Local folk group The 5 Milers started in 1962 with a group of friends in high school, and today they are raising money for local charities with their love of music.
Rob Billings, one of the founders, remembers how it all started. “I purchased a used six dollar guitar and ask Tom and Terry, ‘how do you play this thing?’ We were only in our sophomore year at Neenah high school, but we were motivated.”
Music from the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Weavers inspired them. Once they got the hang of it, they were hooked.
Their love of music carried through the years, and even though not all of them are still living in Wisconsin, they always return home for a few concerts each year, and their fans follow them each time. They’ve drawn crowds in Neenah, at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, and other venues around the Fox Cities. “Our audiences love the folk music of the 1960s and many sing along,” says Billings, “and others simply sit back and remember where they were when they first heard the music.”
A few years ago, they decided to put their love of music, and their growing audience, to use in helping the community. “I had the honor of performing with Door County bluegrass musician Bill Jorgenson, and he had some great advice for us.” says Billings. “He encouraged the band to do annual benefits in support of causes we really believe in. He was right, and it is such a win-win situation for us! We get to play the music we love, the audience has a great time, and it all goes toward supporting charities in our own community.”
The 5 Milers select a new group to help each year. Past recipients include Homeless Connections, Old Glory Honor Flights, and Backpack for Kids. This year’s recipient is another local musical group, the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. Billings approached the symphony first as a recipient, but it soon became clear the partnership could grow.
“We were so honored they picked us for the benefit this year,” says Jamie LaFreniere, Executive Director of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. “But as we started talking, Rob had the fantastic idea of having both our groups share the stage for this special night.” The concert is sponsored by gifts from J.J. Keller & Associates and Dr. Monroe Trout and Sandra Lemke.
“We’re looking forward to a fun night of 60s classics,” says LaFreniere. “We love to partner with other groups in our community, and bring together different genres and fans of all types of music. We’re just lucky to live in a community where there are so many choices!”
The concert is on September 13 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, and proceeds will go to the symphony. PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS HERE!
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