Life in the Fast Lane

Uptown Music Collective students and alumni pay tribute to legendary band The Eagles

The Uptown Music Collective will wrap up its 2016-2017 performance season with a tribute to one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history, with its presentation of “Life in the Fast Lane: The Story of the Eagles,” 7:30 p.m. April 28-29 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

The two-night performance will feature students from the school’s Special Performance Group 1, who range in age from 11 to 18, performing songs from every era of the legendary band the Eagles’ long career. Featured will be hit songs like “The Long Run,” “Heartache Tonight,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Already Gone” and “Desperado,” performed alongside classic Eagles album tracks like “Seven Bridges Road,” “Those Shoes,” “New Kid in Town” and many more. This performance is sponsored in part by Lycoming College and The Pennsylvania College of Technology.

“Life in the Fast Lane: The Story of the Eagles” will feature Collective students who have been diligently preparing for this event for over two months. Along with the live music, there will be an impressive professional grade stage, sound and light show organized by the students themselves. As with all Uptown Music Collective performances, the students are not only the performers but also direct the show. There is also a group of younger students, called “Tech Monkeys” who will serve as stage technicians and spotlight operators. The cast for the show is drawn from the Uptown Music Collective’s much heralded Special Performance Group 1. The students have set a goal to get 1,500 people see the show over its two-night run.

This show is being produced by UMC Alumni, AJ Robbins, and Kelsey Silvagni. It is directed by Uptown Music Collective students Keely Krause and Gage Avery of Hughesville Area High School, along with a leadership committee that includes UMC alumni and UMC students from area high schools, including Williamsport Area High School, Danville Area High School and Jersey Shore High School.

At the end of each performance season, the students with the Uptown Music Collective meet to determine themes for the next year’s shows.

“They usually throw a lot of ideas up on a big white board and work their way down to a few through ‘spirited debate,’ and many rounds of voting,” said Dave Brumbaugh, executive director of the Uptown Music Collective. “Before they begin the process, the staff and I emphasize the fact that the shows need to include all the members of the special performance group, and be a theme that will sell tickets.”

Based around the “Hotel California” album and the “Eagles Greatest Hits” collection, the concert will feature all the biggest hits from every era of the band, alongside deeper cuts and some members’ solo hits — all performed note for note with the passion and excitement that Uptown Music Collective students are renowned for.

“With so many songs that did well on the charts, alongside well-known album tracks, we found it really easy to put together a killer set,” Brumbaugh said.

After getting their start backing up singer Linda Ronstadt, the various band members formed the Eagles in Los Angeles in 1971. The original lineup included Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. Over the years, the band also featured members Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit.

With numerous awards and number one albums, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. At the end of the 20th century, two of their albums, “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” and “Hotel California,” were ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the United States. The band was ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Eagles are one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 150 million records. “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” was the best-selling album of the 20th century in the U.S and they are recognized as the highest-selling American band in U.S. history. In addition, the band boasts six Grammy Awards, five number one singles and six number one albums.

Brumbaugh believes that what has made the Eagles’ music so appealing and still relevant after all these years is simply great songwriting. The themes in their music remain timeless — with stories about the human condition, love, excess and loss.

“They also simply have a great sound — strong compelling vocals, and truly great vocal harmonies shimmering alongside memorable guitar lines, and a strong rhythm section,” he said. “There’s also an honesty to their music because so much of it is stripped down and simple. It’s all well produced — but not overly produced. It’s slick and really well done, but never pretentious.”

With their ability to crossover between rock, country-rock and pop, the Eagles are a perfect fit for the Collective’s spring show.

“Most of the students were immediately pumped about doing a show focused on them,” Brumbaugh said. “Their appeal, like that of all great songwriters and artists, transcends time.”

For those who haven’t been to an Uptown Music Collective show, the experience usually starts with low expectations that are quickly demolished in the first few minutes of the performance.

“About a third of the way through, most audience members have completely forgotten that the performers are between the ages of 11 and 18 and are just rocking out and enjoying themselves, and the overwhelming energy of our students,” Brumbaugh said. “By the end of the night as 40 plus kids come out one more time for an encore/standing ovation, they are reminded again that they are local young people. Hopefully, at that point, they are hooked and become repeat concert goers.”

There was a time when Brumbaugh only thought about what the Collective does mostly in musical terms. But today, he realizes that their programs impact the students in so many more ways that have absolutely nothing to do with music.

“The endless preparation for performances like this one teaches our students responsibility, discipline, the importance of endless repetition and most importantly teamwork and respect,” he said.

Of course, they still have fun too. One of the biggest pleasures of Brumbaugh’s job is watching the students perform with abandon and passion, all the while infusing everything they do with the pure unadulterated joy of performing music.

“As for our alumni — many who still live in town come out to our shows to check on the progress of our program, and to make sure that today’s students are living up to the legacy that many began with our first show, ‘Dark Side of the Moon: A Theatrical Performance’ in 2004,” he said. “I’m sure they will walk away feeling that the ball has been carried forward and that their legacy is in good hands.”

With this performance, Brumbaugh hopes the audience will walk away with a smile on their faces and a better appreciation for the legacy of the Eagles.

“We also hope that our students’ performances throughout the night will clearly demonstrate to everyone the potential, discipline, and teamwork that this young generation is capable of when engaged, and given the opportunity to take the lead,” he said. “It’s truly hard to resist powerful, talented young people who are passionately giving their all onstage for the audience and each other, and that is without a doubt what you see when coming to an Uptown Music Collective performance.”