Celebrating the 30th anniversary of your store being in business is an impressive feat. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of an idea you had at your store is utterly amazing. Skip’s Music did just that when it hosted its 30th Stairway to Stardom on Aug. 15 and 16.
The first day of the event featured 20 up-and-coming bands. They were mostly comprised of teenagers, but participants were as young as 7.
Whether any of the 20 bands etch a place in local, national or international music history is a mystery. But the program, the brainchild of Skip Maggiora, provides a lot for the musicians. First, the bands had the opportunity to perform live in front of an audience at Sacramento, Calif.’s Crest Theatre. This is no amateur production. Engineers were working to ensure the sound quality was optimal. Lighting was altered based on each band’s desires. A professional photo of the band was plastered on a large screen once the musicians completed a song. A local radio personality emceed the event. A professional program was printed and distributed. Bands hung out backstage before and after their performances and were able to receive lunches from behind a counter you’d often see at a movie theater.
The realism of the event went well beyond that, however. Once a group completed its act, it descended to the lowest level of the theater to conduct television interviews for Access Sacramento. And yes, after everything was completed, the musicians traveled back upstairs to the Crest Theatre lobby where they actually signed autographs. “They really feel like rock stars,” said Maggiora. “I’m sure they are nervous when they are about to perform. But once it’s over, they get to relax and enjoy signing autographs. In their mind, they are on their way to stardom, or have already made it.”
Even if the musicians never become recording stars—and statistics say few ever will—they can bank a lifelong memory in their minds. There’s no question it was a memorable experience. Confidence is also a big factor. If one can perform flawlessly before a live studio audience, one’s confidence is sure to rise dramatically. Confidence goes a long way, whether it’s for completing a test, applying for a job or seeking the affection of a member of the opposite sex.
If kids didn’t have enough to like about the Stairway to Stardom program, here’s one more incentive for them to become involved. Musicians receive high-school credit (assuming they are current high-school students as opposed to middle-school students) for successful participation in the program. “They get credit for being in a high school band. That’s sure not a bad thing,” said Maggiora.
The bands that competed in August during Stairway to Stardom all played three original songs. The bands were: A.R.A., Angels Need Oxygen, Angel’s Ruin, Angst Over Easy, Back in Your System, Conquest, Don’t Look Down, Gridlok, Momentum, Mutalisk, Myth Machine, Now Is Forever, OC/DC, Odysus, Pandemic, Prefect Imbalance, Phat Traffic, Roulette, The Minorities and Yellow Chain of Chinchillas. Detention, which featured a 7-year-old lead singer, was a special guest band that joined the event. “We’re starting them out younger and we need them to be customers for a lot longer,” Maggiora said. “It really was a great concert.”
Stairway to Stardom originated in 1981, although on a different scale. “Back then, I noticed kids weren’t getting involved with bands the way I did when I was a kid,” said Maggiora. “I grew up at a time when everyone would be practicing out of their garages. Many times, kids learn to play instruments in school and, once school is over, they have nothing to do with the instrument. That’s sad.”
Maggiora added that kids were learning to play guitars in their bedrooms, but he wanted to get them involved with the “enjoyment of playing with others as soon as possible. We came up with the Stairway to Stardom idea because so many kids were playing guitars then and we wanted them to be able to go somewhere with the knowledge. We wanted to introduce them to putting a band together and the opportunities for a career in music. Our first Stairway had three bands and it took place in the parking lot of the store. It has grown to become a great event because the community supports it and the kids support it. We don’t even need to advertise the event to promote it. We even have longtime coaches who help the kids out. The bands rehearse once a week with their coach, they go to clinics on song writing and arrangement, they learn the business of music and more. For example, the kids learn the importance of a three-minute song and the need for a ‘hook.’ They learn the importance of writing a song for the general public, and not just themselves. They are also taught how to continue to pursue their dreams after the eight-week Stairway program is over. Community members offer their garages for kids to rehearse.”
The second day of the event shifted dramatically. Manufacturers, VIPs and Skip’s Music employees attempted to translate their talents to success on the golf course. The “best-ball” tournament, which began at 8 a.m., culminated with lunch and award ceremonies after everyone had completed the 18-hole course in Lincoln, Calif. Awards ranged from “Needs Most Improvement” to “Most Lost Golf Balls.” Many manufacturers sponsored both days of the event. “We used to have the golf event on a separate date from Stairway to Stardom,” said Maggiora. “But it was difficult to get people to come to two different events during the year. Some people like seeing Stairway and some like golf.”
After Stairway to Stardom concluded, each band went into the recording studio the following week. The best original song was recorded and a CD was cut. The winning band recorded all three original songs, which subsequently went on sale at local music stores. That band also gets to be an opening act for an area concert and appears on a television special.
The Music & Sound Retailer presented Maggiora with a plaque commemorating the 30th anniversary during the bands’ performances.
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