Author Archives: Chris Wiser

About Chris Wiser

I am the keyboard player and front man for the funky kindie band Sugar Free Allstars.

Behind the B3: Putting Together A Music Festival (aka, What Was I Thinking??)

Putting a music festival together is a lot of work, a whole lot of work, more work than I could have ever imagined.  I know this because we just hosted the first ever family music festival in Oklahoma, Wiggle Out Loud, on September 1st of this year, and it was a lot of work.  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in several months, this is because I never realized how all consuming putting together a festival was going to be. Did I mention it was a lot of work?  Okay, just making sure I got that point across.

So why do it? I asked myself that question numerous times over the past year or so, but the plain and simple answer is the time was right, Oklahoma was ready.  For several years we have played at the amazing Jiggle Jam Family Festival in Kansas City, Mo on Memorial Day weekend and have always been so impressed by what a fantastic event it is. It was always in the back of our minds that it would be so great to try putting together something similar in OKC, an idea that was reinforced and encouraged by our good friend Dana Morrow, Director of Outreach for our local Metropolitan Library System (she’s also one of our biggest inspirations and cheerleaders). The market for family music in this area has grown exponentially since our foray into the genre in 2007 to the point that there are now at least three family acts in the OKC metro area.  The time was right.

Okay, that’s great, we thought it would be cool to “one day” do a festival.  For several years that was about the extent of it, until we met our good friend Rob Crissinger.  Rob is a PR man extraordinaire (and all around great guy) for Bumbershoot PR, an awesome community-minded public relations firm here in OKC we work with on the local level.  When we first met I mentioned something to him in passing about doing an OKC family music fest and Rob immediately started connecting the dots with suggestions of amazing people who would love to be involved………and thus the ball started rolling.

This brings us to the folks that helped make it all happen.  It’s just not possible to put together an event like this by yourself, so finding people who know way more about their festival positions than you ever could is paramount.  For instance, you get someone from the art museum and local symphony to chair the art/music activities committee, you get someone from the city’s public school system physical education department to chair the exercise/movement activities committee, and so on and so on.  We were so fortunate to have well respected and accomplished members of high profile community organizations and local businesses involved with the planning.  They all genuinely wanted to see the festival succeed for the good of the community and the event truly benefited from their expertise. In my mind they were, without question, the key to Wiggle Out Loud’s success.

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So if we had all these amazing people on board what was so hard about it?  Well it wasn’t that each thing needing to be done was so difficult on its own, it was that there were just SO MANY decisions to be made and tasks to complete, and they all required careful consideration.  Things that I had never had to do before like renting port-a-potties, booking a sound and stage company, figuring out how many tents/tables we would need, thinking through our parking situation, working on a festival grounds layout, raising money…..oh yeah, that one was kind of important.  I quickly learned that it can be a challenge to attract sponsors for a first year event, especially in the wake of consecutive natural disasters like the tornadoes that hit central Oklahoma around the end of May this year.  Also, please keep in mind that I had, up until this point, only experienced festivals as an attendee and/or performer, never as an organizer, so this side of things was all brand new to me.  It’s an understatement to say I felt overwhelmed on numerous occasions and wished I could just walk away from it all.  People would laugh and think I was just trying to be funny when I would tell them about being curled up in a ball on the floor of my office with my eyes closed while my wife was asking if I was okay and me telling her I just wanted to stay where I was and keep my eyes closed…….yeah, that really happened.  But it was her support and several pep talks from good friends (Rob Crissinger and Tracey Zeeck specifically) that helped me get through times like these to continue moving toward our end goal.

So after all has been said and done (or on it’s way to being done, still in the process of following up on our budget and sponsor packet deliveries) the festival was an enormous success, especially for a first year event.  We had hoped for 2500 attendees and by all estimates we doubled that and then some.  The mayor of OKC was even there and introduced our set!  All the bands were amazing, the activities were a hit, the food trucks/vendors (all providing healthier food options) were delicious, all in all a grand time was had by everyone in attendance.  It was a very trying experience for me at times but I learned so much in a short amount of time and I feel like I’m truly a better person for it.

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 Would I do it again?  Well, planning has already started for next year, so I guess the answer is yes. My question for you is….who’s in for Wiggle Out Loud 2014??

That’s all for now, see you again soon from Behind the B3…….

The awesome Wiggle Out Loud follow up/promo video at the top was put together by the amazing Nathan Poppe

Behind the B3: Oklahoma Tornado Aftermath

Staring at the computer screen right now just trying to find words to express how we are all feeling in Oklahoma after yesterday’s devastating tornado. It’s awful, just horrible, our hearts are aching for those who have been affected by what is now thought to be the most destructive tornado in recorded history. My family and I live in Edmond, which is 30-40 miles north of Moore where the tornado hit, so we are all safe and have no damage. But the day before, May 19th, we ourselves were in a storm shelter as a small tornado touched down a half mile away from us (luckily we had no damage then either). Living in Oklahoma my whole life this is nothing new, we grew up with tornadoes and for years have known all about what to do when the sirens go off, but it still never prepares you emotionally for how to deal with this kind of destruction. We watched the whole thing on TV yesterday with all our things ready to go to the shelter again in case it got bad near us, but it never did. We watched as, within an hour, the weather went from almost clear blue skies to a deadly F4 tornado in Moore, destroying everything in its path.

We’ve seen a bad one like this before, on May 3rd, 1999 in almost the exact same place, so we knew as we watched that people were losing their lives. 40-50 minutes and it was over. Then we start to see images of the damage, entire neighborhoods and businesses…..gone. The aerial view looked almost like a giant lawnmower cut a path (up to 2 miles wide at points) all the way through the city. Since then we’ve been glued to the TV, Twitter and Facebook, reposting/retweeting info so friends outside the area will know what’s going on and that we’re okay, and to try and help disseminate helpful information to those in the area as well.

This has been very emotional for everyone around here. I have personally spent a lot of time in the area that was hit as I used to teach music lessons at schools in that part of Moore. In the Sugar Free Allstars I have played at the library in Moore on numerous occasions. One of the worst things for us has been learning that two elementary schools suffered direct hits while kids were still there. Thankfully at one of the schools, Briarwood Elementary, all of the kids have been accounted for. Tragically at the other school, Plaza Towers Elementary, they have shifted from search and rescue to search and recovery, with several children still inside. This is heart wrenching for us as many of the performances we do are in elementary schools just like this for kids the same age as those that are still inside, and there is a good chance that some of the kids at both schools have come to our shows. At home, we’re trying to keep it together so my two-year-old who is mostly oblivious doesn’t worry but there have already been a couple of times today when I’ve been by myself that it’s become overwhelming and I just have to cry…

I do want to make sure and sing the praises for our local OK weathermen and storm chasers: if it were not for their early warnings and up to date reports there is no doubt that there would have been far more lives lost. Now it’s time to gather some things to take to a donation center and try and help as much as we can. These folks need all the help they can get. I am including a list of ways that you can provide aid even if you are not anywhere close. Oklahoma – and our entire country – is full of good people. They have already had to turn away volunteers because so may people are showing up to help. Donation locations are being overwhelmed with goods and monetary contributions. For every tragic story, there are even more stories of survival and hope: teachers covering students with their own bodies, first responders and neighbors rushing to help with no thought for their own safety… Oklahoma is strong. We will survive.

* Donations of $10 to assist those affected by the tornado can be made by texting STORM to 80888 for Salvation Army, texting REDCROSS to 90999 for Red Cross, or by texting FOOD to 32333 for the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank.

* United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Disaster Relief Fund—donations may be made online at or by mail to United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK 73101 with notation for May Tornado Relief.

* Contributions to the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund can be made securely online at Donations can also be mailed to TCF offices at 7030 S. Yale, Suite 600, Tulsa, OK, 74136.

For a complete list of ways to help those affected in the May 20th Oklahoma tornado visit

To find loved ones in Moore:

Behind the B3: SFA and the String Theory

Everyone has a bucket list. We’ve been so fortunate in the Sugar Free Allstars to have already crossed many of the things off on our list – perform in Europe, meet some of our favorite musicians, tour across the country… Then there are those things that aren’t on the bucket list, nor even on a wish list of any kind, because the chances of them happening are so remote that it doesn’t even enter your conscious mind. Crazy things like, oh I don’t know, performing your own music with a symphony orchestra…….oh wait, we got to do that!!!

Okay, in all fairness we’ve always kind of thought it would be pretty cool to perform with an orchestra, I mean, who wouldn’t want to experience that? But you don’t really think it’s going to happen. So how did it? Well to make a long story short here’s how it all began. First we met a guy that works for the OKC Philharmonic at a show we’re playing for the OKC Museum of Art; he loves the idea of us playing with the orchestra and passes the idea along. Then we hire a woman who plays in the OKC Phil to do some violin parts on our most recent album, she also loves the idea of us playing with the orchestra and passes the idea along. Next thing you know we’re setting up a meeting with the organization’s executive director and when we show up there are SIX staff members in attendance, excited that we are there, listening intently to what we have to say, writing things down and in general TAKING THIS WHOLE THING VERY SERIOUSLY…….at this point the reality of this performance is actually starting to sink in……holy moly…..this is really going to happen.

After some of the initial details are worked out we take a few days figuring out a set list….I mean here is a chance to have some of our songs arranged for a symphony orchestra so it was important to pick songs that we thought would benefit and be enhanced by orchestral arranging. We settle on a mix of: a couple of tunes we do on a regular basis, along with a few that aren’t performed as often, and one that we had never performed live. Our good friend and fellow Okie who now lives in Brooklyn was selected to arrange the orchestra’s parts and we spend several months discussing ideas with him, going back and forth, tweaking the orchestrations until they are just right.

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All the while we are keeping in contact with the Phil’s general manager and PR officer to coordinate logistics and promotions. It was definitely a unique experience spending months and months preparing for just one show as we are accustomed to playing several shows in a week, very often several shows in a day.

As the date for the show closes in we begin to do local TV spots, sign off on the arrangements, have final meetings with the general manager, arranger and conductor, select our wardrobe and polish our dance moves (you heard right, dance moves).

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Then the day arrives, we have promoted more heavily than ever before, invited everyone we knew and prepared in every way we could possibly think of. The morning of the show we have a 2 hour rehearsal with the orchestra (the only rehearsal we do with them……yikes!) and work out some last minute kinks. We relax for a couple of hours, have some lunch then it’s showtime. In the months since all the preparation began I always wondered if I would be nervous before the show. There was a moment when the overture began (yeah, we even had an overture – pretty sweet, huh?) that I got butterflies but they passed and it was replaced with excitement. From the moment we walked on the stage and had close to 1,000 people going nuts for us…it was on! Everything went pretty much exactly as it had played out in our heads, which is a very rare thing. The show could not have gone more smoothly, and from the beginning to the end of the concert I’m sure that everyone in the room that day would agree that it was a very special experience for all involved.

So there you have it, our first ever symphony show, what an amazing time it was.

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I proceeded to get sick the evening after the show, guess my body finally let down….just thankful it didn’t happen any sooner. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to perform with a symphony again, but no matter how many times that may happen there will never again be a first time, it was truly a once in a lifetime event and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience it from Behind the B3…….