“I see so many artists every month... but sometimes... my mind gets blown! This is beyond something special! This is history!" 

Nathan Harpst, Recording/ sound engineer, musician

Vibrant community is critical, and that's who we are.

Everyone is creative in their own way. Some make music (or bagel shops), and others enjoy the music (or the bagels). We're musicians, surrounded by artists, dancers, teachers, welders, engineers and more.

Musicians thrive in a vibrant, supportive environment. Society requires our creativity but isn't structured to pay for it. So, we envision the infrastructure and community we want, earn the necessary resources, and spend our lives building it. Just like you.

After decades, we've attracted the like-minded people who share our vision. I'll tell you about a few of them.

First, what makes a great musician?

  • They never stop learning.
  • They find the joy in every musical style.
  • They leave their ego and attitude at the door.
  • They always listen to the other musicians when playing.
  • They try to make the other musicians better.
  • They promote the “rising tide” to lift everyone's "boat".

Phil Papotnik - Saxes, Flute, Clarinets, Guitars, Vocals

We began our journey together in 1970, sharing dreams and parallel life experiences (music, business, family). We didn't really get to play much together until I returned to music in 2013.

Phil is a force of nature. He started with no inheritance, and no one opened doors for him. But every day he goes to church, meditates, supports others, and checks off his to-do lists. 

He began Raven Sound to support his life goal of playing music, bought rental properties, developed a 40,000 sf building, opened a club, a restaurant, acquired enough sound. lighting and staging equipment to simultaneously run 2 major festivals and still have operations in Chattanooga TN, Allegheny County PA and Chautauqua County NY. He's provided sound and mixed for Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, and everyone in between.

Phil started publicly playing polkas in 4th grade with his father, and never looked back. His band The Ravens/ Phillippe gained a following along the entire east coast and would attract 3,000 fans every time they played locally. (Yes, that's not a typo).

He's the greatest musician I've played with. (See above.) When everyone plays with him, they play better, and they feel it. 

We've played 2,000+ gigs together, and every time is special. I think you experience it every time we let our instruments talk to each other. 

David Blaetz - Bass

Rickie calls David “The BassFather”, which is so accurate. 

He supported his family as a university communications professor but has managed to play with at least 35 bands during that time. 

His life's goal has been to be the best sideman he can be, and he certainly is the most accomplished bassist I've ever played with, no matter the instrument (4-string, 5-string, fretless, electric upright or double bass). 

David is much more than a sideman in our bands, always humble, observant and focused on perfect sounds - the right feel, groove and line for a given song style.

He tours with Steamroller, Sam Hyman's James Taylor tribute band when he's not playing with us. He is also recording an album with his long-time mates, Sheldon Peterson and Matt Ferguson.

It's a joy to play with David. I think his amazing musical abilities stand out when we play as a duo.

Rickie Hopkins - Drums & Percussion

Rickie follows in the footsteps of his father, JD Hopkins, and his mentor, Cootie Harris. He is a hard-working family man, dedicated to his wife and children, who lives for rhythm.

Rickie is a drummer and percussionist rolled into one. Multiple times on every gig, he will throw in the most amazing percussion statement - once - then return to the groove as if nothing had happened. I turn to him and smile, wishing he would repeat it, but knowing that unique sound will never return. 

He is the reason our bands can “breathe” with volumes to rock the house or whisper. I asked him how he developed his dynamic chops. He said to practice every day, he gets up at 3 am and can't afford to wake his wife or kids, so he does an entire routine on the kit almost silently.

Rickie has recorded on dozens of sessions ranging from jazz to hip-hop and seems to love the range of styles we play. When we first performed together, after a loud blues tune, I asked him for a favorite tune he wanted to play. His response was On the Sunny Side of the Street. 

He reads every book he can find on music and musicians of every genre. His CD collection is massive and well-used. And he sports the best collection of shirts featuring every musician from Thelonious Monk to the best rappers.

Rickie plays with at least a dozen other bands when not working with us, including many fronted by entrepreneur, community leader and bassist Steve Trohoske

In the VBand, Rickie and David hold everything down flawlessly, from Latin to funk. They are the reason Phil and I get to have fun.

Joe Kotyuk - Metal Neck Audio Labs

Joe is our soundman and so much more. I mentioned I needed a specific DI (direct interface) box. He built one for me the next day. A Neumann TLM 103 microphone was out of my price range, so he built me a comparable one.

A few times in your life, you encounter someone who tells such captivating stories that you wonder if they are exaggerations. If you meet Joe, he will regale you with stories, and every one will be true.

Joe has been a music industry veteran for over forty years and currently owns Metal Neck Audio Labs.

Joe is also a successful independent music producer, as well as a patented design engineer who has manufactured audio equipment for the Rolling Stones, Elton John, INXS,  Aerosmith, Peter Frampton, George Michael, Heart, Boston and many more.

Joe has also toured with the likes of The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Tubes, Hall & Oates, Rush, Rod Stewart and the list goes on.

There are so many more unique talented and experienced individuals making a difference on the planet who are important to us. I'll add a few of them soon and talk about many more in my blog.

The key is every one of the mis a giver, not a taker. The always want to know what they can do for you. And they follow through.