Ready the Launch Zone

local bands compete in state-wide rock off

Andrew Christianson |

Ever gotten some friends together to start a garage band? It starts out nice and simple by covering a few songs from your favorite band/singer/comedian, with a few “gigs” at your niece’s birthday party. You might have actually gotten pretty good, but sadly no one has ever heard of you, and when it comes to paying for music, no one is going to spend money an an unknown band. That’s where Launchpad – a youth band competition – comes in.

 “It’s a great opportunity to perform and get recognition,” says Andrei Strizek, lead coordinator for the Eau Claire region. “It’s not your normal concert band.” Launchpad is a statewide music competition for Wisconsin high school students who are in bands not sponsored or formed by their schools. The competition was started over four years ago by the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music as an extension of their promotion of music education.

Since then, Launchpad has drawn in bands from across the state to the regional competitions, three of which go to the state competitions. Bands had to submit an audition recording – professional recordings need not apply – and also submit the name of a high school music teacher who has had a positive impact on their life. After paying a $25 entry fee, all participants were given a six-month membership to, a site that hosts web sites and helps bands promote themselves. The finalists gain a year-long, premium membership, while the winner of the competition is given a year of free web-hosting on top of it, and access to a recording studio in Madison. Also, they will perform at the Milwaukee area 2008 Summerfest. One band will also be selected to perform at the Vans Warped Tour Milwaukee at an unspecified date.

However, creating the next “American Idol” band is not the goal of the competition, said Strizek. “All the bands are high caliber, and more than just some high school students playing. These are great bands being given an opportunity to perform, something they might not otherwise get.” While Launchpad might help one band get a great shot, the hope is that all bands will gain the opportunity to at least get that big break.