By Emily Buss
There’s no doubt those affiliated with the Twin Cities music scene are proud to be a part of such a distinguished list. It’s no wonder so many artists give back to the community that helped nurture their talent. In the case of local musician and music education advocate Tim Cheesebrow, he has taken lead role in the fight to keep music in schools. While promoting his latest album by giving fans one hell of a show, he also donates a lot of his profits to area schools and their music departments. A chat with Cheesebrow shows giving back is more important than ever.
Emily: OK Tim, explain to me who you are and what it is that you do.
Tim: I am Tim Cheesebrow and I do lots of things. I need to have a purpose and know that what I do makes a positive impact on my community. In pursuit of this, I hold several jobs and vocations. My education was in White Bear Lake Public School, while there I excelled in Euphonium and Bass Trombone performance. I began writing tunes on guitar when I was 15. I started playing folk-type music at that time after seeing a series of concerts by a local acoustic foursome called Spruce Top Review. They still play in the area and two members of that group are playing on my album, which is very exciting for me. I went to college at St. John’s University and got bachelor’s degrees in Music Composition and Studio Art.
My wife and I founded a photography and design company, The Minnesota Image. Jenn has degrees in religion and studio art from St. Olaf. Photography is a passion of ours and we concentrate on wedding and portrait photography. We do many shoots together, edit together and share responsibility for the business. She and I wanted to build something together.
I formed and am Executive Director for a music education advocacy non-profit, MusicWorks Minnesota. TeamWorks is our corporate support, they provide funds for our operating budget so 100 percent of donations can go to programs. We work with Minnesota public schools to provide supplementary music education opportunities such as; instruments for students who can’t afford them, artist in residence programs, concert series at the schools, guest composers and conductors, extra-curricular ensembles, private lesson instructors, college and scholarship application assistance, audition recordings, and down the road we will try and help with capital improvements of large instruments and facilities upgrades. We do this work in partnership with the school district and its instructors. Right now we’re in a pilot year with White Bear Lake Area Schools and will be implementing as much of this programming as we can afford. Music education is so important…it affects a student’s skills in virtually every other aspect of life and helps develop a more well-rounded person, especially during the formative years of middle and high school. I figure if we can use good music education to help kids be smarter, live cleaner and be more successful in the future, we’re making a long-term investment in our own society and helping to build a better future for everyone, not just for the kids in the program.
Emily: And, how did you get your start here in Minneapolis?
Tim: I was born here so that was a good start. I played around at coffee shops and things in high school. With the help of Barb Lyke I started a second stage at a weekly city summer festival in White Bear Lake called MarketFest. I have played there every year for 13 years. I touched on college a bit, but in college I played with a group called the Echo Union with Ben Roselius, Nate Heinz, Marc Hedman and Steve Monson. We did classic and alt-rock stuff, some originals, mostly covers. We played mostly in St. Cloud, but sometimes in the cities, and did gigs in Wisconsin and South Dakota. It was a lot of fun, but in the end we all had to buckle down and focus on school during our senior year so we dissolved the group. After coming back from Mississippi I decided to just do the solo thing; more freedom, less drama, easy finances, less playing in bars. I ran into a buddy from high school, Lucas Larson, and he offered to record a demo song at his studio, to which I agreed. After laying down the scratch guitar and vocal tracks he inquired as to whether I had any more tunes. Of course I had a whole pile of tunes that nobody’s ever heard … doesn’t every musician? To my surprise he said that he loved my music, thought it needed to get out there, and was willing to record my whole album free of charge.
Emily: Why is what you are doing in the Twin Cities important?
Tim: There’s obviously no shortage of musicians here, and I’m not going to make the claim that I’m among the most original or the most talented because that would be an insult to all the great talent we have in our great state. I will say that my music has messages that people need to hear right now. It is positive and focused on what’s right instead of harping on what’s wrong, like so much of our media today. I want people to leave my shows rejuvenated, feeling good about the world and their place in it. One woman came up to me after a show and said, “I could have left after the first song I was so spiritually filled up.” I could not have hoped for a better reaction. People need hope and an excuse to love themselves and each other. It is my best wish that my music provides them with those opportunities.
Emily: What is your favorite thing about working in the Twin Cities music scene?
Tim: The people. Hands down. In the right setting people actually listen to your music, actively listen and enjoy it. Maybe we get so used to the quiet with six months of winter and everyone’s ears are just aching for a distraction, but I feel like people are willing to take it in and occasionally take something with them from the experience. That’s great.
Emily: Five-second shameless plug … GO!
Tim: It’s not about me, it’s about the listeners. They’re the reason I make music. So I say please, come to a show, listen, enjoy and we can talk afterwards over a beer. I’d love to meet you all. And, buy a CD at the show for $10 and $5 will go to MusicWorks Minnesota to help bring more music education to Minnesota public schools.
Emily Buss is a music journalist from Minneapolis and author of On the Rechord blog. On the Rechord is a music site dedicated to the local music scene in the Twin Cities. Emily writes concert and album reviews, band and artist profiles, and provides information about local shows. A college graduate with a degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis on Journalism, Emily has been professionally writing for newspapers and online outlets for six years. You can find Emily at www.ontherechord.com, on Facebook at On the Rechord and on Twitter @TheEmilyB.