Local bands extended unique opportunity

Story by Zack Katz, Copy Editor

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After weeks of arrangements and tireless calculations among a team of writers, recorders and sound engineers, a local composer’s vision boils down to a single recording session lasting only a couple hours.

And then it’s a wrap.

The Arco Sessions, a quickly growing performance series new to Eau Claire as of early 2013, provides the public with orchestrated re-imaginings of primarily touring/non-local artists’ works.

Music composer, percussionist  and senior at UW-Eau Claire Davy Sumner is the man behind the Session’s original vision, one he has had in the back of his mind since aspiring to join the college’s music program in high school. To this day, he and his collaborators have been an overwhelming success — twice.

“The arrangements that I do are essentially a different take on someone else’s song,” Sumner said. “Sometimes they’re longer, sometimes there’s added parts … I’m just looking to somehow dig deeper into the original.”

Sumner partners with filmmaker Peter Eaton and Volume One Managing Editor Thom Fountain to create a series of documented, studio-quality performances allowing a selection of Eau Claire’s musical talents to work in tandem with the elected feature performer.

Efforts in preparation for this month’s Arco Session will mark the beginning of their third attempt, which Sumner said will be a continuation of his group’s aim to build and enrich the city’s music scene.

“My goal is really just to make an opportunity for musicians in Eau Claire,” Sumner said. “From the local musician’s perspective, they can say they’ve got something to show for themselves and build their resume for future gigs.”

After finding a artist or group to perform in the sessions, Sumner and the musicians come together and explore ways he can elaborate on particular songs, or draw certain concepts from the originals.

Upon rearranging and selectively adding and removing from the pieces, the finalized product is taken to a set for recording.

The first two sessions featured indie-folk folk talent Kalispell, a local band lead by Shane Leanord, as well as Sean Carey, who plays under the name S. Carey and who is also the drummer and supporting vocalist in Bon Iver — both of which are currently available to public eyes and ears on the Arco Sessions website.

Fountain, who coordinates the Arco Sessions’ media and web design, said after watching the group’s ideas progress, he considers the efforts of everyone involved to be a general success.

“It’s awesome working with such talented people, namely Davy,” Fountain said. “His compositions are just unbelievable … both of his interpretations in the first two sessions were just spot on.”

Eaton said he agrees the first two sessions developed exactly as the trio had intended from their beginnings, and moving into the third, he’d like to improve on his role as the visual producer.

“We’re happy lots of people around the world are enjoying the sessions,” Eaton said. “Personally I’m hoping to improve our lights and close-ups next time.”

Now, Sumner said the future of their entire third project is incumbent on the generous donations of community supporters. Through the use of Kickstarter, the Arco Sessions receives funding in order to operate. However, if the group’s goal of $5,000 isn’t met by April 19, all donations are returned.

“You don’t really know how it’s going until you’re done,” Sumner said. “There’s been a lot of support for it with people sharing it with their friends … so it’s been really exciting so far.”

For Sumner and his collaborators, keeping the sessions alive and running isn’t exclusively benefiting those given the opportunity to perform alongside the artists, but instead, they said it’s also done in the interest of expanding Eau Claire’s entire music community.

After gaining some momentum, a new Arco Session will be composed and produced, from start to finish, each month.

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