Fair or not, folks working within white-collar professional service industries are perceived as having hobbies and interests that lean toward the understated and straightforward.
One would not, for example, associate a doctor or a lawyer with dabbling in sleight-of-hand magic or playing the highland bagpipes.
But one would be misguided to do so — at least for those Nashville-based corporate titans who like to let down their hair and rock out.
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville’s Fourth Annual Music City Corporate Band Challenge will have finalists do battle on April 23 at The Wildhorse Saloon. The event is open to the public.
The winning band will perform at the 2012 CMA Festival and the 2013 Arts & Business Council Bowtie Awards event. In addition, the winners will receive $500 to donate to the arts organization of their choice.
Ron Samuels, chairman, president and chief executive officer with Avenue Bank and co-chair of the event, said participation creates “better teamwork” at the office.
“There is no question about the impact it has on morale at a company and the sense of pride people have as the result of having their associates participate in something they can come and watch and have fun,” said Samuels, who plays rhythm guitar in Avenue Bank band The Hummingbirds.
“And it’s been a great marketing tool for Avenue Bank,” he added.
Samuels — who humbly notes he is no Chet Atkins — said Arts & Business Council Chief Executive Officer Connie Valentine deserves credit for envisioning the Music City Corporate Band Challenge.
“When Connie was thinking about doing it, I told her to count on Avenue to have a band,” he said. “We have had a blast with this. It’s not just about the corporate band challenge. We play year long for corporate events. We recently played for the Nashville Predators Foundation Gnash-Vegas event. Last fall, we opened for Jeff Foxworthy when he was here for the Rocketown fundraiser.”
“This really does speak to the creative spirit in Nashville,” Samuels said. “If you do want to push the envelope, you step out and do it. It’s more fun than it is competition. It’s the business community supporting the arts.”
In addition to The Hummingbirds (members Ron Cox and Kelly Sullivan are pictured here), the challenge will feature these six bands: 1600 Division (Bradley Arant Boult Cummings); Bass Ackwards (Bass, Berry & Sims); Not to Scale (Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon); Three Day Weekend (First Tennessee); Windfall Profit$ (Flood, Bumstead, McCready and McCarthy); and Totally Booked (Hutton Hotel).
Per rule, no full-time professional musicians may perform but, as Samuels notes, there is talent.
For example, the Hummingbirds feature banjo player Ron Cox, who once performed professionally, touring with Barbara Mandrell and others before giving up the road and songwriting to become a banker (he oversees Avenue’s music and entertainment private banking group).
Lance Strawn, director of finance for Hutton Hotel and the drummer for Totally Booked, said “team building” is a major plus to competing in the event.
“In many cases, finance would not get as close to the front-desk or restaurant personnel in a non-work environment,” he said. “So this gives us the opportunity to interact in a whole different platform, which is kind of exciting.”
Strawn said Totally Booked manager Gary Crump has done a strong job getting the seven-member band, which is competing in its first Music City Corporate Band Challenge, ready.
“We just recently formed,” Strawn said. “We play traditional rock with kind of a bluesy vibe.”
Bob Wood, managing partner with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and the other co-chair of the event, said his colleagues “like supporting something that is considered a bit of a novelty.”
“In a service profession, there is a formality to it and an expectation of appearance,” Wood said. “People see doing the music thing as a loosening of the collar.”
Wood, the drummer for 1600 Division, said the band is incorporating a horn section and trying its hand in some R&B.
Tentatively, the band will play a medley covering songs from Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Sly & the Family Stone and The Jackson Five.
“We’re having a blast doing it,” Wood said. “Bringing in the horn players has made it really fun.”
Wood said the event provides a strong opportunity for the Arts and Business Council to get businesses engaged in the council’s efforts.
“I would like to see it become more high profile and, hopefully, with some maturity it will be,” he said of the event.
High-profile or not, Ron Samuels will continue to strum for The Hummingbirds.
“Where else can you go and see Bob Wood, the button-down lawyer, playing the drums?” he asked. “There is some rock star status to this.”