Workers (and execs) of the world unite … to rock

If Michael Olson’s hunch is correct, you could at this very moment be sharing an office with a gifted (yet unassuming) axeman, or you might be planning a lunch meeting with a closet lead vocalist whose penchant for head-banging has somehow escaped the notice of her LinkedIn contacts.

Turns out, there are a lot of folks in the business world whose musical talents — not to mention ability to rock out — remain hidden under a bushel basket.

“We have eight bands this round, but this is just the beginning.” — Michael Olson, The Music Foundry

Well, Olson is out to rectify that. The owner of Madison’s The Music Foundry is launching Report to the Stage, a program modeled after the company’s successful Rock Workshop. Specifically geared toward Madison-area businesses, Report to the Stage is hoping to tap into some of the talent that resides within local boardrooms and bureaus.

As with the Rock Workshop, Olson is inviting budding rock stars to rehearse at The Music Foundry, record at the company’s Blast House Studios, and ultimately play a gig at Madison’s High Noon Saloon. Gear will be provided for participants, and instructors will be available for rehearsals and recording sessions. The difference? This program will help raise much-needed funds for the United Way, and there’s always a chance you could see the CEO of one of Madison’s most venerable firms rocking out with the dude from accounts receivable.

The idea for Report to the Stage came to Olson after a group of Madison-area officemates participated in one of The Music Foundry’s Rock Workshops.

“It really came down to an experience we had with a group of Physicians Plus employees who came into the Foundry about five years ago,” said Olson. “They wanted to form a company band to play at their picnic, and we helped them do that, and they had such a good time that they continued on.

“Later, they did a show at the Bartell Theatre and all their employees were there, and the company band gets on stage, and it was like the Beatles just showed up. So this is super cool, because a company could pay a national headlining band to do this event, or they can have their own employees, and it got the same reaction. It’s exciting. ‘Hey, there’s the CEO playing guitar, there’s the guy from IT.’ So that’s when the light bulb came on for me.”



Of course, that revelation came years after another “eureka” moment that helped sow the initial seeds for the program — and taught Olson that there are closet musicians in all walks of life just waiting for a creative outlet.

“When I left Springs Window Fashions after working there as an engineer after five years, they announced that I was leaving to start a music business,” said Olson. “All of a sudden, all these coworkers came up to me and said, ‘Hey, do you know I play guitar?’ or ‘I have a piano studio,’ etc. And I was like, no. Nowhere in five years did we ever realize that all of us working together played music. We could have played music together, but there was never that vehicle, and the conversation never came about.”

Rocking for a cause

According to Olson, the Report to the Stage program isn’t for rank amateurs. Participants will have to show that they can play, and The Music Foundry will audition applicants to make sure they’re properly placed in groups and are the right fit for the style of music each band is looking to perform. Olson hopes to sign up eight bands from eight different businesses, and they’ll all play a concert on July 27 at the High Noon Saloon. Three winning bands will be chosen based on the most money raised for the United Way, most money raised per capita, and the best performance as judged by The Music Foundry’s employees.

While people will be encouraged to attend the concert and vote with their dollars in person, Olson says the bands’ fans are more than welcome to stuff the ballot box with cash.

“You don’t have to go to the show,” said Olson. “You can be at work or at home and say, ‘I’m going to submit five votes to the American Family Insurance band,’ and each vote costs five bucks. … There’s a finite number of people, and there’s a 400-person capacity for High Noon, so that’s the way we worked around that to raise even more money, because if we have eight bands, each business can have only 50 people that go, but if you have 3,000 employees, every one of them could vote for their band.”

Those interested in participating in the program need to have their enrollment forms completed by May 1. You can find the enrollment form and more information on the program at

But if you miss that deadline, no worries. Olson says that if this summer’s program is a success, he’ll look to expand it in the future.

“We have eight bands this round, but this is just the beginning,” said Olson. “If we get a lot of interest, we’re going to just keep doing it. We’ll either add more bands to each round or just continually do it like in the fall, summer, and spring. So it will continue to evolve and grow.”

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