Article by Julie and Janelle Lake
Photos by Julie Lake

The Bay County Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) recently teamed up with the Bay Arts Council to bring YAC Rocks, a fun-filled musical event, to Bay City's Wenona Park, where three local bands took the stage. Take the City, Artificial Heroes, and LAO entertained 200 audience members with a variety of musical performances. Despite iffy weather, attendance at this year’s event was up 500% from last year.  In the past, this concert (formerly Rock by the Dock) had taken place during the Labadie Pig Gig. However, recently it has become an independent event because, as YAC adult mentor Renee Courier explained, "There were just too many events held during the Pig Gig."

What is YAC? This organization of students from 7th through 12th grades addresses the needs of local youth, assists in fund development activities, and oversees grant applications that will positively affect local young people's lives. YAC began in 1988 when the Council of Michigan Foundations and Community Foundation members sought support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for  the Michigan Community Foundation's Youth Project. The main goals of the proposal were to expand areas served by Community Foundations to all citizens, to strengthen existing community foundations, and to involve youth in them. The proposal was approved with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation matching $1 for every $2 raised locally for the project.  Each Community Foundation (one per county throughout the state) was then required to form a Youth Advisory Committee consisting of teens and adult advisors. The Bay Area Community Foundation then formed its Youth Advisory Committee. The money raised was put aside by the Community Foundation and acts as a savings account for the county.  YAC has an endowment fund in the Community Foundation that is able to be used for different activities throughout the year, such as its free-of-charge family skate night at Metro Skate in Bay City, where families came for a night of fun and skating.

Along with organizing recreational activities, the Youth Advisory Committee also contributes to the community by volunteering with the Literacy Council, cleaning local parks, participating in Habitat for Humanity’s Paint and Pride project, and helping many other charitable organizations.  Mallory Rivard, a student at Western High School in Auburn, says she joined YAC because "it looks good on a resume and to meet different people from different schools."  Rivard has been involved with the Youth Advisory Committee for three years and enjoys helping the community in this way.

During the July 24th event Janelle Lake, a junior at Central High School and member of the Youth Advisory Committee, spoke with band members. "I enjoyed talking with the bands," she said. "All the members were friendly and personable.  I expected that they would put on a good show." They did.

Artificial Heroes is Garret Satkowiak (bass guitar and lead vocals), Joseph Swanson (drums), and Andrew Rudnick (guitar)—all juniors at All Saints Central High School. They once considered Time For Heroes to be the group's name, a moniker suggested by one of the band member’s siblings who aspires to become a band member one day. After thinking about it, they realized that people look up to Britney Spears and other artificial heroes more than policemen, firefighters, or other everyday heroes, so they stuck with the name Artificial Heroes.  Each member brings his own style to the group.  Satkowiak prefers indie rock while Rudnick prefers metal.  All three of them write their own songs that they try out at the almost daily practices. This rigorous practice schedule takes a toll on their social lives and on their schoolwork. Swanson says, "When it comes to schoolwork, I don't want to do it.  I’d rather be playing drums." To them, the band takes priority above anything else.  Satkowiak, Rudnick, and Swanson all hope to be able to pursue music as their careers. Though they have only been together a little over a year, these three guys work well together in their music.

Second up was LAO,  a group of three high school seniors and one junior.  Joe Martin, Eric Misiak, and Zack Bowds were a group of rowdy boys who met at school and formed the band. When the group found out that Austin Bluhm could sing, they handed him the microphone.  While they, too, all bring their own styles to the band, they agree that their songwriting needs work.  So, at their practices in Bowd's basement, they add their own flair to songs already made popular by other artists.  While none of the members has any close friends outside of the band, each is all still active in school. Three of them play football, and they all manage to make the grade.

Although the headliner band, Take the City, had only two of its four members available for the concert, it didn't prevent listeners from enjoying the rock/pop/alternative style of Matt Ferranti (guitar/vocals) and Ken Lange (guitar/vocals), who opted to sing ballads. These 21-year-old Bay City residents are proud to announce that the group's album the fortress debuted in June of 2009 and is available through online sources. The group, which also includes Jacob Bunting (bass/vocals) and Brandon Taets (drums), decided on a name for the band while Ferranti was at home listening to Amberlin. The lyrics to one of the songs are "take the city," and when Ferranti shared this with Lange, they both liked it so much that they decided to adopt it when they formed the band six years ago.  Inspiration for their songs, like their band name, comes at random moments, and influential happenings, like relationships, affect what and how they write. Since they were in the 8th grade, Take the City has tried to practice twice a month. They hope that one day they will be able to tour with The Fray. "Get a mentor and surround yourself with good helpful people" is Ferranti's advice to aspiring bands.

In a show of support for Bay County youth, a number of businesses also sponsored YAC Rocks: Bestway Carpet and Upholstery, a locally owned business, made financial contributions. Bellsmith Graphic Design donated time and talent for logos, posters, and t-shirts.  Reed Recording offered two hours of free recording time to each performing band, while the Dow Chemical Company gave each performing band free tickets to a Great Lakes Loons game.

© Julie & Janelle Lake, 2009