At one time or another, most of us have dreamed of taking to the stage and playing music for an adoring mass of fans. I’m no exception to this, and one day a few years ago I decided to teach myself to play the guitar. Over the years I’ve bought and sold what seems like a never-ending string of guitars as I tried to find the “right one” for me to play. Finally, I had to come to grips with harsh reality: I love music but I am not that good at it.
Then, one day in 2010, one of my co-workers, Larry Daubenspeck, approached several of us at Draper.
“It occurred to me that Draper has several musicians who might find it fun to jam for a week’s worth of lunch hours,” Larry, who is a drummer and member of Draper’s IT department, recalls. Because the group included Mike Feeney, one of my fellow members of the advertising department, I agreed to take part. Mike is a true musician and excellent guitarist, and often plays gigs around our area of Indiana—both individually and as part of his own group. Plus, he lived in Athens, Georgia for a while. What better credentials can one have? With Mike and another guitarist, IT’s Steve Willet, on board, I could comfortably play rhythm guitar and just have fun.
During our first two-week period of lunchtime sessions, a total of three vocalists, three guitarists, a keyboard player and a drummer jammed together for about 45 minutes a day. After two weeks of practice, we invited Draper employees to the old high school gym in Spiceland, Indiana, where the company’s main offices and manufacturing facilities are located. In all, several dozen employees and a (very) few of the town’s 800 residents came by to hear us play songs by The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Allison Krauss, Pat Benatar, Heart, Linda Ronstadt and Warren Zevon (Werewolves of London-my favorite from the set).
It was nerve-wracking for me, never before having played in front of people, but all the practice paid off and we zipped through the song list with no problems. Our reward was that special charge of adrenaline one gets when you hear applause. Once the applause died, though, it was time to pack up the instruments, put away the music and go back to the office to finish out the workday.
“I really enjoyed this opportunity to play music with my fellow co-workers,” Tim Wilkinson, who works in Draper’s traffic department and plays piano (but not at the same time), says. “There is not a lot of opportunity to express ourselves musically in our day to day job so I am glad to be able to do this with others in our workplace.”
So that was it. An enjoyable opportunity—a one-time gig, or maybe an occasional jam session. That was to be the end of it. Then, early in 2011, Larry, our organizer, e-mailed us with the news: Draper Human Resources Director Karl Dick had asked Larry if we would be interested in playing at the company’s annual meeting.
“We were looking to do something different in the meeting and to have a little fun,” according to Dick. “It was also a great opportunity to show off some hidden talents of fellow employees.”
This all sounds well and good, but there’s one important detail that caused me, at least, a little hesitation: all of Draper’s Spiceland employees attend the annual meeting, held in the Spiceland gymnasium. We would be playing in front of 500 people!
So we set about practicing—again about two weeks in advance—and despite the pressure of thinking “Wow, 500 people,” we had a great deal of fun getting ready for the big day. And when the big day came, there were butterflies the size of pterodactyls flapping around in my stomach. The others were feeling a bit nervous, too, but people started filtering into the gym and when we picked up our instruments, I knew then we’d be just fine. We warmed up ourselves and the crowd by playing around with some blues, then it was time to start.
About halfway through our first number, disaster struck! The lights went out, the amps shut down, the mics went dead. At first we thought maybe they’d hated us and pulled the plug (remember that scene in The Blues Brothers?), but then quickly realized we had actually blown out the circuit breakers. In a strange way that made us feel better, I think. Think about it! What rock and roll band doesn’t wish they could just blow out the power with their mighty awesomeness?
The breakers were turned back on, and off we went again, and played a great set. It felt tremendous, especially for me at the end when I got to do lead vocals on Takin’ Care of Business!
Members of the as-yet unnamed Draper jam band have gotten together once more since the annual meeting to play for co-workers and a few town residents, and we hope to continue with future gigs—even if we never again get the rush of playing in front of 500 people.
“I am surrounded by some wonderfully talented individuals and would be happy to play and sing with them any time,” Order Entry Clerk and vocalist Tisa Burns says. “I love the fact that we can bring the joy of music to people.”
Terry Coffey coordinates Technical Publications and Media Relations for Draper, Inc., and plays acoustic guitar in the Draper (unnamed) jam band. Other participants have been Tisa Burns (vocalist, Order Entry Clerk); Kevin Cain (drums, IT Department); Larry Daubenspeck (drums, IT Department); Mike Feeney (acoustic and electric guitars, lead and backing vocals, Advertising Department); Bob Hadsell (bass, Sales Department); Jeff Irving (vocals, Advertising Department); Jo Sewell (vocals, Order Entry Clerk); Tim Wilkinson (keyboards, Traffic Department); and Steve Willet (electric and acoustic guitars, IT Department).