Music of the military
First Posted: 5/20/2013
The MayDay Music Festival combines an enduring passion for music with the utmost respect of the United States’ Armed Forces, and few Northeast Pennsylvania residents represent those two sides better than Sgt. Tracie Slempa.
She first displayed her musical talent to the public at a talent show in seventh grade; her patriotic side came out as a teenager at Pittston Area High School.
“When I was 18, I would sing the national anthem for every single home football game, basketball game, wrestling meet, and I was actually approached about signing with an independent label. I did that for 18 months, but that kind of turned sour. It didn’t go well for me, but it a learning experience,” Slempa recalled.
“Once I turned 21, I started going out to the bars doing karaoke, and then I just started working with different artists in the area. I started writing my own music when I was 21; I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The now 29-year-old Pittston native thought about enlisting in the military in high school, but she joined the ranks of the 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of the Army National Guard at 22 after enduring many personal trials, including the devastating loss of her infant son, which pushed her to “do something positive” for herself while serving her country as well.
This didn’t end Slempa’s musical career, however – it amplified it.
“I just love both (music and the military), and they mesh well for me. When I deployed to Iraq – I was in Iraq from 2010 to 2011 – I actually did a lot of MWR events: Morale, Welfare, and Recreation… The biggest part that I did in Iraq was sing the national anthem for everything,” she explained, including for the Tostitos “Connect to Home Bowl” flag football game with NFL legends Jim Kelly and Rodney Peete in 2010.
“I actually wrote a lot when I was over there, and when I came home. Before I left, I probably had two or three songs recorded, and when I came home, I was at (JL Studios in Wyoming) almost every week. I would book it at least once a week for a few months.
“I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life, and music is my therapy and writing is my therapy. Writing, performing, singing – everything rolled into one is my stress reliever. That’s my biggest passion in life.”
Her original song “Remain True” was written before her deployment, though most of her personal and poppy R&B songs were written during her almost seven years of service.
“It’s a positive song. It’s pretty much everything that I’m going to experience, all the doors that it’s going to open for me, all the opportunities that are going to come – it’s along the lines of that. (The military) really, really influenced my music in a lot of ways,” she noted.
“Everything that I’ve written, I’ve been through.”
Slempa, who simply goes by Tracie as an artist, collaborated on some tracks with Rukus, a Wilkes-Barre rapper who invited her onstage to perform with him at last year’s MayDay Music Festival at Kirby Park. The experience led to MayDay organizer Rich Perry asking her to sing on her own this year on the HipHop Stage on Saturday, May 25 at 2:10 p.m.
“I’m just honored that Rich asked me to be a part of it and thought of me… It’s an honor because I am a part of the military. I’m a soldier, and I get to perform in front of friends and family and everyone else that’s going to be there and express my music to everyone,” Slempa said.
“One of my biggest pulls in life is to get my music out there and to get as many people to listen to it at possible, so being a soldier and being part of the event is a blessing… I want (the audience) to take away from my performance what I put into it.”
She feels that members of the Armed Forces don’t often receive the credit they deserve for their service, so the festival not only serves as a platform for the public to be exposed to great local music, but also as a way to spread awareness of the daily sacrifices soldiers make across the world.
“I’m a broadcaster in the military, so I’m pretty much like a news reporter… We bring out the best in everybody and what they do… People in day-to-day life, I think, take for granted exactly what they have because I remember going over there and it was a culture shock. I was able to adapt to the environment, but at the same time, being away from home, being away from your family, constantly working every single day without a day off… They really don’t realize what they have,” Slempa emphasized.
“I think it’s good, especially in this area, that members of the Armed Forces are recognized for exactly what they do because it really plays an important role in America because you have soldiers…serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Korea, and it’s all to protect the United States of America. So for them to have an event like MayDay in recognition of the Armed Forces, with all the proceeds going to them, I think it’s fantastic because you don’t really see that a lot.”
Tracie’s music can be found at reverbnation.com/tracie, where two tracks can be downloaded for free.
MayDay calls for expansion
By Rich Howells and Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff
Even in its sixth year, there is still more being added to the MayDay Music Festival, such as the Community Arts and Open Mic Pavilion. As the organizing group, Sector One Entertainment, has expanded itself, the talented crew felt it was only right to reflect this growth through MayDay.
“MayDay Music Festival started out solely as that – a music festival,” Sector One Vice President and MayDay Senior Event Coordinator Rich Perry said.
“However, over the years, Sector One has grown to cover all aspects of music, art, and culture. That said, we want to create an entire community experience that all people from our community can come and take part in and showcase their skills and groups. We are fans and lovers of the arts, no matter what discipline, and we wanted to include as many as we could.”
This year, the Gaslight Theatre Company and Riot Hooping & Aerial Dance will take the stage, with open time slots dedicated to open mic performances.
“We are able to keep it fresh because not only are we artists ourselves, but we are also fans. If we can’t or don’t enjoy our own event, then how can we expect others to enjoy it?” Perry, who will emcee the Drum & Bass Stage as Diesis-I, noted.
“I’ll definitely be dancing in the grass somewhere or checking out some cool performances when I’m not working.”
The proceeds from the event will go to the Family Readiness Group of the deployed G Co 228/1st-109 FA, located in Kingston.
“They were chosen because they are our local unit,” Perry said. “They also help us by donating tents, basic equipment, and usually have soldiers in uniform on hand to answer questions and maintain a military presence at MayDay.”
The MayDay crew begins planning for the event in December, and from that point forward, it’s a nonstop run to get things as organized as possible. It takes up quite a bit of time in the lives of the crew members, but that’s something none of them seem to mind. In fact, the MayDay staff is in the process of giving people an inside look at the drive behind the event’s coordinators.
“We are currently working on a short documentary just to show people the hard work, not to pat ourselves on the back, but so people can understand how truly passionate we are. We all work full-time jobs, and, on top of that, we throw our events and plan MayDay, which is a full-time job itself,” Perry explained.
“We wanted to do something positive for our community and the people in it. Since we chose Memorial Day weekend to hold our event, we wanted to keep with the spirit of the holiday and donate the proceeds to the men and women of the armed forces, to say thank you for all they do.
“What better way to unite the people in the community for a common cause than through music and art? The rhythm and pulse of music is seen and felt everywhere; it’s part of us as humans and constant through the universal flow of energy. It’s so positive, and it’s something that everyone can relate to.”
The 31-year-old Kingston resident believes the secret to the continuous progress and success of MayDay lies in those involved.
“Honestly, (it’s) the staff, and more importantly, Sector One as a unit. We are a family of artists, promoters, and supporters. If it wasn’t for the people involved, it wouldn’t be the amazing production that it is each and every year,” he pointed out.
“And also the fans,” he continued. “It means so much to us to hear people talking about our event, especially when they introduce themselves at the event to thank us, and they tell us that they traveled from other cities or even out of state just to attend our festival. That’s the greatest feeling ever.”
And even for all the changes the event itself has gone through, the core message and motivation remains the same: honoring those in the Armed Forces, and bringing a community together to do so.
“These brave men and women leave their communities physically but continue to serve the people in a way that most couldn’t imagine,” Perry said.
“We think it’s extremely important that we don’t take this service for granted. We should remember this at all times, but more than that, we should do what we can to show our gratitude. Whether it’s sending care packages, donations, or simply greeting a person in uniform with a handshake and saying, ‘Thank you.’ These seemingly simple acts can go a long way.”
Mayday Music Festival Schedule
Noon: Dr. Steiner’s Strange Brew
1 p.m.: Subnotics
2 p.m.: The Betty Harlot Band
3 p.m.: Katie Kelly & the Charming Beards
4 p.m.: 3 to Breathe
5 p.m.: Ol’ Cabbage
6 p.m.: Rogue Chimp
7 p.m.: Zamani
8 p.m.: Suicaudio
1 p.m.: Dj Tonez
2 p.m.: Tracie
3 p.m.: Kohner Rice
4 p.m.: Unleashed By Science
5:15 p.m.: Unstable Minds
6:30 p.m.: Holla Da Scholar
7:10 p.m.: J. Gillie
1 p.m.: TPB
2 p.m.: Nobi
3 p.m.: L.T. Smash
4 p.m.: Rawstin 5 p.m.: Werm 6 p.m.: Deemed 7 p.m.: Big Basha House/EDM Stage
Noon: Dj Marquis
1 p.m.: Steve Temper
2 p.m.: DC Ten
3 p.m.: Ben Hostyle
4 p.m.: ZeroThree
5 p.m.: Marc Tantrum
6 p.m.: Deviate
7 p.m.: Vinz Drum & Bass Stage
Noon: Danger Bruno
1 p.m.: M.A.S.D.I.K.
2 p.m.: Aspect
3 p.m.: Relik
4 p.m.: Stepkinetic vs. DJ Express
5:15 p.m.: Flex w/ MC Scatter
6:30 p.m.: Mizeyesis
May 26 Live Stage
Noon: I Am Buffalo
1 p.m.: The Justin Mazer Trio
2 p.m.: The Ends of the Earth
3 p.m.: The Charles Havira Band
4 p.m.: County Lines
5 p.m.: Laser Sex
6 p.m.: Solaris
7 p.m.: The Woody Brown’s Project
8 p.m.: Suze
Noon: Unleashed By Science
1:15 p.m.: Danny Greene
2 p.m.: Beat Speak
2:30 p.m.: Dj Image
3:45 p.m.: Abstract Peoples
4:15 p.m.: Hometown Heros
5:15 p.m.: Jeanius
6 p.m.: Evil Bee
6:45 p.m.: Phoenix/FKO
Noon: Conscious Pilot 1 p.m.: SRK 2 p.m.: Shakenbake 3 p.m.: Dub Savage 4 p.m.: Penpal 5 p.m.: Lurch 6 p.m.: One Call System 7 p.m.: J-Hilla House/EDM Stage
Noon: Ryan Kenton
1 p.m.: Schrapnel vs Dirty
3 p.m.: Infekted Skillz
5:30 p.m.: Synthetic Hysterics
7 p.m.: K-Wak
Drum & Bass Stage
Noon: DJ Encee Fusion
1 p.m.: Dat’skat
2 p.m.: Basixx
3 p.m.: Randyskilz
4 p.m.: Deejay Geoffro 5:15 p.m.: Swingkidd
6:30 p.m.: Against the Grain
Community Arts & Open Mic Pavilion
May 25: Gaslight Theatre Company
May 26: Riot Hooping and Aerial Dance