Spotlight: Gray Matters Music Jam

Gray Matters Music Jam Benefiting Brain Cancer Research at the UW Carbone Cancer CenterOn July 22 music will ring out at the Gray Matters Music Jam at the Capital Brewery in Middleton, scintillating the ears to raise money for brain cancer research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.


Featuring a day of rock, soul, funk, and a little bit of jazz, the event will also include family-friendly fun and games.


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Bev Semmann, one of the organizers of the benefit, has known for quite some time she wanted to raise money for the UW Carbone Cancer Center. When her husband Steve passed away in 2007 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer, Bev felt the need to honor his memory - and to help those who might still suffer from the disease.


In order to pay respect to a husband, father, and musician, Bev wanted to plan an event that was close to Steve's heart.


"Music was most important to Steve," says Bev, "so we thought that this would be a fitting tribute."


"We gathered a few family and friends, formed a committee and began planning the event at Capital Brewery. Each of the bands playing that night has a connection back to Steve through his trumpet playing years with the UW Marching Band," she adds.


With Soul Candy & The Traffic Jam, Red Hot Horn Dogs, and Screamin’ Cucumbers on board and special guest Mark Pender of the Conan O'Brien's Basic Cable Band sitting in, the Gray Matters Music Jam promises to be a horn-themed day of toe-tapping rhythm, blues, rock and soul music.


Steve's children, Kristin (14), Brian (10) and Jacob (9), have all been involved in the process, sitting in on planning meetings and making bracelets for sale on the day of the concert. Named after the color of the brain cancer awareness ribbon - and the gray matter in the brain - the day also represents a moment in time to remember Steve.


"I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people who knew him," notes Bev, "as well as some who I know are just excited to come to the event or support the cause."


This mix of newcomers and old friends dancing to the music Steve loved has his family and friends looking to the future of the event as well.


"Gray Matters doesn’t have to be a one-off event," she says. "I want it to become a Madison tradition."


To the Semmanns, giving back to the UWCCC is a way to pay tribute to Steve, who received much of his treatment here.


"I researched extensively around the country to make sure Steve got the best care," Bev insists, "and the UWCCC turned out to be the place we trusted the most."


For this reason, proceeds from the event will benefit brain cancer research at the UWCCC.


"Too many children are going through life without their parents because of this disease," she observes. "We can help change that."