“My favorite part?” laughed The Wizards of Winter founder Scott Kelly. “That’s a good question. For me, this is a full-time job. Between writing music, tour logistics and a thousand hours to produce 20 shows, I’d say being onstage is the pure enjoyment. There’s also nothing like hearing your own music on the radio or on a United Airlines flight. It’s very rewarding.”
The prog-rock group came about, initially, for charitable reasons.
“I founded it in the winter of 2009 but we really didn’t get going until 2010,” said Kelly. “I left my band at the time (Contrarian) and around that same time I heard that our local food pantry was in bad shape and I really wanted to do something to help. So I decided to organize a group of musicians and a holiday concert which I thought may be a one-off or perhaps an annual event, and I decided that I didn’t want to just do Christmas carols or standards. I knew that people were really into the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, so we went with their music, and the people loved it.
“Once the show was done, we were getting asked where they could get the album, so I started writing our own music. Then in 2013, I had several original TSO members join the band, and the next thing I know we’ve got our own Pandora channel and we’re playing small arenas and concert venues. From serendipity, it took on a life of its own.”
Be it the food pantry, Habitat for Humanity or the Wounded Warrior Foundation, to name several of the many charities the group has aided, Kelly sees that as the group’s primary focus: giving back. This weekend sees them at it once again as they are performing at the Landis Theater in Vineland, Nov. 24, and then at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Nov. 25. They will also be at BergenPAC in Englewood, Dec. 16.
“We try and give back as much as possible,” he said. “We support quite a few charities, and this show at the Landis is along those lines. We are trying to help the venue out a bit as they’ve been having trouble selling tickets. We’re hoping to stem that trend and get a good crowd which would help their cause and ours, too. Even if we get a few hundred people more excited about the place, it helps. Who knows how many will come, but that’s the business.
“We know that the Red Bank show will do well, as we’ve performed there and done well in the past. This Landis show is new for us and we’re hoping we do well enough where we can keep being asked back.”
When going to a Wizards production, one should keep in mind that it is exactly that, a production. Kelly and his crew do their own story line and choreography and, with everyone getting involved, it is a team effort.
“Actually, for my wife and I, choreography is in our background, as well as (for) our vocalist and new violinist Ellie Krasner,” said Kelly. “We need to coordinate things carefully, because people are running around with flutes and stringed instruments in their hands.
“The great thing about our show,” he said, “is that although it may be the same theme, this year we’re going to take you on a journey inside a snow globe on Christmas Eve, and our story ….” He hesitated since he did not want to give too much away.
“Let’s put it this way: I’m a big science fiction fan, a big Dr. Who fan and like that show I want to be able to take the audience and the show anywhere. I didn’t want to get caught where we fell into the same old plot. So we created the ‘Arctic Flyer,’ which is the mode of transportation, and it will take us anywhere we want to go. So even though the premise is the same we have a different story each time we tell it, and no two shows are the same.”
After two warmup performances in Florida, they arrive back home in New Jersey for the aforementioned shows before heading out to the Pacific Northwest for multiple dates.
Kelly wants all to know that even though we get caught up in holiday pressures and events, there’s a deeper meaning to the season: one that we tend to sometimes overlook.
“We search for the meaning of Christmas beyond Santa and religion,” he said. “We are trying to show that family, friends and being with loved ones is the most important at this time of the year. Bringing people together is what matters most.”
For more about The Wizards of Winter, visit thewizardsofwinter.com.
That’s it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week … ROCK ON!