Out of the garage, onto the stage
Spare Change Trio advances to state music competition
Casey Stokes wants to show the world that Spare Change Trio is not just a high school garage band. Rather, it is made up of three talented musicians with an eclectic instrumental repertoire.
For the second year in a row, Spare Change Trio set out to prove just that as they competed in the Wisconsin School Music Association's alternative music competition, Launchpad. Spare Change Trio was one of three bands chosen at the regional competition at Chilton High School on Friday to advance to the state finals June 9 in Madison. A selection committee chose 15 bands from four regions to compete in the eighth annual statewide competition. Spare Change Trio will now compete against 13 finalists in Madison.
The first-place band will receive two Summerfest gigs and a professional recording session at Blast House Studios in Madison. The second- and third-place bands also will perform at Summerfest.
Meet the band
Stokes, who is a student from Milwaukee High School of the Arts, makes up one-third of Spare Change Trio, alongside Brookfield East student Sam Elliott and Wauwatosa East student Graham Bris ich.
For Elliott, who plays bass and upright bass, creating music has been part of his life since the fourth grade. His parents told him he could play any instrument in an orchestra, except bass. He chose bass guitar and has been playing it ever since. As a high school junior, he said pursuing a music degree in college is something he may look into.
The members of Spare Change Trio all have an interest in multiple musical genres, which they try to evoke in their original songs. They play everything from contemporary rock to bluegrass, jazz, folk and reggae. Stokes, who mainly plays guitar, also dabbles in banjo, piano and drums, which allows the band to test various genres. Brisich rounds out the trio on drums.
During the competition Friday, the band performed three original pieces. The first, "I Got Fired," was written by Elliott and is about a personal experience in the job world. It has a reggae beat. The second is called "It Comes With Age."
"It's about making mistakes, but don't beat yourself up and knowledge comes with age," Stokes said.
The third song is a rock/funk style song called "Virtual Realty."
Competition allows growth
The Launchpad competition is meant to provide high school bands a large venue to perform in, as well as a chance to network with fellow musicians, said Kevin Thays, director of communications for WSMA.
"I love competition and it's really fun that people come together, and it's not really competitive because we all want to play music and we get a chance to listen to each other and play," Elliott said.
Stokes said the Launchpad process is a way for them to record their songs, have them critiqued and improve.
"There are many kids out there playing music in different ways and learning in different ways, so Launchpad gives them an opportunity to show what they've learned in a special way," Thays said. "Part of the program is to reach kids that might not ordinarily be reached."
Although Spare Change Trio is not new to performing in front of audiences, discovering how they fare against bands throughout the state is a rewarding experience.
"Seeing how you do is always fun," Stokes said.
See them live
WHO: Spare Change Trio
WHERE: Senor Luna, 1901 S. Calhoun Road, New Berlin
WHEN: third Saturday of every month
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