Spotlight: He will, he will, rock you

Are you ready to rock and roll? For Gary Maki, the answer is an emphatic yes.

He is a founding member and veteran trumpet player for the 14-year-old local band, Channel 6. The seven members of the band, who mostly play weddings and corporate parties, have no limits when it comes to what they will play or for whom they will play.

“We play everything from the big band sounds of the 40s with a six-piece horn section to current top 40 hits,” says Maki, a compensation administrator in Human Resources and Affirmative Action. The list of musical genres he rattles off includes rock, disco, heavy metal, rap, country, R&B and even polkas.

Maki (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

“You always have to cater to the crowd. Therefore our repertoire has had to expand over the years,” Maki says.

The band also performs at a variety of venues, most recently a May 17 American Cancer Society benefit in Canton. Maki estimates the band has played for hundreds of weddings, and says the group’s first concert was at the 1989 U-M Housing Division staff picnic.

Channel 6 is more than a mere hobby for Maki. He spends hours each week practicing his craft.

“I haven’t gotten as proficient as I am now by picking the horn up each Saturday and setting [it] down for the rest of the week,” he says. “It’s a discipline, and a labor of love and commitment.”

All the practicing is worth it once Maki steps on stage, where he can really wail. The interaction he has with the audience is his favorite part of performing.

The band is unusual in that after 14 years of jamming it has retained all six of its founding members, plus a drummer who joined the band later, and they all still get along, Maki says.

“This is such a great group because everyone has varied musical tastes. Also, at this point everyone knows his job. It’s a shared effort,” he says.

It is no fluke Maki is so passionate about his music. He spent one year at Wayne State University as a music major before deciding a career in music education wasn’t for him. He eventually finished his education at Michigan State University in business administration while on a full-tuition music performance scholarship. After graduation and three years in the U.S. Army Band system, he settled in Ann Arbor and began working at U-M in 1973.

“I just wanted to focus on my own choice of instrument, which was the trumpet,” Maki says.

However, after 30 years at U-M, Maki’s next endeavor is to pick up where he left off in 1965 by giving music lessons. And he remains content to rock on with Channel 6.

“I hope I can do this until my lungs give up, my lips blow out and I can’t hear anymore.”


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