For more than a year, Valentiger’s Scott Rider has hosted open conversations on topics impacting Grand Rapids’ music community. In this Local Spins guest column, he reflects on what he’s learned.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest column is one of a series of essays giving a voice to West Michigan musicians — assessing the highs and lows of the music scene, in their own words. Today, we hear from Valentiger drummer Scott Rider who founded the “Let’s Talk GR Music” series that brings together musicians and presenters from the music business for regular community discussions in hopes of building and bolstering the local music scene. Local Spins asked him to assess the past year of these monthly exchanges. The next meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the Wealthy Theatre Annex, 1110 Wealthy St. SE, tackling the topic: What does DIY (“do it yourself”) really mean for musicians? Lawrence Kole will speak; participants are urged to share DIY lessons they’ve learned. More information online here: https://www.facebook.com/events/718260228342150/. (Local Spins publisher John Sinkevics will speak at the Feb. 27 session.)
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There is no official mission statement for “Let’s Talk GR Music” and the concept really isn’t based on a profound idea.
The goal simply is to meet new people, discuss what is happening, grow through learning about new outlets, people and practices, and to create unity in our music community.
So, how does this work? Well, over the past year I would pick a topic, a speaker and a location for each meeting.
Usually, we would meet and the speaker would speak for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then, I would attempt to moderate a “Q&A” type session lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. We would always finish with a solid 30 minutes of time for people to just meet a new face and continue the conversation.
We’ve experienced a huge mix in terms of those attending these sessions.
We have had bands and musicians from all sorts of genres and with all sorts of experience. We have had people who are just music fans and people that manage national acts. We have had owners of venues and curators of DIY house shows. It’s been very amazing to see who is going to pop in.
LEARNING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE MUSIC SCENE, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
It’s also been surprising for me to see the disconnect.
I fancy myself as a guy that is pretty aware when it comes to Grand Rapids music, but I’m not. I’ve had people share the most positive and the most negative stories, and I’m not sure that we’ve even scratched the surface on some topics.
It’s humbling to see and hear some people’s struggles and also motivating to hear about promise. It’s fun to watch people meet for the first time and talk about what they are passionate about.
Admittedly, 2016 was a challenge.
To cover a lot of different topics and to get the word out about location and times/dates was difficult. My hope was that this would always be a “grass-roots” type event. I wanted it to be inviting and not just another obligation on the calendar.
For 2017, to streamline some of my efforts, Wealthy Theatre has agreed to let me host our meetings on the last Monday of each month (7 to 9 p.m.) in their Annex space at 1110 Wealthy St SE. My hope is to stay true to the format we have built over the past year, but to simplify inconsistencies with times and spaces.
I also believe that centralization will lead to more consistency and easier accessibility for more people. It’s important to note that anyone can attend. You do not have to be a musician or even speak.
In the past year, we’ve discussed touring, race in our music community, business taxes, record labels, house concerts and so many other topics. My hope is that in 2017 we cover another large variety of topics, and revisit some of the past discussions. (The turnout for the talks has really depended on the subject matter. Certain topics tend to bring out more people.)
AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND TO NETWORK
During every single talk, there is an opportunity to learn. I’ve watched bands form, ideas be created, resources connect, and true passion and frustration for an art form that is so important in my opinion.
We don’t all have the same goals for music and that is OK: I believe we all want to see our Grand Rapids music community and culture grow even stronger. I also believe that there is room for all of us to thrive.
Everyone will always have an opinion on how things work. Everyone is right and wrong.
Naturally, I’d love to see more open-mindedness, both in the progressive and conservative worlds. More forward thinking can lead to new ideas and ways to promote music. I’d love to see the music community as a whole explore more and new options all of the time.
Sometimes, there is not enough transparency to our music community. Understanding can go a long way to building relationships and lines of communication between different genres and different sub-communities.
Just because someone is not ‘into’ a certain scene in Grand Rapids does not mean there isn’t value in what is happening.
There is a lot to learn from others right in our own community. Sometimes just understanding why can open a new avenue of thought.
With all of that said, as a reminder of our topics, I post an event on Facebook and also on Twitter (@LetsTalkGRMusic) each month.
As I mentioned earlier, Let’s Talk GR Music wants to stay as “grass roots” as possible, so let’s not over-think this.
Let’s get together and talk.
ABOUT SCOTT RIDER: As drummer for popular Grand Rapids rock/pop band Valentiger, Scott Rider has performed regularly across West Michigan and toured the country. The Sparta High School and Davenport University grad is also passionate about the local music scene. Valentiger plays Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids at 9 p.m. Saturday, with Blanca Luz, Two Cheers and JOE also on the bill. Details online here.
Read more Musicians’ Soundboard guest columns here: https://localspins.com/category/guest-column/
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