Charleston-based singer/songwriter Elise Testone — a longtime local musician who reached the final rounds of Season 11 “American Idol” — experienced her first official Cooper River Bridge Run two years ago when she ran the race for the first time.
Schema: Instrumental jam band, pre-race at Coleman Boulevard and Interstate 526College Lounge: Acoustic combo, pre-race at Coleman Boulevard and Fairmont AvenueIrene Rose: Country-pop, 0.3 mile marker at Coleman Boulevard and Mill StreetHibachi Heroes: Blues-rockers, 0.55 mile marker on Coleman Boulevard past Pelzer AvenueSavage Tongues: Rock band, 0.8 mile marker on Coleman Boulevard between Cliffwood and Lansing drivesForrest Baldwin: Folk-rock, 1.3 mile marker on Coleman Boulevard past Houston Northcutt BoulevardDTSMB: Alt-rock. 1.6 mile marker on the Ravenel Bridge off rampHeartfelt Hinges: Indie-rock, 2 mile mark on the Ravenel BridgeHeyrocco: Power-trio, 2.2 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgeSalem Lake: Groove-pop, 2.8 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgeSynergy: Violin-based project, 3 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgePierce Edens and the Dirty Work: Roots-pop, 3.4 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgeBad Drew Baldwin: Blues/roots duo featuring harp player Juke Joint Johnny, 3.6 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgeJefferson Coker Band: Blues, 3.8 mile marker on the Ravenel BridgeLionz of Zion: Funky reggae-rockers, 4.7 mile marker on Meeting Street past Stuart StreetYellowknife: Soul-rock, 4.8 mile marker on Meeting Street past Line StreetWill Hastings: Indie, 5.2 mile marker at King and Woolf streetsGrand Folks: Folk, 5.4 mile marker on King Street past Mary StreetLuke Cunningham: Pop/Americana, 5.6 mile marker at King and vanderhorst streetsCall Momma Band: breezy blues-pop, 5.8 mile marker at King and George streetsTyler Boone: Alt-pop, 6 mile marker at King and Wentworth streets
This year, she’ll start and finish the race not as a runner, but as a performer.
“That was the first and only one I’ve done, and I loved it,” she said of her previous Bridge Run. “It was inspiring because everyone was doing it together, no matter what shape they were in. During the race, your body just takes over and your mind just goes for the ride. I want to do it again for sure.”
On Saturday, Testone is scheduled to perform a brief acoustic set and sing the national anthem at the starting line on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant. Last December, she sang the national anthem in front of 30,000 soccer fans at the Major League Soccer Cup in Los Angeles. She’ll sing in front of thousands once again this week.
“I’m excited to be singing the national anthem again,” Testone said. “I really enjoyed doing that in Los Angeles. It was very rewarding. I was nervous about it, but I took time to think about doing a respectful version without changing it a lot. I added a few little trills at the end of a few lines, but otherwise, it was very straightforward.”
As the race begins, Bridge Run officials will transport Testone over the bridge to the Finish Festival at Marion Square, where she and her band — guitarist Wallace Mullinax, bassist Ben Wells, drummer Daniel Crider, horn players Michael Quinn and Simon Harding, and backing vocalists Shannon Cook and Diane Fabiano — will perform a full set of originals and renditions for runners, families and fans.
“We’ll play a mix of our own songs, plus a bunch of blues, pop, rock and Americana,” Testone said. “There’ll be something for everyone in the set.”
Testone and her band recorded the basic tracks for their debut album at Truphonic Studio in West Ashley in March. She expects to finish the session this month and have the album ready for release by mid-summer. The band’s next big local show is April 23 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, where they’ll open for legendary blues/soul man B.B. King.
Music Initiative makes Bridge Run a musical experience
Last spring, Charleston resident Becca Findley, chief creative agent for The Music Initiative, ran in the Cooper River Bridge Run as a competitor. This year, she’ll be racing around town once again — not as a racer, but as the coordinator of a “rock ’n’ rollin’ ” Bridge Run.
Designed as a unique series of mini concerts that will span the length of the race course, this year’s Bridge Run will feature 21 bands from across the Southeast.
“I knew that there was live music during the previous Bridge Run, but I wasn’t sure what was planned for this year’s event,” Findley said. “We were looking for high-visibility platforms for musicians to be able to perform and get paid.”
Findley started The Music Initiative three years ago as a monthly online magazine. It gradually evolved into a multimedia project.
The Music Initiative made a splash in the Charleston scene last year when it started recording live performance clips and interviews at Morgan Creek Grill on the Isle of Palms as part of the web-based “BalconyTV” series. It also produced a series of Holy City Eclectic Evenings concerts for Comcast Channel 2.
The organization recently created a sister project called This is Noteworthy to put together the musical aspect of the Bridge Run.
“The Music Initiative was doing a bunch of different projects for musicians, and we realized that we needed to narrow down our focus if we wanted to raise money and opportunity,” she said. “We decided to do a not-for-profit. As a legal entity, This is Noteworthy focuses on helping musicians in their careers with five main things: wellness, performance opportunity, media platforms, business networking and charitable giving.”
In the fall, Findley contacted Julian Smith, executive director of the Cooper River Bridge Run, with a proposal to curate the music portion of the Bridge Run.
“Julian and I went back and forth about what had worked and what hadn’t worked with music before, and we came up with a plan to shepherd it and make it work this year,” Findley said.
“The Cooper River Bridge Run is the perfect event for this kind of thing,” she added. “It’s the biggest event that Charleston has, so we could book more than 20 bands and do it up right so they could get some good visibility.”
Open to nationwide submissions, the Music Initiative received applications from more than 130 bands from around the Southeast, and they narrowed them down based on the different genres.
“We didn’t want too much of one particular style,” Findley explains. “We wanted to match the style of music to the terrain, too. I wanted it all to work sonically.”
Findlay and her assistants walked the entire route of the Bridge Run to pick the best spots for the music stages along the way, including nine stages on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
The Music Initiative also compiled songs from all of the participating acts on a CD titled “Run With Me: 2013 Official Cooper River Bridge Run Bands.” The discs are available for sale around town, via the Music Initiative website and online at CDBaby.com. Proceeds from sales will benefit The Music Initiative and This is Noteworthy, the bands and the Cooper River Bridge Run charities.
“We wanted the CD to represent the music of the area, but we also wanted the song order to represent how a runner runs on this course,” Findlay said of “Run With Me.” “If they need to go on an incline, they can have something with a steady beat. If they plateau out, they can have something more mellow that carries them in a different way. We wanted it to be like what a runner might have compiled on their own iPod for the race.”