The Sleighriders 2008


by Kristen Winiarski
December 2008

Sleighriders - Steve Grimm pointing to the sky!

Sleighriders - Steve Grimm pointing to the sky!

The Sleighriders with their cast of ever changing members, continue their fundraising activities at the Benefit for the SafeZone Community Art Project, taking place at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on December 15th. This year’s performers include: Eddie Butts, Steve Cohen, Warren Wiegratz, Gregg Koch, Sigmund Snopek, Annie Dennison, members of Bad Boy (including Steve Grimm & Xeno), Blue Hand, Crisis, Speakeasy, Dirty Ernie, Boogie Men and many others. The Brandon James Band opens the show this year.

2008 marks the 26th annual charity event by the Sleighriders. It is an event to encourage kids to get involved in making music and discover their potential. The money raised is given to buy instruments and musical instruction for children in the community. Their newest cause is the Safezone Community Art Project, which they have been raising money towards for the past five years.

With programs being cut at Milwaukee Public Schools as well as other schools in the nation, this is something greatly needed in the Milwaukee area as well as other areas. Music is a very valuable tool for children. As Steve Grimm, a member of Sleighriders as well as a former MPS teacher says, music “teaches memorization and discipline.”

Before taking on this project, the Sleighriders’ charity work began with a desire to give back to the community. The event began as an R&B review type show but has greatly expanded to include many different kinds of music. Through visiting a few children’s shelters it was decided that The Penfield Children’s Center would be their first place to contribute to. When they were able to function on their own, the charity focus shifted to Safezone.

The money helps kids have access to instruments and instruction that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.  This after school project gives these kids, 60-70 of them at one time, something to be a part of and participate in that they aren’t able to access within their schools.

The instruction for the Safezone Community Art Project actually takes place in a church that opens up its basement to the children in the community to give them a place to play and learn. The children rehearse their individual instruments with instructors and then combine themselves together to become a band. This is quite similar to what the Sleighriders to for their charity event. Grimm says, “It’s really hard to find that type of talent bonding together for one mutual cause. It’s a real special night; it’s something that’s in the air. We’ve never recorded it. I don’t know if we ever will, maybe some day we will for charity money. You almost have to be there because it’s so different to see all these different blues, jazz, rock, R&B players all up on stage, maybe as many as 30 guys at once all bonding together playing old R&B tunes or maybe a newer tune or a Christmas carol. It’s different, definitely a special night.” The changing and diversity of the members on stage allow for each year of the event to be a unique experience. No two years have ever been the same so whether you’ve gone before or not, it would be worthwhile to go each year. All this talent together onstage is something that gives Grimm chills when he thinks about it. The excitement in the air along with the charity aspect makes the entire room charged up. Many musicians don’t like to share their stage but with this event, Grimm says it is one of a kind in, “all these different musicians combining their efforts for one night and leaving their egos at the door and walking in and collaborating.”

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