John Greenwald: Garage Band on a Mission

By Sally Anne Flecker | Fall 2015

When John Greenwald (EMBA ’97) graduated from high school in 1978 in Ludington, Michigan, he and his guitar-playing buddies scattered to the four winds.

Ludington is a picture-perfect town on Lake Michigan with a population under 10,000, whose sandy beaches and lighthouse attract throngs on summer weekends. When Greenwald’s father died six years ago in early July, friends who came to pay their respects mentioned that they’d been getting together to play music informally every year around the Fourth of July. The gathering had been, fittingly, in someone’s garage, although it had outgrown that setting by that time. They invited Greenwald, a consultant living in Atlantic Beach, Florida, to join them the next year.

He did, calling on the members from his old band in Detroit, the Sweaty Fat Ugly Guys.

That year, they decided to collect donations for charity — a simple pass-the-hat that raised $509. “We were pretty happy about that,” says Greenwald. He began talking with a few friends about the potential for bigger things.

Before you know it, they’d formed a nonprofit, organized a board, and were spending every Saturday on a two-hour conference call hammering out the mission and strategy for Ludrock (a mash-up of Ludington Rock). Last year, the event, held in a scenic lakefront park, spanned two days and included 52 bands. Ludrock has raised more than $100,000 for local charities.

Greenwald is insistent that his role involved little more than coaching; there were others who had the vision and stepped forward as leaders.

“The whole community comes out, almost as if it is a giant class reunion from all years of Ludington High School,” says Greenwald, adding that the event is organized down to the minute and run by a boatload of passionate volunteers. “The whole goal is to give back. That’s an overused term, but Ludrock truly started with people who love our little beachfront community and are inspired and dedicated to raise funds for local charities.”