WillyWash is a great example of how a forward thinking group of folks can get together and make something significant happen. They met at the Student Union on the UW campus in Madison, Wisconsin and discussed many things. The focus of this meeting was to develop the area between the capital and the Yahara river into a music and arts district. The southern border would be Willy Street and the north would be East Washington, hence the name WillyWash. The group was born.
All kinds of ideas for this project have emerged including a performance venue, a charter school, a themed based restaurant museum, music rehearsal spaces and street performance venues. But the primary idea is to create an artistic zone where Madison citizens who enjoy music, can live, work and play in. The movers also hope to attract tourists and new high tech business to the area as well.
High tech businesses are attracted to culturally creative environments. If there is a strong artistic nightlife, there is a work force who are intelligent and creative. Many tech start ups are in the process of bringing lots of young and talented people to the workplace. They need a place to play and live as well and that’s what the WillyWash initiative is all about.
Madison is ripe for this kind of development as the city is growing and the music scene is rockin’. Recently, the Madison Area Music Association hosted their annual awards show and the talent has reached a new level. Here is a link to the winners list and another to the a review of the multi-winners.
They WillyWash “movers” have made a choice to make something happen. If there is a movement with a potential return on investment, the capitalists will be there. Numerous projects have already been launched and many more are following.
Please visit the WillyWash site for more detail. It’s amazing what a small group of citizens can do.
The Jimmys are: Jimmy Voegeli -(2014 Madison Area Music Association Keyboardist of the Year) Hammond Organ, Piano, Electric Rhodes, Vocals/Mauro Magellan (Georgia Satellites)-Drums and Percussion/John Wartenweiler – (2014 MAMA Bassist of the Year) Electric and Acoustic Bass/Darren Sterud – (2014 MAMA Brass of the Year) Trombone/Perry Weber – Guitars and Vocals/Bryan Husk – Tenor and Baritone Saxophones/Chad Whittinghill – Trumpet and Flugelhorn/Pete Ross – Alto Saxophone
Breakthrough Artist of the Year Annabel Lee
New Artist of the Year Gabe Burdulis
Compilation Album of the Year Karen Wheelock Smilin’ On
Cover Song of the Year Mark Croft “Dancing in the Dark (Live)”
Meritorious Achievement Award Sheilah Kring
Video Of The Year Beth Kille “I’ve Been Accused”
Ensemble Vocalists of the Year Natty Nation
Female Vocalist of the Year Annabel Lee
Male Vocalist of the Year Kyle Henderson
Bassist of the Year John Wartenweiler of The Jimmys
Brass Instrumentalist of the Year Darren Sterud of The Jimmys
Drummer/Percussionist of the Year Joey B Banks
Guitarist of the Year Michael Tully
Keyboardist of the Year Jimmy Voegeli
Specialty Instrumentalist of the Year Chris Wagoner (Lap Steel)
Strings Instrumentalist of the Year Mary Gaines
Woodwinds Instrumentalist of the Year Trevor Hoffman of The Rotation
People’s Choice Awards:
Cover Band Performer of the Year John Masino Band
DJ of the Year Nick Nice
Live Sound Engineer of the Year Lonya Neneshev
Local Live Music Venue of the Year High Noon Saloon
Local Music Fan of the Year Sarah Warmke
Local Music Publication/Blog of the Year Isthmus
Local Music Radio Personality of the Year Gabby Parsons
Local Music Radio Station of the Year 89.9 WORT
Local Recorded Music Store of the Year B-Side Records
Album Packaging of the Year Harmonious Wail Bohemian Tango
Photographer of the Year John Urban
Producer of the Year Mike Zirkel
Recording Studio of the Year Audio for the Arts
Roadie of the Year Ralph Shively
Studio Sound Engineer of the Year Mike Zirkel
Female Vocalist of the Year Helen Feest of The Blue Sundays
Woodwinds Instrumentalist of the Year Robert Stine from Middleton High School
Keyboardist of the Year Adam Goren from Middleton High School
Song of the Year The Blue Sundays “Mary Anne”
Launchpad 2014 Madison Regional Finalist Distant Cuzins
Launchpad 2014 Madison Regional Finalist Prom Queen Rejects
I just learned of his passing from a friend and am taking a moment to remember him.
I first met John Chase in the 80s when we both worked for Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center in Wheaton, Maryland. At the time, “Chuck’s” was the largest music instrument store in the world. I had just moved from Memphis, where 4 of us worked the entire store and at Levin’s, there were 5 of us just selling professional keyboards. It was a culture shock and John Chase was the first one to extend a hand to me. At the time, the DX-7 and the Mirage were two of the hottest keyboards on the market. John was the top salesman in the store and an expert on the DX-7.
During our tenure, Stevie Wonder stopped into the store a few times. John was Stevie’s guy at Washington Music. During one of his visits, Stevie bought a bunch of keyboards and asked John to go on the road with him. John took time off and spent a few days working with Stevie in the back of his tour bus. When he returned to the store, he talked about the generosity of Stevie Wonder. It was truly a great experience for him.
We went our separate ways, me to Ensoniq and John moved to Florida to become a sales rep in the music instrument business. He started a rep firm and became very successful in the southeastern part of the country, representing many lines including Korg. After I moved to Sonic Foundry, there was no doubt who was going to be our rep in the southeast. Although we already knew each other quite well, we bonded even further during our tenure at the Foundry.
He lived close to my mother and upon my visits, we made sure to connect and get caught up. One year for Xmas, Santa bought mom a computer. John offered his house to ship it to so we could surprise her with it. We wrapped the presents, laughed and re-lived our days at Washington Music. He also offered to help her get it set up. I declined and explained that my mom was in her mid-seventies and would like to keep him as a friend.
He had one lick that he always used to demonstrate keyboards with and it has stuck in my head since the 80s. Years later, we met up somewhere on the trail for a drink. There was a piano in the place, so I sat down and started playing, including John’s lick and kidding him about it. He said that was still the only one he knows. Somehow I don’t think so.
John Chase was first class. He was always professional and honest. When I arrived at Washington Music, he was the first to offer assistance. He was a straight shooter who was passionate and caring. He will be missed by so many, especially his wife and kids.
I have been fortunate to work with and meet some of the great people in technology and the music industry. I began my music career as a musician in Michigan and ended up working at Amro Music store in Memphis, Tn. Amro is a family owned store with strong values and run by an amazing group of people, the Averwaters. Chip Averwater eventually became the Chairman of the National Association of Music Merchants, the organization that represents music retailers. He is a well-respected leader in the industry.
At the request of ENSONIQ Corp, I moved to the legendary Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center in Wheaton, Md. At the time, this store was the largest single location of any music instrument store in the world. Along with their father and mother, the store was run by Robert and Alan Levin. Very hardworking folks who put lots of hours in making their business run.
I moved onto ENSONIQ Corporation in Malvern, Pa. Several folks assisted in that transition including Dan Garrett, Bob Stillman, Bruce Wismer and Steve Coscia. My first boss was Rob Weber who has been successful in numerous ventures since leaving ENSONIQ. As we grew, I worked for numerous individuals including Jeff Hasselberger (Phenomenal creative mind), Roland Hanson (Incredible strategist), Ray Whelan (Get it done guy), Dan Garrett (Great thinker and problem solver), Steve Claflin (Highly technical thinker), Bob Papke (Strong leader and gets along with everyone) and a brief time directly for the founder of the company, Bruce Crockett (an exemplary leader). I am very thankful to have the opportunity to learn from all of them.
A transition back to the Midwest where I worked with Rimas Buinevicius, CEO of Sonic Foundry and the two founders, Monty Schmidt and Curt Palmer to help build one of the great entities of the music software business. Sound Forge, Acid and Vegas are the products that we launched and are still well respected by whoever used them. We had an incredible run together.
I started Broadjam with my wife in 1999 to help songwriters have a place on the web. I have worked with some amazing people during the tenure with Broadjam including Matt Thompson, Anthony Del Ciello, Mike Huberty, Kyna Ganshert, Jon Aguilera, Erin Graham, Matt Shinker, Dave Eickhorn, Tibby Torhorst, Dan DeRubeis, Ken Hawkins, Greg Gray, Donny Neufuss, Kurt Maleug, Jeff Muendel, Brian Cunningham, Ian Atkin, Sheena Tesch, Joe Amstadt, Dan Naab, Matt Lea, Steve Davis, Kyle Maresh, Jesse Spohn, John Ostlund, Sean Laurent, Jack Thompson, Victor Backunovich, Birk Cooper, Galen Eckland, Ken Fitzsimmons, Leslie Gavin, Colleen Mullin, Craig Parsons, Al Hawkins, Brent Hoffman, Jason Weaver, Mike Leger, Dennis Anderson, Heather Abney, Shane Tracy, Ed Muir, Bill Steinberg and I’m sure I forgot to mention someone. My apologies. We have an amazing community of musicians who make everyday a worthwhile venture for us.
My goal with this blog is to recognize some of the good people I’ve met and worked with along my journey and some others as well.
Bruce Crockett, Founder and CEO of ENSONIQ Corporation
ENSONIQ (Maker of keyboards, synthesizers and effects processors)
I first met Bruce when I flew up from Memphis to interview at ENSONIQ headquarters in Malvern, PA. Bruce is a tall guy, thin, unassuming, relatively quiet, but when he walks into the room, you know who the boss is. His presence is large. When interviewing at ENSONIQ, I was introduced to Bruce in his office at the old building in Malvern, PA and needless to say, I was petrified. Here I am, sitting in the room with the man who founded ENSONIQ, the company I idolized…..Fast forward>>
I was offered a job to start the ENSONIQ School and train the dealers on how to use and sell our products. I arrived at ENSONIQ, excited and scared shitless at the same time. Like so many of the dealers and users, I worshipped the company and everyone in it. The company had just moved in the new building and my office, which was the training room, had no carpet, wall paper, desk or anything. It was empty. The first few training sessions were done on card tables, no carpeting, etc….but I loved it and couldn’t believe what I was doing for a living.
I was in the training room on a Saturday afternoon rearranging the set-up preparing for the first school. At the front of the room was one of those old Ultimate Support stands and I needed to shave it down a little to make it work. Bruce walks in and asked how I was doing. I explained my dilemma with the stand. He returns a few minutes later with a hack saw and cuts the stand to the height I needed. Like Bruce, I came from humble beginnings and thought CEOs weren’t supposed to do “manual labor.” Words can’t express how that simple act influenced me. A few days later, I went into the mens room and there is Bruce with his tie thrown over his shoulder trying to fix something under the sink. I remember thinking, I can work for this guy. His work ethic influenced us and like so many of my colleagues at ENSONIQ, I could tell Bruce stories for hours without repeating one.
Comdex & Willie Nelson
One of my favorite stories is when we arranged, sponsored and promoted a Willie Nelson Show at the Thomas Mack Arena in Las Vegas during the Comdex convention. My responsibility was to “make it happen.” Johnny Neel who was with the Allman Brothers at the time, opened the show and brought the house down. Then Bruce introduced Willie to the crowd of about 30,000 and the show was amazing. Hit after hit after hit. Although Bruce introduced Willie, he didn’t get a chance to meet him before the show. Unbeknownst to Bruce, I spoke to the tour manager and arranged a meeting afterwards in one of the hospitality rooms. The manager came to get us and said, “we’re going to go to the bus instead and you’ll meet him there.” My immediate thought was, “Oh shit, I am taking my boss to Willie’s tour bus.” I was well aware of the scenario that was probably unfolding on Willie’s bus as we walked out into the parking lot. The bus door opens and a tornado of smoke emerges similar to the storm at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. We walk up the steps and take a quick left and needless to say, the smoke was so thick we couldn’t see anyone. (I’m sure I’m exaggerating a little here, but it does make the point.) We were introduced to Willie and he was as gracious as a person could be. I had a brief conversation with his sister, who has been his piano player forever and she was just as kind. Willie offered us a seat, but we declined. When we got off the bus, I don’t think either one of us knew what to say, but we did have a good laugh as we were walking back to the arena.
The LA Trip
We had an awesome product that wasn’t doing so well in the marketplace and Bruce wanted to do something special for the sales reps right away. I made a few calls and a plan was in place that would unfold in less than two weeks. The idea was to fly our reps, introduce them to the stars who were using our products and get them fired up. Hopefully they would feel better about the product which ultimately would generate more sales.
On the schedule to have breakfast, lunch and/or dinner with our reps was David Arkenstone, Davis Was, Edgar Winter, Sherman Hemsley, Will Smith, Roy Firestone, Pat O’Brien, Keith Emerson, Joe Walsh, Joe Vitale and a few others. We also went to the Tonight Show where we met Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, John Travolta and Danny Wilde of the Rembrandts. We stopped by the legendary O’Henry Studios and then to the set of Baywatch. One of my personal highlights was seeing Bruce having a beer with Sherman Hemsley at his house overlooking the valley in LA.
This was all put together in less than two weeks and while driving from one meeting to the next I was wondering whether or not the next guest was going to show up. Bruce, along with our VP of Sales Dan Garrett, were very supportive and appreciative of the stress it took to pull this off. To this day I am still amazed that it went off without a hitch. After we got back, Bruce came into my office, said some nice words and I felt like I earned my stripes. He never bullshitted anyone, so when he said something nice, you knew he meant it.
A few years into Broadjam, I hit a snag and called Bruce for advice. Thinking I was going to have a long phone conversation or two, he surprised me and asked what I was doing in the next few days. He got on a plane, flew out to Madison from Washington State and spent a couple days straightening me out. I was blown away and will never forget it. I don’t think he ever stopped caring about his employees, even long after they left his employ.
Over the years, I’ve learned more from him than any one person in business. Not because he was consciously teaching any of us, he was just being him. I have read numerous books about leadership and he is what they are talking about. There are times I find myself repeating his words to my employees. After he left ENSONIQ, the spirit of the company imploded and many of us left within a few months. He was ENSONIQ to all of us. It was sold within a year or so and now it’s just a memory. If he was still there, I would be too.
Update: I wrote the above last summer and had a chance to share it with him shortly after. I was driving home from a presentation when I found out. A tear rolled down my cheek and at the same time I smiled, as I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work for him. His legacy will live on for a long time. R.I.P. Bruce.