By Keith Gushard
A former restless kid from Meadville and three college friends have a chance to become the newest breakout musical artist featured on MTV’s 24-hour college network, mtvU — if they get enough votes from the public through March 1.
Tyler Ross of Meadville, Clayton Jones from St. Louis, Phil Ortiz from Sugar Grove, Ill.,, and Mitch Schrock from Burr Oak, Mich., are The Madison Letter, a pop/rock band at Greenville College in Greenville, Ill.
“Winning would be a huge opportunity for us,” Ross said in a recent telephone interview. “We are looking to make it our careers. It would be putting our name on the path we want. The cool part is our fans get to help us.”
The Madison Letter is one of four college-based bands up for a 2013 mtvU Woodie Awards as the college artist with votes taken at Chevy.MTV.com now through midnight on March 1.
The winner will be announced at the ninth annual “mtvU Woodie Awards” March 14 during the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. A half-hour “2013 mtvU Woodie Awards Special” airs March 17 at 8 p.m. on MTV and mtvU.
Ross, a 2009 graduate of Meadville Area Senior High School and the band’s drummer, got his musical start at age 9.
“I was fidgety as a young kid and Mom wanted to channel the energy into something, so it was the drums,” he said chuckling.
He’s kept right on playing since then and put music as his career choice when he went off to Greenville College. Ross is majoring in audio engineering and minoring in music at the college.
The Madison Letter formed in February 2010 at Greenville College when its members met as freshmen.
“It started with me and Clayton,” Ross said. “We were hallmates and started jamming together. Phil heard us playing and let it be known he’d like to join in, so he came and started jamming with us. Mitch and Clayton knew each other, so Mitch started coming by, too.”
The band got to be known in the Midwest and in October 2012, The Madison Letter was asked to open for the Irish pop/rock band The Script at Peabody Opera House in St. Louis. The band performed before a large crowd and received an overwhelming response, according to Ross.
The Madison Letter describes itself as a band that “delivers a fresh, mainstream sound with strong vocal, melodic, lyrical, and rhythmic elements.”
The band has released a total of 11 songs to date on two CDs. “Patience,” released in 2011, has five tracks, while the self-titled “The Madison Letter,” released in 2012, has six songs.
Ross said the grop is working on new material to take to a producer this summer for a full album.
The group’s name refers to a letter written by President James Madison in which he declared that a nation without God at its core could not survive. Ross said members of The Madison Letter believe the same is true in their own lives, in their music, and most importantly, in the success of the band.
Ross said the group enjoys performing live shows and traveling from coast-to-coast.
“I like being in a new place, meeting new people, hanging out and you get to redo it in a different town,” he said.
The group hopes the exposure will lead to an even bigger following, Ross said.
You can vote
You can vote for The Madison Letter as mtvU’s college artist by going to Chevy.MTV.com. The Madison Letter includes Tyler Ross, a 2009 graduate of Meadville Area Senior High School, as its drummer. Voting ends on March 1 at midnight.
The “mtvU Woodie Awards” originate from the independent music tradition of giving a wooden record to those artists who generate a passionate response to their music. The show was established in 2004 and has since propelled numerous recognized acts to the next level of their careers — including surging record sales, headlining tours and mainstream acclaim, according to MTV, the Music Television network.