The Pitch Fever Band, led by Mike Geronsin, offers adult musicians the chance to live out their dreams of playing onstage.
A musician saying they play for the love of music is such an overused cliché the words make nearly everyone roll their eyes. However, sometimes the most overused phrases are the most honest.
The members of the Pitch Fever Band truly play for the love of music. They don’t tour the country or make tons of money. They’re a group of Maple Grove residents, led by Mike Geronsin, who have started playing around the Twin Cities because they simply love music. Geronsin is the owner and head music instructor of Pitch Fever Academy in Maple Grove and has played big-time venues including Target Center and Xcel Center with multiple bands.
“The actual Pitch Fever Band got started when a few guys wanted to try out some songs they learned at lessons, and the next thing you know we were invited to play a wedding,” Geronsin says. “We’ve been playing ever since, adding new members, songs, and venues to our family. So far we’ve played multiple VFW’s, a few Maple Grove festivals, the Fine Line, GB Leighton’s Pickle Park, and more.”
Now, meet the rest of the band, and learn how they came to be the big little band of Maple Grove.
Mike Berg is one of the founding members of the Pitch Fever Band. “One day I asked [Geronsin] if he knew any students who would be interested in putting together a Rolling Stones cover band,” Berg says. “I was just hoping to get a couple people together to play with, and at that time I’d never even played a full song with a full band. One year later, I was playing at the Fine Line Music Café for the first ever Pitch Fever Music Academy student showcase.
“My main reason for playing is to pick up chicks…kidding of course!” Berg adds. “I play because I love music. I can’t be satisfied only being a spectator when it comes to something I love.”
Berg recently moved for a new job in Texas and now supports the band from afar, but he continues to love music and hopes to make it back to the area to rejoin the group in the future.
Perhaps the band should consider renaming themselves “The Mikes.” The third Mike, Mike Lott, is another founding member. His love of music comes from his German mother playing waltzes and polkas when he was a kid. She later became a huge fan of Elvis and Lott still “distinctly remembers listening over and over again to Elvis’ Golden Records album.”
“Music is a calling,” Lott says. “Like everything else, some people appreciate it but don’t understand it, and some people who do understand realize that it is a passion unlike anything else.”
Lott became friends with Geronsin 15 years ago when Lott was managing a pair of music stores. Geronsin taught Lott how to play guitar and eventually Lott began writing his own songs. He is set to release his own album this year and hosts The Mike Lott Rock And Roll Show on spreaker.com.
“As much fun as it is to sing and perform on stage, nothing replaces the feeling of playing with other people, especially other musicians that you really care for and love,” Lott says. “My bandmates are like my family. We have fun together, we learn together and we struggle together.”
Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Tambourine, Backup Vocals
The newest member of the band, Elisa Cottingham, is a former roller derby girl and current teacher (making her a very well-rounded member, indeed). She started playing piano and violin as a young child, but quit when her piano teacher retired and (like so many little sisters) quit the violin because that’s what big sister did, before picking up the guitar as an adult.
“Mike put the band together very well—a bunch of friendly and fun people with great personalities, in addition to the talent, encouragement and dedication that they bring to the table,” she says.
Sandy Jasko’s story is a similar refrain to many of the members of the Pitch Fever Band. Her son started taking guitar lessons with Geronsin, and, having a background in guitar herself, Jasko wanted in on the fun.
“I begged my parents to buy me a piano when I was younger and finally, at age 11, they must have decided I was much too irritating to listen to even one more day and they got one for me,” Jasko says. “At that point, I started out on a very long journey of music lessons.”
Geronsin offered Jasko the chance to be part of the band, and having grown up listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac, she couldn’t resist the temptation of living her own little rock star dream, even if, like Cottingham, she was hesitant to take part at first.
“You do have to make time for [playing], but it’s not hard when you are doing something you enjoy and need to hold up your part at band practice,” Jasko says.
Drums, Guitar, Keyboard
Part of what makes the band work so well is that the band members have become one big second family. Geronsin was looking for a fulltime drummer, and Robert Cilke couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
“We get along and keep the ego stuff to a minimum,” Cilke says. “Several of us have kids, so maybe we’ve just had to learn how to play well with others. Whatever it is, it makes it easy to just play music together without drama.”
Cilke also teaches lessons at Pitch Fever. His musical roots trace back to his mother teaching organ lessons and his father having a master’s degree in music.
When Bobby Hanky’s then-girlfriend, now wife, handed him a guitar shortly after college, he was reacquainted with his love of music. Hanky gave up the violin in high school after playing with the Twin Cities Youth Orchestra for two years. Once he got the guitar, he began taking lessons from Geronsin, and eventually joined the band.
“Some days it is kind of tough to fit it all in,” Hanky says. He also says the bandmates count on one another and that makes it easy to stay motivated. It also helps that his kids are such big fans. “My young kids really like it when I play and they are beginning to develop an interest in playing an instrument.”
What’s pretty clear from all the members of the Pitch Fever Band is Geronsin is its heart and soul. Most bandmates spent more time during our interview talking about him rather than about their own experiences. Bassist Dylan McLean (perhaps embracing the bassist stereotype of staying in the background) spoke briefly of his time teaching himself guitar and how music has affected him through life, but his most passionate words come when speaking of Geronsin.
“What [Geronsin] has created with the band and Pitch Fever Academy is something special,” McLean says. “I’ve never seen the kind of loyalty to [Geronsin] with any other teacher. One of the things I respect a lot about [Geronsin] is that he stays true to his passion, which is teaching music. He’s such a talented musician that you look at him and think ‘Why aren’t you out on the road playing with rock stars and making millions?’ But then you realize that’s not what would fulfill him. His fulfillment comes from passing on his love of music to others and sending them on their own musical journeys.”