AND THE DOGS
LOS BANDITS de MICHIGAN
CAFE con LECHE
And afterwards, an all Star Jam!
The celebration kicks off at 8PM.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
THE 411 CLUB
411 N. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
18 & Over