Meet Maggie Roback, Local Filmmaker

Posted on May 28, 2021


Hello, CT readers! I have a treat for you today! I am very excited to introduce a former student who has made a thought-provoking film about the local, Lenawee County music scene. Maggie Roback reflects on the current state of affairs in live, local music, and what it means for youth and the broader community.

The Lost Scene is a documentary film by me, born-and-raised, Adrian Maple, Maggie Roback. The film gives a glimpse into the youth-centric, Lenawee County music scene in its final years before virtually disappearing around 2010. The film also investigates shifts in community cultures that may have affected the disappearance of the scene and asks if and how a vibrant music scene could once again rise in Lenawee. 

My connection to the Lenawee County music scene stems from my experiences working for a local sound engineering company and my grandma coordinating the bandshell at the Lenawee County Fair. I am well aware that there are still active bands and musicians in Lenawee County. However, it is also through these experiences and the relationships I built with community members as a result of said experiences that I learned about what I termed “the lost scene”.

This was the era of the Lenawee music scene when an abundance of high school and college-aged youth took the initiative to not only form bands, but organize and host their own shows; in the years roughly between 2003-2010. In interviews with band members that were a part of this scene, multiple interviewees spoke on how the scene created a community that connected students from all over the county and gave them a safe place to express themselves and feel heard.

These bands and the community built around them were supported by the larger Lenawee County community which gave them opportunities to perform. For example, multiple churches opened their doors and allowed these bands to use their spaces and resources to put on shows. Bands also performed at events like Maple City Fest, Onstock, Battle of the Bands (hosted by Adrian High School), Addison High School’s Rock at the Rock Festival, and a handful of other talent showcases, open mics, and fundraising events.

Many of the community events that welcomed and supported these young musicians and their original music have been discontinued. In fact, annual the battle of the bands that was hosted at Adrian High School was cancelled in 2010, which would have been the event’s 25th year.

Unfortunately, having entered high school in 2013, I never had the chance to experience this scene and become a part of this county-wide community. A music scene full of young bands playing mostly original music is something I never would have imagined to have happened in Lenawee. Now, it seems like the same handful of middle-aged classic rock/country cover bands perform at all the local events and bars that host live music. The young musicians I interviewed for this film shared with me their experiences of being turned away from local bars/venues because they do not perform what has become the standard of classic rock covers.

What happened to this supportive community and culture? Why did the students who graduated high school in 2010 and beyond not continue to rally together around live music?

The conclusion I have drawn is that it all comes down to money. Money has always been a factor, but in the years since the 2008 economic recession, city, school, business, and family budgets have been cut and held tightly. Bars, events, and other venues are now less willing to book artists that they think may not appeal to their patrons, hurting their chances of making a profit. School budgets have been cut dramatically which typically leads to large cuts to arts funding, meaning fewer kids were able to discover music as a way to express themselves and be encouraged to form groups. Families also had less room in their budgets to rent or buy instruments, fund lessons, or other buy musical gear for their children. More and more public events that provided performance opportunities were cancelled, never to return–or returned at a much smaller scale. 

Can a vibrant music scene rise again in Lenawee?

I believe that it is possible, but it will take a lot of effort and generosity. It will take business owners, event coordinators, and other community members to set aside profits and focus on the benefits of rebuilding this community to give young people a place where they feel they belong. It will also take the youth of the community to speak up and express interest in being a part of something larger. It may not be a punk/metal/hardcore music scene if and when it comes back, but the sense of belonging and community is much more important than what type of music is being played or how good it is.

Maggie Roback studied art and design at Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. Here she discovered that working with video allows her to bring her two passions of sound and photography together. She uncovered a passion for storytelling and helping others have their voices heard. Her previous projects include multiple music videos with Empty Mug Records, and When We’re Together (2020), a feature length observational documentary for which she was Co-Director and Supervising Editor, and her award winning short film Empty (2019).

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
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