Boardroom Blitz

Monday, October 3: 5 a.m.
American PI takes top honors at the 2011 FORTUNE Battle of the Corporate Bands

On October 2, the 2011 FORTUNE Battle of the Corporate Bands competition came to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for the finals showdown. For the past six months, regional competitions were held in Dallas, San Francisco and Chicago, where corporate bands vied for one of eight finalist slots. Bands from across the country – and one from Venezuela – were awarded coveted spots on the finals stage in Cleveland, representing Mattel, Ernst & Young, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, Progressive Insurance, ConAgra Foods, Starbucks, Resource Interactive, and Procter and Gamble.

The Battle of the Corporate Bands is held each year to salute the best amateur, company-sponsored bands, and is presented by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), FORTUNE magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The goal of the national competition is to promote the benefits of making music, which have been shown to increase employee morale and improve productivity in the workplace. “Competing in the Corporate Battle of the Bands ranks right up there as one of the best experiences of my life," says Ernst & Young/American PI's Carolyn Powers. "Working with 11 virtual strangers, we created something as a whole infinitely better than anything any of us could have created individually. I am proud to have worked alongside so many passionate and dedicated people. Better yet, the team from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, FORTUNE Magazine, NAMM, Gibson and JBL put together an amazing weekend of food, music and entertainment. Best of all, I can now say, 'I performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!'"

The weekend kicked off Friday night for competing band members and their guests at the House of Blues Cleveland, with electric sets by Dixie Peach and an all-star band featuring Mickey Thomas’ Starship bassist Jeff Adams, .38 Special band member Jeff Carlisi, former Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto, Sheryl Crow guitarist Peter Stroud, and Allman Brothers and Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell. To say the least, everyone left inspired.

On Saturday afternoon at the Museum, each band was given a 30-minute practice set to familiarize themselves with the stage setup and dial in their sound.  At 7:00 pm, the doors to the Museum opened to a fully catered affair, and the competition kicked into high gear. The panel of judges included Jeff Adams, Jeff Carlisi, Liberty DeVitto, Peter Stroud and Pro-Mark Drumsticks Director of Sales Worldwide Pat Brown.  

This marked the Rock Hall’s 11th year hosting the battle, and the level of talent these corporate bands bring to the competition continues to impress audiences and bands alike. “The talent level of the other bands coupled with the pride of representing Progressive in our own backyard made for an extremely exciting event," says David Krew of Progressive Insurance and keyboardist in the Messengers. "The Rock Hall puts on a great show, and we were thrilled to be a part of it.”  The judges deliberated for close to 30 minutes and came back to the stage to announce Mattel / The Toys from El Segundo, California, as third place, Progressive Insurance / The Messengers from Cleveland, Ohio, as second place and Ernst & Young / American PI as the first place winners.

The winning American PI band members (pictured) are full-time employees in Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services Performance Improvement (PI). The young rock band was formed last December, just months before their debut gig in February 2011. With band members located across the country, the musicians of American PI hadn't rehearsed since the regional finals in San Francisco. Rehearsals in Cleveland brought the band back together, as they honed their sound as a team, building on individual strengths to form a single, dynamic group. "Along the way we went from being strangers in the same firm, to colleagues working together, to bandmates, to friends – and we felt it the entire week in Cleveland preparing for the competition" says Ernst & Young/American PI's Kevin Grassi. "We became a family. The connections we've made through music are deep and personal. It's not easy for a large band to jell, and to have found 'musical soul mates' in a professional colleague is truly amazing."As the winning band, Ernst & Young/American PI have been invited to come back to Cleveland in April 2012 to participate in some of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Induction festivities as well as to attend the ceremony.

"Performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a dream come true for our band," says Ernst & Young/American PI's Tom Cucuzza. "Since our inception, the music we have chosen to play has been exclusively based on the music of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees. Our warm-up set and competition set on Saturday were a homage to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, so performing these songs at the Rock Hall had extra significance to all of the band members." The band's set at the competition included songs by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and the Allman Brothers Band. "Playing the Allman Brothers' 'Blue Sky' at the Rock Hall on Saturday afternoon was a highlight for the band, particularly when it was evident that we 'stopped traffic' in the Rock Hall as visitors were gathered around all of the railings and balconies during that performance."

Winners in the “Best of” categories were:

  • Best Bass Player – Francisco Sapen, Procter & Gamble Latin America
  • Best Drummer – Kevin Grassi, Ernst & Young
  • Best Guitarist – Hank Woo, Ernst & Young
  • Best Horn Player – Conagra Foods horn section
  • Best Keyboardist – Tim Fettin, Conagra Foods
  • Steve Eck Memorial Best Vocalist Award – Cyntressa Dickey, Ernst & Young

Thanks to all of the bands for their hard work, commitment and passion for Rock and Roll. It was a pleasure to host these fantastic musicians and we hope to see them all back here next year!

The event was sponsored by JBL by Harman and Gibson Guitar and proceeds from the competition benefit the Rock Hall’s educational activities.

To see more images from the competition, click here!



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