Perfect night for music

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, July 6, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – The band started out of necessity.
In fact, their website called the creation an accident.
"We never planned on playing in a 'family' band," the biography page states.
Four years ago, Niles resident Mark Ficks, who lived in Cleveland at the time, was working at a tennis club and needed some entertainment.
"I had a big tennis tournament and I wanted a party for it," Ficks said.
So, Ficks said he called his uncle ,Roger Wright, his father, Bill Ficks and his cousins, Emma and Peter Wright and the group put a band together without any practice.
And, just like that Ten Minute Warmup was born.
The band will take the stage at the Riverfront Park amphitheater in downtown Niles Thursday at 7 p.m. for the Summer Concert Series.
Mark, lead vocalist and guitar player for Ten Minute Warmup, eventually moved to Niles and has served as tennis director at Lakeland Athletic Club for more than two years. He also coaches the boys' varsity tennis team at St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind. The sport was actually the basis for the group's name.
Mark said his mother Carol suggested the title because everyone in the band is a tennis bum.
"A ten minute warm-up is usually what people do before they start matches," Mark said.
Mark's brother Scott, one of three bass players in the band, is a tennis director at the Moorland Park Tennis Club in New Berlin, Wis. Bill "Smoothsticks Ficks' is the drummer and long-time tennis coach in Vincennes, Ind. Roger coaches high school tennis in Ohio, plays bass and is also the band's resident instructor on instruments and vocals.
"If there was a teacher, it's Roger," Mark said.
Mark's cousins are also deeply involved with the sport – and the band. Emma plays bass and won the most matches in the history of her high school and now coaches high school tennis. Peter holds the number one singles spot at his high school in Cincinnati and handles Latin percussion and bass guitar for Ten Minute Warmup.
So, does everyone in the band sneak in a round of tennis before or after show time?
"Believe it or not, we don't. For Scott and I, it's our job. So when we do a show it's usually like a break," Mark said.
Since the band members live in separate states, Mark said each person has come to understand the importance of rehearsing on their own.
"That's one of the other kinds of unique things about the band. We have to rely on each other to practice individually, then when we get together for a show we sometimes get to practice a few songs through song checks.
"We understand it's all of our individual responsibilities to practice our own stuff," he said.
Aside from Roger, who started out as a guitar player 40 years ago, and Mark, a music major in college, everyone in the band learned to play their instruments on their own – and with a little help from Roger, Mark said. And, most of the members have only been involved with music for a few years.
Mark said 'Smoothsticks Ficks', who turned 60 last Friday, actually purchased his first set three years ago. In order to convince Scott to join Ten Minute Warmup, Mark said the rest of the group had to buy him a bass guitar for Christmas two years ago.
Ten Minute Warmup plays classic rock and country tunes. They also write many songs of their own, which are also mainly about the family.
Mark said a favorite with every crowd is 'Momma's Fallen and She Can't Get Up'. The song was actually written following an incident during one of the band's shows in Warsaw, Ind.
Mark said the group was in the middle of a set when his mother fell and broke her ankle. The result was 11 screws and a metal plate in Carol's ankle and a cancelled show for 500 guests, Mark said.
"We like to write about family stuff," he said. "And so we make fun of her with that song."
Ten Minute Warmup also has a preference on shows. Mark said the band enjoys playing special organized venues.
"We love to play events, benefits, fundraisers, festivals. We like to play for causes," he said.
Which is part of the reason Ten Minute Warmup will return to Niles July 22 for Relay For Life. The benefit walk around the Niles High School track raises research money for cancer, which band member Emma has already won a battle over, Mark said.
The Niles Relay will be the third for the band, which also played two similar events in Mark's hometown of Vincennes, Ind.
Aside from the events the group chooses to play, Mark said Ten Minute Warmup is proud to place a high priority on their vocals.
"We're a guitar band with real good vocals," he said. "You're gonna be able to understand the words."
Even more pride comes with playing alongside family members, Mark added.
"We can't believe that our family is getting to do this and I'm sitting up there looking at my dad playing drums behind me. It's pretty neat," Mark said. "We're a family and we don't take it for granted that we get to play together as family. It's definitely made us stronger as a family and we see each other more often. But, I don't know if the wives dig it."
Ten Minute Warmup will also play the Niles Riverfest Friday, Aug. 4 at 6 p.m.