Builder Constructs Five-Man Band

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Foster Brooks band rocks to a different beat.

Drumming was hardly forefront in builder Scott Gittleman’s mind when he designed his Bloomfield Township home in 2006. But the 400-square-foot, ultra-soundproof music studio above the garage betrayed an internal desire to jam.

The childhood drummer had skipped out on his craft for 20-some years while raising a family and establishing Farmington Hills-based Gittleman Construction. A milestone birthday, a son’s passion for guitar playing and a few well-connected friends revived Gittleman’s beat.

A couple of years ago, Gittleman’s teenage son Jace was in a talent show with his guitar teacher Dave Pandolfi, with Gittleman looking on. Pandolfi said what they both were thinking: “We should be doing this.”

Gittleman, now 53, had purchased a drum set for his 40th birthday and had already dabbled in bands that either broke up or weren’t the right fit, he says. He wanted a band based on strong personal connections, much like his 35-year-old construction business.

Gittleman and Pandolfi looked first to their circle of friends and acquaintances in seeking fellow musicians. For example, Mark Anderson’s daughter and Gittleman’s daughter were in class together. The girls were at Anderson’s Farmington Hills home one day, and the wives began to talk. “I came home that night to find out I was in a band,” Anderson jokes.

Anderson’s “audition” consisted of a few jam sessions with the band, which made him anxious since he’d put away his bass for 25 years to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. “I thought, ‘These guys are really good. They’re going to pick somebody else.’”

But Gittleman focused less on Anderson’s real or perceived musical rustiness than how his personality and life stage — all the members are married with children — fit with the band.

“It’s about having fun,” Gittleman says. “Music is not a competition.” Besides, says Gittleman, the technical stuff in music follows the passion. “When you really attempt to do something, it grows pretty fast.”

Foster Brooks, named for a 1970s comedian famous for his portrayal of an inebriated man, includes Gittleman on drums; Anderson on bass; Sam Gray of Bloomfield Hills, a construction client of Gittleman’s, on lead vocals; Pandolfi of Berkley on lead guitar and Doug Kahan of Bloomfield Hills, the newest member, who auditioned after meeting the band at a party, on keyboards.

The music is a combination of classic rock, pop and easy listening. “From the start, we decided we would only play music we really like and hope our audience approves,” says Pandolfi. “There are a thousand great songs out there that we and our audience grew up with.”

“We have a good library of 50 or so songs,” Anderson says. “We all have our favorite genres. We have a rule that when we add songs, we all get to pick one song,” which keeps the band’s repertoire diverse, he says.

There’s some Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beatles and Neil Diamond. But newer tunes from artists like Gavin DeGraw and Bruno Mars make their way into sets, Anderson says.

Because the band members all have families and day jobs, Foster Brooks plays publicly, at most, once a month. “A lot of us have young kids,” Gittleman says. “We don’t want to turn our wives into groupies.”

Gigs have included a fundraiser for Temple Israel — where Foster Brooks held its own in a pool of younger bands — plus a few bar scenes and private parties. The band’s reception has been great, Gittleman says.

“I think the reason people like us is because they can see we’re having fun,” Anderson says. “They pick up on that energy.”

Weekly rehearsals at Gittleman’s studio are like guys’ night out, Gittleman says. “We get together and just check out for a few hours.”

“We spend as much time laughing as we do practicing,” Anderson says. “The camaraderie is amazing.”

The band’s close friendships keep the music going, Gittleman says. Because they’re less concerned with making money than sharing their passion for good music with others, there are no power struggles or other conflicts that plague many bands.

What’s more, the next generation of Foster Brooks is in the works because many of the band members’ children play music, too. “It’s all intertwined, and all these kids are playing together now,” Gittleman says.

“This could be a really long-term thing,” Gittleman adds. “It’s created some really strong friendships. It’s not like other bands I’ve been in.”

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