The Stray is hosting its second “Battle of the Bands” this March! Each Saturday night up to 5 bands will compete to make it to the finals on March 25 where they can showcase their full-length set. Finalists will be determined based on popular vote and the vote of a guest judge. Local music industry professionals Yolonda Lavender, John Sinkevics, Shelby Schneider, and Robby Fischer have been invited as guest judges based on their extensive experience and contributions to the local music scene. Larger cash prizes ($500, $300, & $200) will be awarded to the three finalists. Non-finalists will earn $50 the night of their performance.
Yolonda Lavender is an international recording artist with the independent label Truth Tone Records. She is a singer/songwriter, curator, composer, arranger and performing artist from Kalamazoo, Michigan whose sound is soul-based with gospel, r&b, hip-hop, blues and jazz influences. Yolonda has showcased her artistry in artistic spaces around the country and shared stages with the likes of artists such as Erykah Badu, En Vogue, Keith Murray, The Spinners and more. Additionally, Yolonda is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Soul Artistry LLC, an arts consulting company whose mantra is "pay artists."
Shelby Schneider is a recognizable force in the West Michigan music scene as a loyal supporter of live music, disc jockey and calendar production at WYCE 88.1, volunteer at festivals, on site at functions with WYCE and GRTV, and representing the Michigan Music Alliance at educational events. However you come to know her, you’ll be put at ease by her ability to listen and connect through the mutual love of music.
Combining her background in music theory and performance from high school with her love for music from all genres, as well as 15 years of dance experience, competing in various styles, Shelby has a keen ear for finding music that makes an impact. Shelby has become a tastemaker through her biweekly radio show on WYCE 88.1 curating playlists with local and international artists. Between her relationship building with artists all over West Michigan and researching plus recording the weekly concert calendar, Shelby is a knowledgeable resource for the entire Michigan music community. Her infectious enthusiasm and ability to connect with music fans of all ages and backgrounds enriches the lives of everyone who has the opportunity to interact with her.
John Sinkevics is a career journalist and musician who started the Local Spins website in 2012 after spending the previous 12 years as a music critic and entertainment writer for The Grand Rapids Press. Local Spins -- the state's fastest-growing music website -- covers West Michigan's music scene via feature stories, concert and album reviews, artist spotlights, breaking music news, photo galleries, concert listings, podcasts, videos and more. Sinkevics hosts the weekly Local Spins on WYCE radio show that showcases local and regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on the radio at 88.1 FM. He's also a member of the Michigan Music Alliance board of directors, a member of the Ferris State University Music & Entertainment Business advisory board and co-founder of the Grand Rapids band The Honeytones.
Robby Fischer is a musician and owner of Dogtown Studio. Dogtown Studio is a recording studio specializing in recording “Live Session” videos. Robby Fischer and Tito Mendoza started the Dogtown Studio Sessions in 2018, and Robby has done over 200 sessions since then. In 2022, Dogtown Studio was awarded an Ovation award from the Michigan Music Alliance, which was awarded to "recognize those in our community who go above and beyond to create a sustainable and collaborative music community for all."