VIRGINIA — Local musician and entertainer Steven Solkola is thankful for the chance to lend his talents to an upcoming Thanksgiving Eve celebration in Virginia.
“Donating a concert is the least I can do” for Wednesday evening’s “Bradsgiving,” he said.
The pre-Thanksgiving celebration, open to the public and set for 6 to 9 p.m. at the Rainy Lake Saloon, will include live local music, a small silent auction — and a pie sale for those looking to indulge a bit early or to pick up dessert for the next day’s holiday.
Solkela, a native of Palo who travels the country with “Steve’s ‘Overpopulated’ One-Man Band,” is among numerous young musicians who have received funding from the Friends of Brad Memorial Foundation (FOBMF), which founded Bradsgiving a few years ago.
Bradsgiving will also feature the music of The Brothers Burn Mountain, and Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling.
The volunteer-run nonprofit FOBMF honors the memory of Virginia native Brad Rozman by helping to support and cultivate young Minnesota musicians.
Rozman, who formed garage bands with musician friends and belonged to the drum line at the Virginia High School marching band, died suddenly in May 2009, at age 32.
The percussionist had discovered his affinity for drumming at a young age, and following high school, Rozman studied percussion performance at St. Cloud State University and the University of Illinois-Urbana. When he returned to Minnesota after graduate school, the musician became involved in many music-making endeavors in the Duluth area and was drummer for the band High Volt Rustler and Equal Exchange.
In 2010, the foundation started the BradFest summer music festival in Two Harbors and has continued with fall and winter events, both in Virginia and Duluth.
Since 2011, FOBMF has donated $16,600 toward scholarships and programming for aspiring musicians. Scholarships are awarded to students in rural northeastern Minnesota who plan to study music in college.
Quinn Muhich, an Eveleth-Gilbert graduate, received a FOBMF scholarship this year. Muhich is attending the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, majoring in music and communications with a concentration in theatre studies. His dream is to become a college choir director.
Solkela said he received a FOBMF scholarship several years ago when he enrolled at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., where he graduated this year. The scholarship assisted with housing at the school, where Solkela studied opera and music.
“You had to send in a YouTube video explaining why you thought you deserved a scholarship,” he said, adding that in his video he talked about how he writes his own songs and works to “improve the world with my humor.”
The Mesabi East Class of 2015 graduate was also granted a Friends of Brad young artist fellowship this year to help fund his music and comedy tour in Finland during the summer.
The money paid for the majority of his airfare to Finland, he said.
“I would not have been able to go over there without their help,” Solkela said. “It’s an honor to have won twice.”
Solkela added that the Friends of Brad group consists of “the nicest, local, down-to-earth Minnesotans” who have supported him though the years. “They follow me on YouTube and Facebook. It’s such a beautiful thing — to have people believe in me. I hope I make them proud.”
Solkela started his one-man band “as a joke,” playing a handful of instruments at a time. He is now making a career of his act and is up to 14 instruments using his hands, feet and head and what he calls “duct tape engineering — lots of shoelaces, elastic bands and creative ways to hit percussive instruments.”
The FOBMF is also a longtime supporter of the Duluth Music Resource Center, a free, after-school program that teaches kids to play instruments, write songs and record music.
“We invite people to come experience some of the awesome original music this area has to offer,” said FOBMF President Troy Rogers. “It’ll be a festive way to jump-start the holiday weekend. And isn’t it great when you can support a good cause while having fun?”