‘Suits’ take over Carnegie stage for two performances

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By Cresta Lewis

Saturdays, June 18 and 25, 8 p.m., The Carnegie, Covington

Over the last eight years, more than 80 business and community leaders have traded in their suits and ties (and in some cases, heels) for a musical instrument and a stage.

But this is more than a jam session among friends. This is Suits That Rock, an annual fundraising concert dreamed up by Kevin Canafax and John Domaschko.  

Picture more than 40 men and women rehearsing nearly 40 songs for two major performances. Sound a bit complicated? It takes almost six months of planning and rehearsal time to stage Suits That Rock. And most of the performers are business professionals with day jobs.

So why do the Suits pour their hearts and souls into this event every year? That’s simple … to celebrate the joy of music.

“Our performers have a wide range of talent and impressive musical backgrounds,” said Domaschko, co-founder and still a lead organizer for the show. “But what really makes this event special is that all of our Suits have a true passion for music.”

Performers like Kathy Laverde have been in the Suits lineup several years. Laverde, a life insurance planning specialist, started as a Guest Suit four years ago, performing one or two songs. This year, she will play on more than a dozen.

“The emotional fulfillment I get from this experience is twofold. I enjoy giving back to the community, especially to a cause I truly believe in. But it’s also the opportunity to do something for myself – something I love – with an amazing group of talented people. This event is a great way to marry the two.”

Laverde learned to play bass guitar about six years ago. Since then, music has become a creative outlet. “I believe we need something in our lives that gives us pleasure, that makes us happy, that provides an escape,” she said. “Playing music does all of that for me. Plus it adds balance to my life.”

Guitarist Tim Schigel would agree. This is his second year as a Suit. Schigel is founder and chairman of ShareThis and fund manager at Cintrifuse. He comes from a musical family and has played all his life. “It’s so important for me to have music in my life,” he said. “It is not just a side thing for me. I try to integrate it into everything I do.”

Schigel said Suits That Rock is not just about the chance to play music. It’s about being a part of something much larger. The group dynamic and the experience of accomplishing something big make this exciting for him.

“Playing music creates a bond,” Schigel said. “It’s inspiring to me how we all work collectively as a group, and how it comes off so well in the end. All the pieces come together to create something magical.”

Schigel thinks the Suits are as much fans of the show as the audience. “I think we would all agree that we just couldn’t get this experience anywhere else,” he said.

Bass player Rick Dews is a first-time Guest Suit. Senior category manager for Milacron by day, Dews is also a professional musician, having played with local icons such as Leroy Ellington. He not only looks forward to sharing his talent, but also to learning from the other musicians.

“I so appreciate the opportunity to be part of this,” Dews said. “I’m taking on this new challenge and doing something I wouldn’t normally do. Plus I get to learn from all of these talented performers and walk away with brand new experiences.”

By contributing their time and talent, the Suits also bring awareness to the importance of arts education for children.

“Almost all nonprofits have some sort of annual fundraiser. But The Carnegie has the most unique fundraising in the region,” said Katie Brass, executive director at The Carnegie. “For less than $90, you get to watch some of the area’s well-respected businessmen and -women get on stage and rock out.
“Furthermore, most fundraisers take a lot of time to produce and are costly,” she said. “Our main expense – the band – is covered by everyone giving their time and talent to put on a great show. I often tell the Suits they have the hardest job. I just have to open the doors and let everyone in.”

Suits That Rock has raised more than $565,000 since its inception. Proceeds support The Carnegie’s Eva G. Farris Education Center programs for children.

This year’s lineup consists of more than 40 Suits, including four Guest Suits. The theme is “Turn the Radio Up!,” featuring oldies but goodies like “Best of my Love,” “Magic Man” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and current favorites such as “Your Lips are Movin’ ” and “Shut Up and Dance With Me.”

Reserved-seat tickets, which are on sale now, are $60 for the mezzanine, $85 for the orchestra. Admission includes light appetizers and a commemorative mug. Cash bar and valet parking are available.

For tickets visit thecarnegie.com or call (859) 957-1940 (Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m.)

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