Tammy Robinson doesn’t hide her love. On Saturday in Red Wing, she was excitedly telling me about her charity, Soundstrings, and her passion for bringing Suzuki Method violin lessons to kids who would otherwise have no access to musical education.
The table next to hers belonged to Schmitt Music, and within a 20-foot radius stood representatives from the United States Marine Band, Southeast Technical College, and the Minnesota Music Coalition. On the stage a short distance away stood Jack Winders, fresh-faced lead singer of roots rock group Horseplay, toying with his rich tenor and electric guitar for a sound check.
It was all part of Wingstock: an eclectic mix of trade show, job fair, and concert. The event was the brainchild of Lovin’ Spoonful drummer and jack-of-all-trades Mike Arturi.
“I’ve driven trucks, I’ve worked in sales, and I put together a music school, Universal Music Center in Red Wing, to supplement my income as a performer, but it’s all still music-related now,” Arturi told me in the lobby of Red Wing’s Woodruff Sweitzer. “These experiences in my own life led to the creation of Wingstock and my desire to support these various supplemental and auxiliary music-related careers.”
It’s his way of giving back, and it’s a feeling shared by musicians of all ages. “I think that the other sides of the industry, like giving violin lessons to young kids, could stem an inspiration to want to pursue music or some sort of job or role in the music industry that doesn’t have to be performing,” said Winders. “It feels nice to turn around and be a part of an event like this, which is all about supporting local and upcoming music.”
In the pursuit of furthering the mission of the Universal Music Center and inspiring the broader community in Red Wing, Arturi brought along a host of collaborators. Jeremy Messersmith and bassist John Munson (Semisonic, the New Standards) joined Arturi for a panel discussion onstage.
The discussion focused on the wide range of potential careers in music beyond performing, but the conversation was far-reaching. Munson discussed his daily routine, and Messersmith noted the challenges of relying on artistic inspiration for financial well-being.
Later, Messersmith and Munson were joined by Arturi and guitarist Mark Woerpel (Warp Drive) for a brief jam session. (Watch a snippet of their Prince cover.) Concerts by Horseplay, Ninth Planet Out, and a duo of Arturi and former American Idol contestant Reed Grimm built up to a headlining concert by Messersmith.
Arturi enjoys providing a service to the local community, and he takes pride in the musical education he helps facilitate for groups ranging from elementary school students to county jail inmates to Mayo Clinic patients.
“It’s been tremendous to be accepted and embraced by the community,” he said, “and I have a lot of support from the community for what I’m trying to do. The experience of growing [Universal Music Center] and having it succeed – I’m midway through my fourth year in business now – has been really rewarding.”
For their part, the guest artists didn’t hide their excitement. “When I get asked to do something like this – getting involved in the industry, or the musical trade part of it, I always feel kind of lucky,” Messersmith notes. “Kind of like a kid in a candy store.”
Munson expressed a devotion to Arturi’s cause as well. “If someone has an idea that they want to make music and art more available to people, then that’s a project I will happily get on board with,” he said earnestly. “I’ll put my shoulder into it and I’ll drive as hard as I can with my legs and I’ll try to support that project.”
Ibad Jafri is a senior at Carleton College double-majoring in International Relations and Cinema & Media Studies. He can’t whistle, but he can snap pretty loudly.