‘Red, White & You’ CD benefits local Red CrossWritten by Evan Brune | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A summer CD featuring local musicians is raising money for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. “Put-In-Bay,” “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Holy Toledo” are just a few of the songs on Toledo Free Press’ CD “Red, White & You,” featuring artists with local roots such as Crystal Bowersox, Alyson Stoner, Pat Dailey, Kerry Patrick Clark and Chrys Peterson.
The CD, which cost less than $2,000 to produce and was paid for by sponsors, took hundreds of hours of work, combining the efforts of Toledo musicians, producers and businesses.
“It was very important for 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit the Red Cross,” said Michael S. Miller, editor in chief of Toledo Free Press, who produced the CD.
“This is specifically for disaster relief efforts. There’s always a demand for Red Cross services and there’s always a demand for funding.”
The Red Cross Disaster Relief fund assists victims of natural disasters. The sale of each album allows the Red Cross to provide comfort kits to five victims of a disaster.
“Put it in these terms: 1,000 CDs means help for 5,000 fire victims,” Miller said.
The CDs are available at regional KeyBank locations, Frisch’s Big Boys and Ralphie’s restaurants and the gift shop at Hollywood Casino Toledo.
“The CD costs $10, but there’s a $4 coupon in every CD,” Miller said. “So you’re getting two dozen songs for $6.”
Miller said the idea for “Red, White & You” followed the success of Toledo Free Press’ holiday benefit CDs.
“For the past two years, we’ve assembled holiday CDs for the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Miller said. “I’m a big believer in the Red Cross, and I contacted them to see if they were interested in making one for the summer.”
Tim Yenrick, regional CEO of the Red Cross, said the organization was excited when they got the offer.
“We really appreciate all the hard work Michael [Miller] has gone to in order to support the Red Cross,” Yenrick said in an email. “He’s really gone above and beyond to make this fundraiser a success for us.”
Yenrick also said the project was unique in its conception and that the organization doesn’t see many fundraising projects of this scale. “This is the first time any Red Cross chapter in the U.S. has created a benefit CD,” he said. “This is a fun project that allows us to spread the word about our services to the community while giving our supporters something in return.”
Time and money
Before production could begin on the CD, sponsors had to be found to cover the cost of the album.
“We approached the sponsors, A.A. Boos [Construction] and Bennett [Enterprises], up front. Both companies stepped up and put cash on the table,” Miller said. “We’re very fortunate to find such great sponsors.”
Bennett Enterprises, which operates 13 Frisch’s Big Boys, eight Ralphie’s and four hotels in the Toledo area, will also distribute the CD at their restaurants.
“We’re very excited for the opportunity to be involved,” said Rob Armstrong, CEO of Bennett Enterprises. The company is known for its philanthropic efforts. “We give well over 600 donations per year to schools, libraries, hospitals, school sports and senior centers,” said Beth Hammond, director of marketing at Bennett Enterprises.
In addition to its donations to local institutions, the company has also worked with the Red Cross.
“We’ve done a few things with the Red Cross before. We’ve had their bloodmobiles at our restaurants. [We] offer some goodies to try to pull [donors] in. [We’ll] offer free Big Boys to donors,” Hammond said.
Armstrong expressed confidence in the sale of the CDs.
“It’s great knowing 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Greater Toledo area, and the Red Cross disaster relief [fund] is behind all of it,” he said. “We think this’ll be a huge success, and we look forward to the opportunity.”
Scott Hayes, vice president of business development at A.A. Boos Construction, said his company is proud to be involved with the benefit CD.
“I think of our company as very philanthropic. We do a lot of community outreach,” he said. “We get a lot of requests to be involved in philanthropic projects, so we have to choose which projects to get involved in. We really liked this project, and we like to support Toledo Free Press.”
Hayes said one of the reasons A.A. Boos Construction became involved was the project’s musical focus. “Charlie Boos and I, we’re both musicians, and [we’re] very supportive of any charity that involves music. [Toledo Free Press] told me what they needed, and I made it happen,” Hayes said.
Hayes, whose band Arctic Clam contributed a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” to the CD, said he’s glad the project helps out the Red Cross and gives exposure to local bands.
KeyBank of Northwest Ohio is offering its regional locations as distribution points for individuals to purchase the benefit album.
“Basically, we’re going to have the CDs available at our branches so our customers and members of the community can purchase them,” said Mark Knierim, regional marketing manager for KeyBank. “We support the Red Cross in a lot of different ways. We fundraise for disaster relief. We have employees who rotate on their board [of directors].”
Like Hayes, Knierim said he appreciated the dual benefits of the fundraiser.
“Of course, the main purpose is to help out the Red Cross,” Knierim said. “But we like to help see our community thrive.”
The album is available at 40 Northwest KeyBank Ohio locations.
Behind the scenes at Firefly
The job of creating the album first fell to the artists, many of whom had never recorded in a studio setting before. They worked with local studios, like Firefly Studios, that ensured the high quality of the music.
Brett Dennison, owner of Firefly Studios, said a recording session can take eight to 12 hours. Dennison donated a total of 65 hours of studio time for the CD.
“Sessions are long, man,” he said. “Most of the time, one person is tracking at a time. If their performance isn’t quality, then we’ll keep working on it. Our goal is to yield high-end audio.”
Dennison said the process of creating a song in Firefly Studios involves recording each component of a song and then layering those tracks on top of one another. Dennison’s studio is filled with instruments available to musicians recording there and with analog mixing equipment, which Dennison said he prefers to digital mixing.
“The gear contributes heavily to how the studio sounds the way it does,” he said. “It’s expensive and hard to maintain, but when you do all the mixing in the computer, it loses a lot. It’s like comparing a local TV commercial to a movie. It lacks that character that people really like.”
Creating a song in Firefly Studios begins long before the actual recording starts.
“First, there’s a meeting,” Dennison said. “We ask, ‘What’s the goal? What are we trying to do?”
Once the song is mapped out, artists begin recording in the studio. “Most of the projects here are recorded to a metronome,” Dennison said.
“The reason for that is to create tight, polished recordings. We’re always trying to do what’s best for the song, as opposed to doing it quickly. My job is to make it an entertaining experience,” he said. “I can help make the songs more exciting by changing the dynamics. I can use effects to make things more fun.”
In addition to recording the music, Dennison layered each track and engineered them into their final state.
“I spent about 40 hours recording and 25 mixing,” he said. “Some songs are different. In ‘Help Me, Rhonda,’ our track count was up to 35 or 40 layers. That takes more time to track and mix. ‘California Sun’ only had 14 [layers].”
Dennison said he is enthusiastic about the project.
“I like to help, for sure. This was the first opportunity I’ve had on a professional level to do this,” he said. “It was a positive experience. I got to meet a lot of talented and bright people. I think a lot of people overlook talent on the local level.”
Dennison also said he’s happy all the work he’s done will benefit the local Red Cross.
“That’s why we did this,” he said. “Everything else is all bonus.”
Firefly Studios recorded five of the 23 artists on the benefit CD. Once all 23 songs were completed, they went to Unfeher Advantage Publishing Co. Ltd., where owner and audio engineer Mighty Wyte compiled the tracks.
“Michael [Miller] put in a lot of time to collect music from many, many sources,” Wyte said. “The characteristics [of each song] are different. People record differently.”
Those differences meant the songs varied in volume and consistency.
“I’m quality control. I make sure the volume’s right, that it’s not going to hurt your ears,” Wyte said. “I go through and make sure, from track to track, that the volume’s consistent.”
Wyte said editing some tracks proved difficult. One that was particularly challenging was “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” recorded May 9 at Fifth Third Field.
“When you turn it up, you turn up the noise too, so there’s only so much you can do,” he said.
He said most of the tracks were already quality recordings before he edited them.
“Luckily, we have recording studios around town that do a really good job,” Wyte said. “It makes my job easy.”
Wyte said he spent about 15 hours editing the 23 tracks on the CD.
“It’s complicated, but I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Yenrick said the Red Cross is pleased with the project.
“We can’t thank all of the artists, producers, musicians and all the other members of the Red Cross family enough for making this happen,” he said. “There are so many outstanding local musicians on this CD. I hope everyone picks one up and plays it all summer long.”
Tags: A.A. Boos Construction, Alyson Stoner, American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, Bennett Enterprises, Chrys Peterson, Crystal Bowersox, Firefly Studios, Frisch’s Big Boys, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Kerry Patrick Clark, KeyBank, Mark Knierim, Michael S. Miller, Mighty Wyte, Pat Dailey, Ralphie's, Red White & You, Rob Armstrong, Tim Yenrick, Toledo Free Press, Unfeher Advantage Publishing