A huge opportunity for the Eau Claire music community

NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest saw lots of Eau Claire music personalities get involved


© 2019 Scott Morfitt

The music video set at The Venue in downtown Eau Claire was set against a brick wall, creating a warm environment.

National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts have become very popular thanks to the internet.

Created by NPR’s Bob Boilen, who hosts the radio show “All Songs Considered,” these concerts are live, recorded, in-office performances put on during his show. These acts have featured artists such as: Mac Miller, T-Pain and Adele.

This year, however, one unknown artist or group will have the opportunity to earn themselves some national attention by getting their very own Tiny Desk Concert on Boilen’s show, and there’s a chance that this group could come from the Eau Claire area.

NPR is hosting a nationwide competition this year, listening to local bands from across the country to determine who is worthy of a Tiny Desk Concert. They will be judged on a few factors, such as the quality of music, technical proficiency, originality and general sound.

There are 25 artists from the Eau Claire area in the running. These groups cover a wide range of genres, from folk to hip-hop to latin R&B. Each entrant submitted a music video of them performing their original music. The winner will travel to Washington, D.C. for their live performance, and even go on tour with NPR this summer. The judging period ends on May 10, when a winner will be determined.

Eau Claire’s very own 99.9 FM Converge Radio had the opportunity to work as the production crew for all 25 local bands. When NPR came looking for organizations to work with their local artists, Station Manager Scott Morfitt found it easy to say “yes”.

With his team at Converge Radio, they quickly designed an artistic set at The Venue in downtown Eau Claire, where all bands had their performances recorded. Converge Radio’s 20-person team worked on the cinematography, audio and video editing for all 25 submissions.

The process went “amazingly smoothly,” Morfitt said.

“This was just a testament to the great bands and volunteers who were hard-working and professional,” Morfitt said. “This was just indicative of the Eau Claire music community’s willingness to collaborate with one another.”

The process also provided the Eau Claire music community opportunity to practice skills needed to thrive in the music industry. Many of the team members for Converge Radio are University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students who are aspiring music industry professionals.

Morfitt said the students on his team worked on multi-track recording, liasoning artists and editing skills across the board. These talents will almost certainly ensure that the Eau Claire area will continue to boast a strong music presence in the future.

One Converge Radio team member and second-year UW-Eau Claire student, Brad Murphy, talked about how valuable this experience was. Murphy hosts his own shows on 99.9 FM, one called “The Carp,” which plays metal music, and another called “Boots and Blue Jeans” that plays country music and americana. He said learning how to work with sounds and capture the best sound will help him as a producer.

But aside from the professional growth aspects, everyone involved has said they’ve had a lot of fun.

“We got to basically have our own personal concerts,” Murphy said. “You don’t get too many opportunities to do that.”

Caitlin McGarvey, a UW-Eau Claire student and Tiny Desk Contest submittant, said the entire experience was “pleasant.” They said that the Converge Radio team put together a solid final video product and that their set had a nice ambiance and vibe. They also said that although this is a competition, the Eau Claire music community has been very supportive of one another.

“I’ve been a part of this music community for four years now and we all know each other,” McGarvey said. “If anyone from Eau Claire wins this, we will all feel like a part of the victory.”