Oral History -

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Roger Smith began playing the piano and singing in church at an early age, quickly falling in love with the way people reacted to the music he performed. He was introduced to the Hammond organ thanks to a friend from school whose uncle was the legendary Jimmy McGriff.

Karrie Keyes grew up with a deep appreciation and understanding of art. She played in both band and orchestra at school. As a teenager in Los Angeles in the early days of the punk rock movement, Karrie began helping load out gear for local bands.

Mark Spring was presented the 2020 Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and contribution to lighting design. His incredible career began on tour with Def Leppard and continued to include some of the most successful tours of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

Willem Van Dijk started his career with Gibson Guitars as a sales rep for their European branch in 2005. With a focus on his sales and technology background, Willem helped expand the company’s dealer base and Internet presence. He was promoted to Sales Director then Vice President of Gibson Europe at a time when sales for Gibson’s products were higher than ever before.

Jim Fitzpatrick’s passion as an award-winning sound mixer can be traced back to fourth grade when he began playing trumpet and later trombone in the school band. During those early years Jim also developed an interest in electronics. While acting as a roadie for his band as a teenager, he would fix up the gear and learn the inner workings of all the sound equipment.

Oliver C. Brown was a member of KC and the Sunshine Band when they recorded their big disco hits that helped define an era of popular music.

Fred Armisen is an award-winning comedian and writer who was a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 2002-2013. Playing drums since he was a kid, Fred was heavily involved with punk rock bands in the Chicago area beginning in the mid-1980s.

Stefano Trabucchi’s father loved music and encouraged his son to play the violin when he was eight. Stefano was fascinated by the instrument and by thirteen wanted to build his own. The following year his supportive parents allowed him to travel to Cremona to study violin making in the same town as Stradivarius.

Michael Strickland was paid $25.00 for lighting his first rock concert in 1968 at the age of twelve. He knew The Grass Roots were in town to perform so he borrowed the overhead projectors and lights from his school and set them up for their show. The band was impressed, and Michael was hooked!

Donez McNeely sang in choir during her school days, following in the footsteps of her older sister who was a lead singer in a band. In 1980, Donez (whose name is derived by combining her two grandmother’s names) was hired by Samuel Music in Illinois as a filing clerk. The founder, Lowell Samuel, saw her potential in sales and moved her to his wholesale company MIDCO.

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