Corporate Arizona rocks. If you don’t believe it, just ask the Second Shift. Second Shift is the name of a band formed by six employees of Salt River Project.
They mostly perform at company and charity functions. But in July the band members surprised even themselves when they were named one of two winners at the Fortune magazine Battle of the Corporate Bands regional contest in Los Angeles, earning the right to go to the national finals at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The other regional winner also was from Arizona — a Texas Instruments band from Tucson.
The two groups will compete against six others in Cleveland Oct. 7-8. Members of the winning band will get their names listed in the hall for one year and a write-up in Fortune magazine.
The contest has been growing as more corporations support employee bands to improve morale, build teamwork and participate in the community. The SRP band members are given some company time to practice and allowed to use company space for practices — a tiny 12-footby-10-foot storage room in the basement of SRP’s information services building in Tempe, far from any offices that might be disturbed by the noise.
Why the corporate succor?
"It breaks down walls in the organization," said Mark Bonsall, SRP’s chief financial officer who beats the drums for Second Shift in his spare time. "Adding something like this to a company event really makes a difference."
"It’s a way for a lot of employees to get to know each other," added Mellissa Gauman, from the marketing department who coordinates the band’s appearances.
For the band members, "it does improve your stress level to take some time and do what you love to do," said Artie Whiting, who sings and plays guitar and keyboard.
"We absolutely love the music," said lead guitarist Jim Powell.
Second Shift grew out of a karaoke contest at an employee picnic five years ago. From that experience "we found out we had people with a lot of talent," said Bonsall, who holds one of the top executive positions at the water and power utility.
"I picked up my (drum) sticks for the first time in 30 years. I was a drummer in high school and quit when I was a sophomore. . . . But it never leaves you," he said.
Other members of the band had more recent musical experience. Vocalist Julie Couch, who works in special billing services, earned a degree in music therapy at Arizona State University. Mark Mitchell, manager of power marketing who plays the bass guitar, started playing 12 years ago with a band at his church in Gilbert.
Whiting, a senior analyst in the treasury administration department, started his own band when he was in high school in Mesa. Powell, who works in the marketing and events department, started playing in his dad’s band when he was seven and has wide experience playing at venues around the Valley.
Keyboard, guitar and fiddle player Steve Lopez, a material handler at an SRP East Valley warehouse, also has been playing music since he was a child.
The band developed an eclectic repertoire that includes country, rock, blues and Motown sounds. "We play whatever it takes to get people up and dancing," Bonsall said. Among their gigs have been Country Thunder in Queen Creek and the Fiesta Bowl Block Party in Tempe. They also recorded a CD to sell at events and donate the proceeds to charity. When they heard that all they needed to enter the Battle of the Corporate Bands was a CD, they decided to send it in.
Out of 40 bands that entered from throughout the West, Second Shift was one of only six selected to perform at the regional finals. The band members said they were surprised that they qualified to go on to Cleveland. "As far as I’m concerned we’ve won already," Bonsall said of the upcoming national competition. "I’m amazed to be in the position we’re in."