MARQUETTE - Five years after his death, Sean Costello is still bringing people together.
The internationally acclaimed blues musician, who died in 2008 on the day before his 29th birthday, inspired local musicians to put together a benefit in 2012 to raise money for the Sean Costello Fund for Bipolar Research.
Costello had played several shows in the Marquette area before his untimely passing.
The benefit - called Kickin' The Blues this year - has expanded to raise money for a second organization, The Daniel Olson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
"For our first fundraising event, last May, we had excellent music, a good turnout and a successful silent auction," said Tom Hyslop, one of the benefits organizers, in an email. "Some of the folks who participated last year saw a real opportunity to expand on that success, and I wanted to build on it to make this year a bigger deal.
"This year's fundraiser is sure to be bigger, because sadly, we have a stronger local connection," Hyslop said. "When Daniel Olson passed so tragically, many people in our communities took note. Scott Syrjala, who teaches and coaches at Ishpeming High, wanted to take some concrete steps to support the scholarship fund established in Daniel's memory. Scott is also a musician and a fan of Sean Costello's music. He recognized the obvious connection between the mental health issues that took both Daniel and Sean from us, and approached me about joining forces.
"It seemed like a winning proposition to me, in that we would be able to expand our audience to benefit two related causes, without duplicating efforts. After discussing it with Sean's parents, who are on the board of the fund, we all agreed it made great sense. So it was Sean's music that brought Scott and me, and the two causes, together."
Daniel Olson, an outstanding local athlete and student at Ishpeming High School, took his own life in 2012 at age 19. In his memory, his family established a scholarship which will be given annually to a student-athlete from IHS.
The Kickin' the Blues benefit will be from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 25 in the community space at the Ore Dock Brewing Company at 114 W. Spring St. in Marquette. Those under 21 are welcome from 3-8 p.m. Donations will be accepted at the door.
Music will be provided by local acts Travis Swanson and the Midnight Movers; Flat Broke Blues Band; and Jackpine, with Felix Reyes, a nationally known bluesman who was Costello's mentor, as the headliner.
Syrjala said he's thrilled with the reaction to the benefit.
"The response has been huge," he said. "We are very appreciative of all the donations and sponsorships. Students in my management and marketing classes have helped plan, organize and even a student came up with the name, Kickin' The Blues - which I think is great.
"Jeff and his family are very close to my heart and I wanted to do something to help them out with the scholarship," Syrjala said.
With the local interest piqued, the benefit includes even more great raffle prizes.
"This year, we are raffling a very cool, vintage archtop guitar that was autographed by the 2012 Blues Fest performers," Hyslop said. "The silent auction will be bigger and better: Local businesses have really come forward to help, and I have contacted musicians all over the country and internationally. So many of them believe deeply in this cause.
"The result is that we'll have a truly incredible array of signed items from blues, rock, and soul musicians. And our entertainment will be fantastic. Many of our local artists who were friends of, or deeply influenced by, Sean Costello, are generously sharing their time and talent. And we are fortunate that our good friend, the great Felix Reyes, is coming from Chicago to play. Sean was one of the many players Felix has mentored over the years, and always cited Felix as one of his major influences."
Hyslop said organizers are hoping for a good turnout.
"The plan is to give people an afternoon and evening of great entertainment, and also to shine the light a little, during Mental Health Month, on the very real challenges people face," Hyslop said. "I've been struck by how many people have told me they have direct experience - whether personal, with a family member or loved one, or a band member or coworker - with mental health issues."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org