By Lola Rossi
Being one fan among millions, Mannheim Steamroller, is welcomed every year to sold-out venues across the country with their own brand of Christmas music that touches the hearts of everyone. Their albums fly off the shelves, as well as, hundreds of other items bearing the Mannheim Steamroller Brand. One of the two traveling groups will be appearing in the Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84-245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, on Saturday, December 5, 2015, at 8 p.m.
Born and raised in Ohio, Chip Davis was an only child, with a musical background coming from both sides of the family. Both of his grandmothers were piano teachers and very musically influential when he was a child. “My one grandmother was my piano teacher when I was four and that kind of got me started.” His father was a saxophone player in a big band; his mother played trombone for the NBC Symphony; he was in various choirs; played bassoon and drums in Marching Band and after graduating from Sylvania High School, he attended the University of Michigan.
His first job after college was being a music teacher at McCord Junior High School in Sylvania, Ohio. “Music and Art are very important in schools. I am not that much in touch with it, but I know they are taking a hit. That’s like taking away the soul where a big part of the range of emotions and thoughts come from.”
Being so successful and able to fulfill his musical dreams, Davis donated funds for a new music wing, the Chip Davis Technology Suite, at the University of Michigan, which includes ProTools and all the most current technology. “The crowning glory is that my 16 year old daughter, Elyse, who is an amazing singer, is considering attending my Alma Mater.” The Associate Dean at Michigan was the first violinist to play in Mannheim Steamroller and his daughter taught Davis’ children music.
Very familiar with the Equestrian side of Indio, his 24 year old daughter, Kelly, also a singer and now a social media executive, was number 3 of 100 jumpers in the US years ago. He attended many of the competitions she was in “But now she has a grown up job,” Davis chuckled.
“My 19 year old son, Evan, is an incredible guitar player. He has a Les Paul guitar, a Martin 12 String and a Yamaha 6 String and he can play stuff. Sometimes I sit downstairs with a drum pad and just sit and jam with him. He is really a good player. He can also sit down at the piano and write music. He has tremendous talent and I believe he has a great future in music.”
Living a good life, enjoying his children, and creating music, keeps this multi-talented genius busy and very happy. “I have the most fun writing music and then watching the audience react to the music, just adds fuel to the fire,” shared Davis.
He and his partner, started their own record label, American Gramaphone, in 1974 to promote Mannheim Steamroller’s first Fresh Aire Album, because no major record label knew how to market his music.
The name of the band was taken from Mannheim, Germany where Mozart and Joseph Stamitz were from. In an effort to set the record straight, Davis wanted to correct a statement made by a PR person years ago. “It was said that The Steamroller was to flatten the audience. That’s not correct. The 18th Century musical phrase ‘Mannheim Valse’ literally meant roller, however, it is a Crescendo that was to give people goose bumps in the audience, not to flatten them.”
When you come to the Concert at Fantasy Springs, you will not only hear great music performed by top notch musicians, you will see a multi-media show with synchronized lighting and special effects. The whole back wall is LED driven with videos made from films that Davis shot over the years and cut rhythmically to the tracks. So all the edits match the tracks and the content matches the songs. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, the Rock and Roll version, is a giant horse ride through the woods in front of a castle. I shot half of it in England and half of it here in Omaha. It has a lot of helicopter shots in it and is a spectacular video,” said Davis.
With such great success of the Fresh Aire Series, lots of fans were asking him about performing some of the music. “There is a 20 minute segment of Fresh Aire in the middle of the show. I saw it down in Florida in two markets and the crowd went nuts. They couldn’t believe it was back.”
His daughter, Elyse, is also on the video singing with the Steamroller and was featured singing a version of “Greensleeves” Davis wrote for her, on a one hour PBS Special. “She is the future of Mannheim Steamroller along with a lot of second generation ‘Mannheimers’ whose parents were musicians in the band or some part of the organization.” By the way, their PBS Special was used for a fund-raising program and was the largest pledge drive in the history of the PBS stations, they made a lot of money on it and it was all educational.
Davis has had a great relationship with NASA for many years and is acquainted with Jim Kennedy who is the director of the Kennedy Space Foundation for Education. He was invited to several space shuttle launches and started to record them with a specialized team and equipment. He took that and created music around it called “Escape From The Atmosphere” and that was used in shows to promote fund-raising efforts for the educational programs for the Foundation.
Their latest release 30/40 celebrates the 30th Anniversary of their first Christmas Album and the 40th Anniversary of the first Fresh Aire Series. It is available on their web-site and now available on blue vinyl, in a two album, very ornate package.