A good place to call homeWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
This is Toledo, May 20, 2009: There is political uncertainty, with major change possible in fewer than 175 days. There is economic uncertainty, with a busted, mangled budget and a government desperate to cut services while increasing revenue. There is social uncertainty, with fewer police patrolling a restless and increasingly reckless population. There is development uncertainty, as the foundation of the life-giving auto industry wilts and prays for the do-or-die transition to less tested and trusted job categories.
For one hour on May 20, all of that melted away as six local musical acts joined on the front lawn of the Downtown Toledo-Lucas County Library for the “Song of Toledo” concert.
If allowing music to provide escape and solace requires a suspension of disbelief that borders on foolish, the 100 people gathered to hear the bands seemed content to let it rock for at least that one hour.
Empire Drift’s “A Good Place to Call Home” is this year’s champion, winning by a thin two points, but there were a lot of winners on stage.
After narrowing more than 50 contest entries to five, plus the Internet-voted People’s Choice Award winner “I Am Toledo” by Buck69, the concert channeled much-needed positive emotion and spirit to the warm Downtown afternoon.
Seeing the faces in the crowd, some demonstrably delighted as they heard the songs for the first time, some mouthing every syllable, made the months of work and collaboration pay off in exhilarating ways.
Thank yous in cold print cannot come close to expressing our gratitude, but it’s our main conduit, so …
n Thank you to the musicians who poured their hearts and souls into their entries. You provided a new map to life in Toledo, a new bridge to its musical past and new hope for its cultural future. There are amazing songs from this contest yet to be discovered, but there is no doubt that Dirt Sayers’ “Black Swamp Heartland” and Candice Coleman’s “City on the Miami” will join select other songs in the city’s lore. Forty-five of the entries — including Empire Drift, Buck69 and finalists Highbinder, Purpose, Wanna Bees and Kyle White — are now available on a two-CD set at the library, and if you are looking for a couple of hours of testimony to life in Toledo, check them out and … check them out.
n Thank you to the people who created and guided the contest, from originator Robert Grebe and true believer Robert Russ to concert soundman Jeff Tucker and Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Allison Wingate, who helped make the May 20 show smooth.
n Thank you to the sponsors who flexed muscles and provided an amazing prize package. Columbia Gas of Ohio is one of this region’s strongest philanthropic forces, and working with the American Red Cross, provided opening slots for the winner and People’s Choice winner for the July 31 to Aug. 2 Smoke on the Water concerts. Community Relations Manager Chris Kozak has positioned his company as an ally for this region, its charities and its arts scene.
n Michigan International Speedway similarly trusted us with its name and offered the plum of an opening slot for its national act in August. Thanks to Nick Covill, song contest judge Sammie Lukaskiewicz and Kevin Gregory for their faith and partnership.
Strawberry Fields Recording Studio in Swanton is where Empire Drift will record its song in state-of-the-art facilities.
n Thank you to our media partners, FOX Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. FOX Toledo played the contest promo every chance it could; Allison Brown reported informative profiles of the top five, and News Director Steve France and Creative Services Director Betsy Russell oversaw a tremendous amount of exposure for the contest. “Face of FOX Toledo” Julia Johnston served as a judge, helped emcee the May 20 concert and makes Toledo a better place by adorning and adoring it.
n Tracy Montri, the audio-visual manager of the library, along with Rhonda Sewell and CD case designer Jake Jones, facilitated a smooth collaboration for the concert and the creation of the two-CD set. Montri has given her time and efforts to our music projects, and, for the record, she rocks. I’m going to hold you to your offer to present next year’s concert on the roof, Rhonda.
n Thank you to the elected officials who understood the value of this project. City Councilman George Sarantou facilitated the original Legacy project, which paved the way for this contest. Councilman Tom Waniewski served as a judge and helped present Empire Drift’s song to council for “Song of Toledo” consideration.
Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has been a fierce proponent of the arts, and his staunch support of our historical and contemporary song collections has been an incalculable boost in reach and credibility.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s office surprised us with wonderful proclamations of support for each individual band, a welcome and appreciated gesture.
n Thank you to the judges — Kozak, Johnston, Lukaskiewicz, Konop, Waniewski, Montri, Grebe and Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Vicki Kroll — who sifted through more than 50 songs and found the ones that best fit the spirit of the competition.
In February 2010, we’re going to do it again. So start putting pen to paper and break out your guitars and keyboards. Your city is calling, and it needs you.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.