BY JEREMY SHERE
In May 2013, while driving to Bloomington High School South to chaperon the prom, Joel McKay shared a funny thought with two fellow BHSS staff members. What if, for the school’s 2014 Dance Marathon fundraiser, they formed a teacher band and played at the event? Never mind that they barely had any musical training. “We knew the students would think it was hilarious,” McKay says.
And so the band Rough Draft was born, made up of McKay (42, drums) and colleagues Drew Frey (46, guitar) and Luke Sheehan (32, guitar), as well as Indiana University Health pharmacist Brad Spencer (52, bass), aviation engineer Bobbie Burke (35, guitar and vocals), and Jean Cannon (45, vocals), who works in real estate. They named the band Rough Draft because, McKay says, “we thought it was funny and also because I think we see ourselves as a work in progress. We also like it because of the obvious educational reference, since half our band is made up of educators.”
Despite having only five songs under their belts, McKay booked the band’s first show at The Players Pub nearly a year in advance (April 2014) to raise money for the dance marathon. “I told my bandmates what I’d done, and they about flipped,” McKay says. Expected to play for three hours, the band members practiced regularly for months, honing their chops and adding songs. By the time the gig rolled around, they were ready and the show was a success, packing the house.
Since then, Rough Draft has continued to grow musically and play around town. A cover band, sets include songs by Foo Fighters, Cream, Adele, Taylor Swift, The Ramones, Journey, The Black Crowes, Bon Jovi, KT Tunstall, Fleetwood Mac, The Civil Wars, Metallica, Janis Joplin, and Biz Markie. Recent performances have included shows at The Bluebird Nightclub, another Players Pub gig, and the fundraiser 100 Men Who Cook. The band has future gigs lined up at Taste of Bloomington, the Kiwanis Club of South Central Indiana’s Hot Air Balloon Fest, and the Indiana University Dance Marathon.
For McKay and his bandmates, the experience has been educational and fun. “We’ve gone from never playing live music before to being able to play for four hours in a little over a year,” McKay says, “so I think most of us have been thrilled with how we’ve grown musically.”