Thanksgiving 2020 arrives today after a turbulent, scary and musically silent year unlike any other. But the region’s music community remains upbeat and thankful. See why these artists are so thankful.
From the time I was a very young lad, much of my life has centered around music. And on Thanksgiving Day 2020, it still does.
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I have many to thank for this enduring passion: my parents for encouraging musical appreciation, forcing me to take piano lessons and putting up with loud rock ‘n’ roll; my friends, my sister and my cousins for turning me onto so many incredible and diverse acts; my bandmates in The Honeytones who’ve allowed me to play out my dreams on various stages and in the recording studio; all that influential music — from Latvian folk songs, Motown and Mozart to The Beatles, Ray Charles and Elton John to The Black Keys and Spoon — who’ve supplied the soundtrack to my life; my former editors and co-workers at The Grand Rapids Press who helped give me a vehicle for showcasing so much great music and so many talented musicians.
And over the past nine years, I’m especially thankful to the enriching, inspiring Michigan music community that has not only given Local Spins its focus, but completely awed me with its prodigious, wide-ranging talent.
Even amid a devastating pandemic that’s silenced the lion’s share of performances this year, the region’s bands and solo artists have exhibited exceptional resilience, fortitude and creativity in weathering the crisis, releasing new music and otherwise staying the course — as bumpy as that has been.
We should all be over-the-moon grateful for these musicians and songwriters, because their music has provided the healing power, soothing grace and compelling activism we’ve so desperately needed in 2020. And while it’s been a cataclysmic year for most musicians, it’s eye-opening to see how thankful they are for their craft, their fans, their musical comrades and their loved ones.
“My nature is always one of gratitude,” said Diego Morales, of Holland, lead singer for funk/rock’s Dalmatian Stone, who not only has battled severe vertigo and seen his cousin senselessly murdered this year, but recently was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I’m thankful for the connections made through music. Reaching people, sharing and embracing the commonalities. Mostly revolve around love, finding it, having it, losing it. We’ve all been there. When I can connect with someone who has suffered the same lows and ridden the highs it brings us all a little closer. Music is magical that way. That and the friends I’ve made along the way.”
Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Nicholas James Thomasma expresses similar sentiments at Thanksgiving.
“I’m thankful for the entire Michigan music community. Not just the musicians, but the venues, the festivals, the radio stations, the writers, videographers, photographers and the fans that continually enable me to live my dreams,” he says.
“Two weeks ago, I asked people to leave a link to music they released in 2020 on my wall: 250 comments and more than two weeks later, I still haven’t made it through the list. People are still adding links. I’m very thankful to be a part of this incredible music community.”
That incredible music community is full of musicians looking out for each other.
Take Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Carrie McFerrin who — when asked about what she was thankful for — insisted that folks “keep Kalamazoo musician Michael Fleckenstein in your thoughts as he fights for his life in the ICU due to COVID-19.”
She adds: “I’m thankful for my heart, that it has remained soft and is able to write songs that touch people, especially during tough times. I am thankful for my hands as they help me make that very music possible. I’m also thankful for healthy children and a healthy body amidst this pandemic.”
Speaking of health, Kate Pillsbury of The Crane Wives cites the importance of health care coverage for musicians — something for which she’s truly thankful, especially during a pandemic.
“Maintaining coverage has been a struggle for me, but last year I got a second job with the specific goal of increasing my income to get better medical coverage in 2020. Doing so has enabled me to advocate for my health, which in turn led to a recent health diagnosis that really needed to be addressed,” she says.
“As a younger artist, I tended to believe that being young and healthy could exempt me from needing to see a physician regularly, but it turns out that establishing a relationship with a healthcare provider was crucial for my mental health and peace of mind. I’d love to see a future where health care isn’t such a hurdle for so many young people, but until then I would really encourage young artists to be intentional about healthcare coverage.”
For other musicians, Thanksgiving is simply a time to be “most thankful for family and friends,” as The War and Treaty’s Michael Trotter puts it.
Traverse City’s The Accidentals, meanwhile, say they’re thankful for the time they’ve had to contemplate matters in 2020.
“There is so much to be thankful for right now. Thankful for the quiet, the stillness, the introspection,” they wrote. “Mostly thankful for time. After finishing the album in quarantine, artwork, videos, Christmas single etc., we’re just getting around to catching up with friends, reading some books and thinking about the future.
“Eight years of constant movement creates some not-so-healthy mental, physical and emotional habits. Most of those show up in the quiet. So having time to work through some of that, not just push through it, has been good. It feels good to just stop and think. Thankful for family, friends, our core famgrove, stillness, nature, new music, hot showers, morning tea, collaborations, the helpers, hope for the future.”
Check out a sampling of more comments by West Michigan musicians below and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
J.Rob – I’m most thankful for my family and health. I’m also most thankful for being able to still make music and be creative through these crazy times.
Steve Middendorp – Thankful for the city of Grand Rapids’ pop-up performer program that kept me active playing music for money and tips while other options deteriorated due to COVID. The people dining outside also really appreciated it.
Brian Haik – Most thankful for The Score this year. They were the only music venue in the state (that I’m aware of) that hosted outdoors, physically distanced shows, seven days a week. Without them, I would of had no shows this year. Thanks, The Score!
Joe Chamberlin (FlyLiteGemini) – Thankful for all the music communities coming together to help each other.
Al Haaksma – The gift of being able to play music.
Kevin Lyons – Thankful for a hobby (guitar) that has done so much to enhance my life…and right there at the top is the people I have met playing and singing.
Brad Vredevoogd – Definitely thankful for the feeling that writing and playing music gives me these days. Like any art, it just feels good to get it out, even if nobody hears it!
Tommy Orr – I am thankful that my mother got me interested in music at an early age, and for all the music that played around the house as I was growing up with my wonderful family. I’m grateful that I have been able to make a living playing music, and see parts of the world I probably never would have otherwise. And as my brother Greg said, for so many wonderful people I have made and enjoyed music with over the years. I am so abundantly blessed.
Bill Vits (Grand Rapids Symphony and The Concussions) – I am thankful for my entire musical family but especially the management of the Grand Rapids Symphony. Other larger orchestras have abandoned their musicians in these difficult times. We all continue to adapt and reinvent ways to share music and emotion. I also miss rocking out with The Concussions. Boy, will that be a return to crazy when we next play.
Pete Dunning (Barrel Bones, White Rabbit) – Being a part of the local music community here in GR has been and continues to be a beautiful blessing in my life.
Mary Sue Wilkinson – I am SO thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to play music with others. From stages to backyards to living rooms to festival campsites. Harmony!
Kate Meinel Kirchner – I am thankful that I manage a band that sticks pretty closely together and have had so much “live” music in my life since March. #spoiledrotten
Bruce Ling – To have come from a family of musicians and having had played music pretty much daily for 60 years, since I was a small child.
Diane Yob – Facebook can be so annoying, but in these times it has been great to see musicians reaching down, digging deep, and finding ways to share their music with everyone. Kind of like a revolution in spirit, to rise and be present even in the middle of all of this craziness.
Steve Secor – Thankful for the people in local music – musicians, club owners, support, writers, promo, tech peeps, etc., who are doing what they can to help us get rolling again when the time comes.
Morgan Moallemian – Despite the s—tiest year of my life, being unemployed, the continuing hiatus of live music, and zero prospects of any gigs with my band, The JetBeats, there is a little silver lining. I’ve had time to dive into songwriting and have been surprisingly productive.
Bruce E. Matthews – To be able to make and create music within a vibrant music scene and with such a talented and supportive group of musicians both in my band and within the community.
Andrew Szumowski – I’m thankful for the musicians who hire me and don’t expect me to play for free.
Andrew Ogrodzinski – Thankful for my bandmates, the venues who have hosted my bands and everyone who comes to my gigs. Sure do miss all of that.
Steve Talaga – I’m thankful for the keyboard instruments I have in my house and the time in retirement to use them. So very therapeutic right now while friends and family are out of reach.
Randy Scott Marsh – I am thankful that I have my health and have so far managed to avoid this horrible virus. I am also thankful for all of my music colleagues, family, friends, and music lovers. I’m thankful also for the great radio stations like WYCE, WBLV, WCMU, WGVU, and WNMC in TC. And of course I am thankful for … Local Spins.
John W. Hartel – Thankful that l have been blessed with an outlet for my creative expression.
Serita Crowley – I’m thankful for gifts that God has giving me to be able to share with everyone. The people and associates that I’ve had support from and have been blessed to work with and I’m thankful to know other talented people who actually have genuine love and support for everyone and not little isolated circles of choice associates and friends because they had to start somewhere and was giving a chance — so essentially remembering where they came from who is down to Earth and real. I’m also thankful for the pioneers for giving us some of the greatest music hope and inspiration.
Annette Taborn – I’m thankful for the daily healing power of music — for myself and for others I can sing to and with.
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC