Mike Leckrone and Joe Koss – COPA Madison

Art in Life Secrets: “Kids who participate in music, whether they continue it on at a great level or not, become the strong students of that area, that society.

Former UW Band Director Mike Leckrone and former Culver’s CEO Joe Koss have joined forces to bring art to everyone, starting in Madison, Wisconsin with COPA, Community Organizations Promoting the Arts.

Listen as Joe and Mike detail their plans to bring art of all kinds to as many people as possible, as well as giving people the space to create their art.  Art is often an overlooked skill and the value of creativity can not be denied.  The world is simply a better place with creative minds open to actually create.

Mike and Joe are working with many talented and connected people on the board of COPA Madison to make this a reality and their plans are admirable and exciting.


Visit Joe and Mike at: COPAmadison.org

Authentic Business Adventures Podcast

Podcast Overview:

[00:01:00] Retired band director helps organize music programs.

[00:08:21] Nonprofit providing diverse music services, collaboration encouraged.

[00:12:24] Arts program brings smiles and educational impact.

[00:13:29] Participation in music leads to strong students.

[00:22:26] Supporting music for underserved youth, scholarships provided.

[00:24:44] Start-up nonprofit story telling, donor outreach, PR.

[00:32:04] Recruiting board members with diverse backgrounds.

[00:34:07] Strengthened partnership, supportive, successful fundraising workshop.

[00:36:55] Accessible building, grassroots movement, growing programs, worthwhile goal.

[00:40:22] Successful concerts featuring diverse performers before COVID.

[00:44:38] “Get right pieces, tap passion, achieve success.”

[00:48:57] Intense focus on art; website for more information.

Podcast Transcription:

James [00:00:02]:

You have found authentic business adventures business program that brings you the struggle, stories and triumphs and successes of business owners across the land. Downloadable audio episodes can be found in the podcast link found@drawincustomers.com. We’re locally underwritten by the bank of Sun Prairie and today we’re welcoming slash preparing to learn from Joe Cost, the former CEO of the growing Culver’s franchise, which you’ve probably heard of eaten There enjoyed, as well as Mike Leckrone, the former UW band director, which you’ve probably seen perform. But today we’re talking about the new nonprofit they are part of, which is Copa. So, Joe and Mike, how are you doing today?

Mike Leckrone [00:00:39]:

Doing well, doing well.

Joe Koss [00:00:40]:

Thanks for having us.

James [00:00:41]:

Thanks for being on the show. You guys are powerhouses here. So I’m excited to have you guys. And you’re part of this nonprofit which is, I guess in the end just giving back to the community, which is great to hear. So Mike, let’s just start with you, former UW Band director. How did you get into this Copa thing?

Mike Leckrone [00:01:00]:

Well, I fell into it when I retired from being the band director. A lot of people say, oh, he’s got a lot of time on his hands, let’s see if he can help us with this. And I got an inordinate amount of calls from people who wanted to know if I could help them with personnel. They say we’ve got music groups that want to play, but there’s no organization, there’s no place for them to play, there’s no place for them to do their thing musically. And I looked into it a little further and I discovered that was right because high schools were filling up their programs and they did want to take it on in a lot of cases. There were a few community places, but they were always filled up with requests. So I said there’s got to be a place around. So there were a few people came to me and said, well, we’re trying to get this organization start which will help people in communities develop a system where they can put on these kind of programs at a low cost. And I think that was paramount in my thinking is I wanted to make sure this was a slow cost kind of thing.

James [00:02:09]:

All right, and then Joe, how did you get involved with this?

Joe Koss [00:02:12]:

Yeah, so I joined a little later than Mike last year in fact. And well, like know, after I retired, certainly folks reached out to me on different organizations and nonprofits and got connected to Copa through a mutual acquaintance of ours that I serve on another board with and went to a meeting and was interested in the concept, the cause really what they were trying to accomplish. And as I told the group, I have no artistic talents at all, so I can’t lend that, but maybe I could provide support in other areas. So joined last year and it’s been a fun ride since very cool.

James [00:03:03]:

So let’s continue on with what is Copa?

Joe Koss [00:03:06]:

Yeah, so Copa is short for community organizations promoting the arts. And we believe that affordable access to the arts is really better for our communities. And so it’s our goal to provide a facility that provides access to all forms of the arts. And this is everything from musicians to the visual arts, painters and sculptors and other forms of artists. And we have a facility currently that we’re operating out of today in Fitchburg. It’s an old repurposed office warehouse space, and we’re making good use of that. And really, it is our goal to and we’ve got some big dreams to ultimately take that building down and build a world class arts facility where folks can not only create art, but learn art, learn the arts and perform as well. And we want to build a performance stage and that as a part of that facility as well.

James [00:04:18]:

All right, so what group of people started Copa?

Mike Leckrone [00:04:25]:

Well, Copa was probably the brainchild of a guy who was blanking.

Joe Koss [00:04:35]:


James [00:04:36]:


Mike Leckrone [00:04:36]:

Yeah. Dale sticker. Sticker. And he’s a musician and he works in the arts. He works in various arts, a lot of television, a lot of live productions. And Dale wanted to get some help with people because he felt like he knew the business side, he felt like he knew the technical side, but he was lost for the production side, for the actual music side. So Dale’s been sort of the pusher that made sure we had it’s his building that we’re planning to reface. And at the end, he’s been very helpful in just being an idea guy. Dale’s a dreamer, and he comes up with some really great ideas. Some of them need to take the time. So I think he’s sort of that aspect of it. All I know is music. I don’t know anything else. So I can’t help with the business part of it. I can’t help with anything except the fact that I can work with the musicians. And again, that’s where it comes down to. We want Copa to be accessible to all musicians, not just the higher echelon ones, not just the ones that are great players already or really good players. We want that guy who’s maybe played drums for a couple of years and give him an opportunity to get together with a group of people and play. You have no idea how big a kick that is. Well, maybe just to be able to play with a group is just a huge kick for most people.

James [00:06:31]:

All right, so is there a vision or mission statement or something like that with Copa for, I guess, the big overarching goal? Like, what does success look like, I suppose, for Copa as far as that goes?

Joe Koss [00:06:44]:

And again, we want to be able to provide affordable access to the know. You look across Dane County and there’s many great facilities right, that provide that access to the arts. But what we’ve come to find out, and Mike can share more on this, that there is still a great need for space and great need for affordable space. And we want to cater to those that are maybe underserved and can’t afford some of these more pricier venues. And so we want to work in partnership with these other venues and provide access across all ages, from young to the seasoned folks as well. That is our big goal. And to be able to provide this space again, for folks to create their art, to learn their arts, to perform as well.

James [00:07:43]:

So if I understand this correctly, you’re talking painting, sculpture, music, which includes piano, drums, guitar, singing, all that jazz. There’s probably other art I don’t know, poetry I’m not even thinking of. So there’s two things that come to mind from a business standpoint is one, that sounds like a lot of space, and two, it sounds like a lot of equipment, I imagine, for instruments and painting, pallets, paint, all that kind of stuff. And then I guess, how do you make money or sustain it kind of thing, which I bet are problems that you guys are working on solving now.

Mike Leckrone [00:08:21]:

Yeah, well, from my standpoint, it’s a nonprofit, so my idea wasn’t necessarily to make any money. I want to provide a service. I want that service to be there when people have that need. I was in Milwaukee when this first thing to visit a school very similar to what we’re planning here. And it just blew me away that these people are doing what I think and Joe, everybody else thinks Copa should be doing. They’re providing that space. And you’ll go in to the Milwaukee arts and you’ll find people doing Native American music, you’ll find them doing Latin American music. You’ll find them doing jazz, hip hop. And the fun of what I saw was there was no competition. There was this idea, hey, we want to work together. Maybe I’ll get an idea from you about how to make my Latin American music better, because I know a little bit more about jazz. And I saw that happening, and I literally said, why can’t we do this at Madison? And the answer was, there’s no reason why we can’t. And so that’s we got started that way. Now, I made the statement early on again that we could build this building in a year or two, and as soon as we got it built, somebody would be coming to you say, well, we need this, because that’s what’s going to happen. I mean, if you think of all the great potential arts areas we’re around here, start with the high schools, but then you got to go lower than that. You’ve got to go with the people who learn to play an instrument and don’t have an outlet anymore. And I don’t want that group to be ignored.

James [00:10:22]:


Mike Leckrone [00:10:22]:

And I think the older I get, the less I want them ignored.

James [00:10:25]:

Sure. Fair.

Mike Leckrone [00:10:26]:


James [00:10:27]:

I guess we’re in a studio here where as I’m thinking about it, they have kids that do filming and create their own shows and all that kind of stuff. And that’s just a single and that’s.

Joe Koss [00:10:36]:

A part yeah, that’s another aspect that we’d like to include as well is sort of that back of the stage training too. So how does someone become proficient at the sound and the AV piece of it? And we want to provide access to learning that aspect of the arts as well.

James [00:10:57]:

All right, so are you talking about a performance center as well where an audience can eventually eventually part of the.

Joe Koss [00:11:04]:

Dream is a 400 seat auditorium with a stage wow. And space for performances.

James [00:11:11]:

All right. And then I imagine sound rooms or something like that for recording and all that.

Mike Leckrone [00:11:16]:

Actually, Dale’s got a head start on it. He has a pretty good sound set up right now and he does a lot of recordings because he is a professional, that’s what he does.

James [00:11:27]:


Mike Leckrone [00:11:27]:

And so you’ll find that there will be people from all over the state coming to him because he knows they’re going to get a quality recording done with professional equipment.

James [00:11:38]:

Oh, wow.

Mike Leckrone [00:11:39]:

So we’ve got a head start on that. We’ve got a little bit of a head start on the building space because he’s got room. Cope is already doing weekly concerts.

James [00:11:53]:

Are they really?

Mike Leckrone [00:11:55]:

They’re not paid concerts. These are again, opportunities for people to get up and show what they can do and to be proficient at it.

Joe Koss [00:12:02]:

All right, so yeah, to give you an idea of some of the things going on in the Copa facility, mean, one of the major programs we’ve got going on right now is something we call the Harmony Project. And this is a project where we’re teaching music lessons and violin lessons to first grade students from one city schools.

James [00:12:23]:

All right.

Joe Koss [00:12:24]:

And so they’ve had a number of performances at our facility. And when you see these young kids with their little violins playing, you can’t help but smile, you can’t help but you know, the program is relatively new, just a little over a year in existence. And the teachers and administrators at the school will tell you that they’re already seeing a difference in these students. And Mike can probably speak better to this, just what the impact the arts, music have on these kids, not just in the area of the arts, but in their education as well.

James [00:13:07]:

It’s interesting how art and creativity can spark other intellect, intelligence, advancements, all that kind of stuff. And science, math, all that jazz. But I feel like societally we concentrate on the science and the math. Like, go invent the next big thing and kind of forget about like, art is just for fun kind of thing and forget about the result that can.

Mike Leckrone [00:13:29]:

Happen from there are a lot of interesting projects that have been started and studies that have been studied, that kids who participate in music, whether they continue it on at a great level or not, they become the strong students of that area, that society. I was at a meeting with Joe not long ago and I was testing it out. These were all honor students from all the Madison High schools. They had won all the prizes. And for fun, I said, how many of you had some music in your background when you started here? Every hand went up. And that, to me, is very telling, that they understood that it’s important to do that. I’ve mentioned also that I feel like the band the kids in the band love to play. They were in my band. They love to play. And a lot of people and they went on most of those get on and keep playing. They keep playing way longer than they should. No, I’m kidding. But those people find that that generates another interest that they can use. 60% or sorry, 40% of the Wisconsin band when I was there were engineering students, not music students, 40%. Engineer? Yeah, 40% were engineers.

James [00:15:01]:


Mike Leckrone [00:15:01]:

And that’s because engineering students want to do something besides just what they’re doing in the classroom, just what they’re doing in the lab. They want to have opportunities to show that they’ve got talent and can do it beyond the classroom experience. I think it’s hugely significant that that happens with us. And it’s been that way ever since I was with the band, so it’s not a fluke.

James [00:15:32]:

All right. And how long were you with them?

Mike Leckrone [00:15:35]:

50 years.

James [00:15:37]:

50 years? Yeah. Wow.

Mike Leckrone [00:15:39]:

Please say something, Mike. You don’t look that old.

James [00:15:41]:

You do not look that old. I’m just trying to think what was going on 50 years ago. I’m just trying to think historically. Like, recently we think of pandemic, but that was a drop in the bucket for 50 years.

Mike Leckrone [00:15:53]:

Well, I was watching the news. Nick Jaggers, is he’s 80 today? 80 years old.

James [00:15:59]:

Is he really? Yeah. Oh, nice. Look at that. And he’s still going?

Mike Leckrone [00:16:02]:

Oh, yeah, amazingly.

James [00:16:04]:

Yeah. I think I went to one of the Rolling Stones last concert. I bet that was 20 years ago.

Joe Koss [00:16:14]:

He was only 60 then.

Mike Leckrone [00:16:15]:

Yeah, it was funny because it was.

James [00:16:17]:

One of their last concerts and yeah, whatever, it’s still going, so good for them.

Joe Koss [00:16:23]:

Yeah. So this Harmony Project, that’s one of the major projects or programs we’ve got going on in Copa today. But a few other examples of things. We’re doing something called Indie Tune Up. This is an opportunity for local musicians to come and perform in front of a group of invited guests, so sort of on the smaller stage to practice their talents before they move on to maybe the bigger stage. We’ve held arts pop up shows where local artists can display their artwork. Very cool within the community. So those are just a few examples, but again, we’re looking to grow our programs and offerings and we have this space and we want to make sure that it’s accessible and affordable to all artists.

James [00:17:10]:

Tell me about the instructors. It sounds like there’s instructorship of some kind. Artists, yeah.

Joe Koss [00:17:16]:

So for the Harmony Project, we’ve contracted with some local music teachers to help teach again, the first graders their music lessons and violin lessons. And so today Copa has a staff of zero. We’re operating with mostly volunteers.

James [00:17:35]:

Oh, wow.

Joe Koss [00:17:36]:

Okay. And our board as well.

James [00:17:38]:

All right.

Joe Koss [00:17:39]:

Part of the challenges, no administrative staff today.

James [00:17:44]:

All right.

Joe Koss [00:17:44]:

This is part of the challenge of a startup, nonprofit organization and it takes a passionate group of individuals to make it happen.

James [00:17:53]:

Fair. Totally fair.

Joe Koss [00:17:54]:


James [00:17:55]:

Tell me about the history. When did copa actually start?

Joe Koss [00:17:58]:

Yeah, so it was around 2019, pre Pandemic got its start and Mike was involved early on in the process so he can share more of the stories there. But had a little bit of a stall when the pandemic hit, right?

James [00:18:14]:

Yeah, it changed things.

Joe Koss [00:18:16]:

A lot changed for a lot of folks. But really since the pandemic and over the last couple of years things have been ramping up and yeah, we’re excited for the future.

James [00:18:28]:

Yeah. So they started in 2019. Did they just backburner it until pandemic was over or did they actually we.

Mike Leckrone [00:18:36]:

Kept meeting because we knew that the vision, we knew that the potential was there. And fact is it may well have grown during Copa because that was the one good thing about Copa is these kids did get to play. And I’m talking about everything from grade school up through high school. They had a chance to play and they were starving for it. It gave it a nice little boost there. But it did take a big setback because is to balance that. We had a lot of high school kids who are ready for that next level of performance and they got cut out. They didn’t have that chance. And that’s probably going to make those years a little bit weaker so far as the musicians are concerned. But I think again, they’ve worked hard to overcome that. So it’s back on schedule, I think, for what they’re doing right now.

James [00:19:36]:

All right, so who or when did you get involved then, Joe?

Joe Koss [00:19:40]:

So I got involved late last year.

James [00:19:42]:


Joe Koss [00:19:42]:

Got connected to the group and again they were coming out of this pandemic and ramping things up. Again, they had gone through some transitions with the board and so they had asked me to join. And again it was something that interested me as we came on, taking a look at our priorities. And like any startup business, you’ve got to put systems and processes in place. The only difference, you got to do it without a staff.

James [00:20:13]:


Joe Koss [00:20:13]:

You’ve got to do it with a group of volunteers and board members.

James [00:20:17]:

It’s very difficult to say we should do this. Who wants to do it? The hands don’t jump up.

Joe Koss [00:20:23]:

Right. But we’ve added to the board some great new members have joined and just great to see the passion that these folks exhibit and their dedication to the cause. And with that, I think success will come. Success will come. But certainly we’ve gone through our challenges over the years and I’m sure there’s more challenges we’re going to face, but.

James [00:20:50]:

There will always be problems. Problems are a sign of life. So it’s all good there. How many people are on the board?

Joe Koss [00:20:57]:

I don’t know if I have a count, but there’s probably close to 15.

James [00:21:00]:


Joe Koss [00:21:01]:

And so I didn’t talk a little bit more about our structure of our organization. We actually have two partner organizations. Copa, which we’ve talked about, is the organization that operates the facility. But we also have a partner organization called Friends of Copa. And Friends of Copa was set up to help provide funding to individuals and organizations that maybe couldn’t afford the facility on their own. And as a part of Friends of Copa, we have since began the Arts fund.

James [00:21:40]:

Oh, wow.

Joe Koss [00:21:41]:

Mike and his family were excited to get this fund set up to help support the cause. So the intent of this fund would be to provide grants, scholarships, funding for individuals, organizations that want to utilize the Copa facility but maybe don’t have the means to do is. That is really our first real phase of our fundraising is to raise funds for this Leckrone Arts Fund so that then it is sustaining as we grow the programming in the Copa facility. All right, and Mike, maybe you can talk more about that fund.

Mike Leckrone [00:22:26]:

Well, so far as the fund is concerned, when I was approached with would I lend my name to it? Would I be able to help with it? I felt the answer was yes. Because I want to see those people who don’t have an opportunity to play, who don’t get that boost, whose music is not in their lives as much as it could be, not just should be, but could be. Then I felt it’s something I want to see happen. I think we’ve all talked about it. The project is more for the underserved than the overserved because we got great organizations here in Madison Youth Symphony. There’s just great promotions of that. But here’s an area that hasn’t been served and I’m hoping that it will grow into this building. But we’ve got to start on doing some of the scholarships now and that’s very satisfying at this point.

James [00:23:33]:

All right, tell me about marketing because when you’re talking about underserved, I imagine it’s easier to reach people that are actively looking for a place to do art of any kind than it is for people that don’t necessarily know that someplace like this exists. So that gives you a kind of a double edged challenge to just getting the word out that like, hey, we’re here. We can help you. We want to help you. Come on over. How do you spread the word?

Mike Leckrone [00:23:58]:

That’s where you come in.

James [00:24:00]:

This podcast is going to launch.

Joe Koss [00:24:01]:

It seen by millions.

James [00:24:04]:

Yeah, right. Soon to be billions. Right.

Joe Koss [00:24:07]:

No. And so, again, that’s the challenge of a startup nonprofit is getting your story out. Right. The first part of it is crafting that story, what is the story? And putting that together. And then there’s getting word out to both our potential users of the facility, those artists and artists to be, that, yes, we have this facility and we want to offer it up to everyone. Right. So there’s that challenge, and then there’s also the challenge of fundraising.

James [00:24:42]:

Right, right.

Joe Koss [00:24:44]:

And certainly that’s a big part of a new startup nonprofit as well. And so, again, telling that story, that compelling story and selling that story right. To those potential donors is going to be key for us as well. And so we’ve been working with a local PR agency, ad agency to help us with our website, our social media, our PR campaign. And Mike and I have been out speaking to various groups over the past couple of months and starting to spread that word about who we are again, both to potential users of the facility and hopefully potential donors as well.

James [00:25:30]:

Sure. So the typical, I guess, the marketing channels that you’re using are essentially feet on the ground marketing as well as some social media stuff.

Joe Koss [00:25:41]:

Yeah. So certainly with limited funds, a lot of word of mouth. Right. So the board is out and communicating where they can on the project, but as well, a lot of it in digital content today. So, again, website, social media, that sort of thing. And I think slowly but surely that word is getting out and certainly involvement in various organizations, not just speaking engagements, but joining the local Fitchburg chamber of commerce, meeting with the officials from the city of and, you know, I think we built up a good relationship with them. They’re supportive of our project.

James [00:26:24]:


Joe Koss [00:26:24]:

And so it’s sort of all hands on deck. Wherever we can spread the word, we try to do that.

James [00:26:30]:

All right. Now, the target market that you’re after, can you describe them for me?

Joe Koss [00:26:37]:

Well, I mean, we want to be the place where everyone can be an artist. So again, young and old, all genres of art. But as we’ve talked about, particularly the underserved populations, those that maybe don’t have access to some of these other facilities around the area and aren’t aware of a facility like ours that they can utilize and can craft their talent, become an artist as well is the idea.

James [00:27:11]:

That let’s just say I’m an underserved guitar player. I have a guitar. Do I just walk in or are there classes or how do I get involved? I guess I want to get my music going?

Joe Koss [00:27:26]:

Yeah, I would say certainly start with our website, Copamadison.org to learn more about us and reach out to our folks and talk about what your needs are. And certainly we have some programming in place today. In other cases, it might just be space, right. Space to practice. A lot of folks are just looking for that today. Or a place to create their art. We want to be that place so you can reach out to us and we can chat about what we can offer.

James [00:27:58]:

So you mentioned creating the art. I remember I had a friend that went to Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and one of the coolest things about that place was that they had their own studio space. I want to say it was I’m probably wrong, but in the neighborhood of ten foot by ten foot chunk of warehouse ish space, that was their little kind of room, I think a three walled room where they had space to create their art. So do you have something similar to that for the visual art, so to speak?

Joe Koss [00:28:29]:

Yeah, we do. So we’ve got, again, this repurposed office building, office space. So if you think of an office space, it’s segmented into different rooms and different room sizes. We’ve got a few larger spaces for performances and larger events, but then smaller spaces like you talk about for creating the art as well all right. That we can potentially offer up to these artists.

James [00:28:55]:

Okay. And then for something like that, I imagine there has to be some monthly nut that they have to pay.

Joe Koss [00:29:00]:


James [00:29:01]:

Imagine you can’t just be like, hey, this is all free.

Joe Koss [00:29:04]:

No. Right. So we’ve got to stay in business too. Right. We’ve been working on putting together some schedules of what that space would take to rent out, but then that’s where the Friends of Copa and Leckrone Arts Fund will come in. If there’s an individual and organization that maybe can’t afford that space, then the fund can help subsidize their efforts.

Mike Leckrone [00:29:32]:

Got it? Yeah.

James [00:29:34]:

Is there an age that you’re after, or is it kids, adults? Doesn’t matter.

Mike Leckrone [00:29:39]:

Well, from my standpoint, the older the better.

James [00:29:42]:

All right.

Mike Leckrone [00:29:45]:

We have kindergarten kids, literally kindergarten. You’ve heard us talk about these things that they’ve done in little concerts, but there’s a band in Wisconsin which is called the New Horizons Band, and I’ve conducted yeah, see that we need to get our message out.

James [00:30:10]:


Mike Leckrone [00:30:11]:

The New Horizons Band is adults. These are people, some of them 80 years old, who played, and they were looking for that outlet. And you don’t go into the New Horizons Band and expect to have to sit at the top of the section and really play. You can just barely play. In fact, there are some people in it who are just learning to play since they retired. And those are the kind of things I want to see happen with this group. I want to see those people say, oh, yeah, we can play that and have a good there’s. I don’t know if you know Jim Latimer, who works an adult band in Madison. Jim expressed to me one time that his adult band, which started as some kind of type of beginner’s band, has now outgrown, that they’re too good, they become too good as a band, so they’ve got to look for another level down to get those people started. And that’s a great kind of story that I like to hear.

James [00:31:17]:

Yeah. So are there routine concerts or art shows or recitals or anything like that, or is it more or less sporadic based on the there’s some routines.

Joe Koss [00:31:28]:

So the Harmony Project that I talked about, those kids were doing performances monthly, certainly open to the public, but parents and administrators would go to that sort of event, the indie tune up that I talked about. There’s a regular schedule of those events on our website again, so starting to build that sort of schedule of events on our website.

James [00:31:55]:

All right, so what have been some of the challenges that you two have run into with, I mean, nonprofit, of course. Well, any business can have challenges, but what have been some of the how.

Joe Koss [00:32:04]:

Much time do we have? Yeah, no, I mean, Mike, any startup, right. With any business, you’ve got to go through the setup of the systems and the processes. You’ve got to have the various disciplines. Again, we’re operating without a staff, so very strong support from our board. And so part of it is recruiting board members that maybe have the background in some of the needs we have. So certainly we’ve got board members that have artistic backgrounds to help with our programming, but folks with financial background or legal background, we’ve added folks that have building design and construction background as we think about renderings for our new facility. So building up the team, if you will, to help as we grow this organization. But yeah, you name it, I think we’ve faced it, and we’re going to continue to face our challenges. But you see the momentum building, and that’s what’s exciting. Maybe the most exciting thing is, again, to see these kids faces when they’re performing and the smiles on the parents faces.

James [00:33:22]:


Joe Koss [00:33:23]:


James [00:33:23]:

Fair. What have been some of the successes, the recent successes that you’ve come across that maybe weren’t necessarily expected?

Joe Koss [00:33:30]:

Yeah, I think a number of things. I look at the board members that we’ve attracted recently, some really passionate people, some talented people adding to an already talented board. I look at some of the projects like the Harmony Project that has had maybe some early stumbles but has seen momentum grow there. I look at the partnership with the City of Pittsburgh.

James [00:34:06]:

Right. Again. Yeah.

Joe Koss [00:34:07]:

I mean, probably a slower start to that partnership, and I think we’ve been able to strengthen that relationship. They are very supportive, as I. Mentioned of our project. And so that’s been exciting to see. And then maybe one of the more recent successes, a few board members have been attending a workshop put on by Amanda White. Amanda a little plug for her. She puts on this workshop series on capital campaign plans, and it’s a monthly session that walks you through everything you need to do as a part of the whole fundraising project. And it’s a long list, but it’s a game plan of how we will attack this fundraising plan. So, again, a lot of little things that have added up and provided some momentum for our project.

James [00:35:03]:

All right, tell me about the board, because this is a curiosity question, both from just the board. What you guys are doing is a good thing, nonprofit. But the boards that I’ve been on, some of them have been a little challenging because not everyone necessarily shares the exact same vision, or maybe they have the same end goal, but their means of attaining that goal don’t always align with everyone else.

Mike Leckrone [00:35:27]:


James [00:35:27]:

And others, I feel just like to hear themselves talk.

Mike Leckrone [00:35:30]:


Joe Koss [00:35:31]:

No, I’d say overall, we’ve got a great board. Again, passionate, talented individuals. And I think you want a board with different perspective and different ideas. You don’t want everybody thinking the same way. Right. So no, you want people coming with various perspectives, and we’ve got that. I mean, again, from the arts to the financial world, to the legal world, to the building design world, has the.

James [00:35:58]:

Board grown over the past?

Joe Koss [00:35:59]:

Yeah, it has. We’ve probably added a handful of folks over the last year to that board, and then we’ve got this great ambassador on board. It’s been awesome having Mike involved in this project and helping to spread that word. As know, again, these are all voluntary board positions, and so people have different degrees of capacity to give and to offer up their talents. And I’ll say overall, this board has been tremendous in that regard.

James [00:36:36]:

Yeah. So in 2019 when this started, was the goal to get a new building and go through all that, or has that evolved over the course of time?

Mike Leckrone [00:36:46]:

Actually, from my perspective, it may have gotten the cart before the horse.

James [00:36:53]:


Mike Leckrone [00:36:55]:

Their first idea was, we need this building. We got a place for it, we have a location that would be great because it’s accessible to anything. More accessible than almost any place you could name in Madison. It’s easy to get to. It’s going to be a facility to be very usable by dozens of people. And so Dale’s idea was to let’s get the building. And then as we worked with different people, we found out that there has to be some kind of a grassroots movement to get from here to there, so that here people can look at it and say, well, we’ve got that going. You’ve heard us talk about several programs that are going right now. Those need to keep growing and develop into that school. There will be at some point, I think, and maybe I’m speaking out a term, but at some point there’s going to be a group or a single person who says, boy, look what they’ve done. We need to support that more fully than we have at this point. And I think that’s one of the challenges. But I think it’s also a very worthwhile and realistic goal.

James [00:38:12]:

Yeah, it’s challenging, I suppose you have to build upon your success, but when you get that idea, you want to just build your rocket ship right away, right? Yeah.

Joe Koss [00:38:21]:

So I think that was the original idea. Let’s just build this world class facility and just do that from the start. And I think we’ve kind of regrouped on that idea. And now we’ve kind of instituted this phased in approach of our fundraising and really we want to build the momentum. Right. So offer up our current facility to groups and organizations. It’s a great facility. It works.

James [00:38:46]:

Prove the model, so to speak.

Joe Koss [00:38:47]:

Prove out the model. Exactly. And we’re starting to see that momentum build. So first phase of the fundraising raising project is to raise money for the Leckrone Arts Fund and that will provide this sustainable funding for these groups into the future. The next phase of the fundraising project would be there’s multiple buildings on the site. And what we want to do is remodel one of the separate buildings so we can continue the programming to then eventually build the world class facility as the third phase of the fundraising project. So, got you again throughout all of this, continue the momentum, build the momentum. And if you build it, they will come.

James [00:39:33]:

Yeah, right. Hope anyways.

Mike Leckrone [00:39:35]:


James [00:39:36]:

I imagine when it comes to a building and something like that, you need to get enough donations to make it happen. And the people that are donating want to see, what are we donating for.

Joe Koss [00:39:46]:

What are we doing? What are we doing? They’re not donating to a building per se. They’re donating to a cause. And how will this benefit the community at large? That’s what we’re trying to prove out. Right. And the proof is in the pudding. So what have we seen so far? And that’s what people give to right. They give to a cause. They give to people. They don’t give to a building per se.

James [00:40:16]:

Right? Yeah. There’s millions of buildings. Yes. Kind of emotionless, I guess, to a point.

Mike Leckrone [00:40:22]:

Well, you ask what our successes were. We really had something off the ground that was really worth doing because back in two years ago, we thought it would be a great thing to have a concert, an outside concert, where the building is, where you invite in different ethnic groups who could perform, latin American groups who could perform, hip hop groups who could perform. And I had the great pleasure of putting together a jazz ensemble of people who had been in my band who went on to really great. I mean, these are people who played in Buddy Rich’s band, woody Herman’s band, and they’re either in Madison or within phoning distance. I come back and let’s get this going. We had a great jazz concert, we had a great Latin American concert. And then we were ready to take the step, then COVID hit, and now that momentum’s got to get built back up again.

James [00:41:18]:

Reignite it.

Mike Leckrone [00:41:19]:

Right. I got some of these jazz artists because they were interested in the project. They may have lost some of the interest for whatever reason. So we have to build that back up again. But I spoke just last week about I think that’s something that needs to get going again to show what you can do at this highest level and at the same time keep the idea that you could be in it, be a part of it.

James [00:41:52]:

So that to me, sounds like a blast to be an audience member. I’m not much of a musician at all, I guess, to put on a show or anything like that, but I would love to attend something like that. So how do you get the word out that stuff is going on?

Mike Leckrone [00:42:08]:

Well, that’s our press agent. That’s what we’re starting to discover, that there’s a lot of pieces that have to be put together.

James [00:42:19]:

So this works, I suppose there’s the artists, there’s the audience, and there’s the people behind the scenes that are making it all happen.

Joe Koss [00:42:26]:


James [00:42:26]:

And that’s a lot of movies, a.

Joe Koss [00:42:28]:

Lot of pieces that have to come together. Yes.

James [00:42:30]:

But I imagine that’s part of the challenge and part of the fun. Right?

Mike Leckrone [00:42:33]:

Yes, it was easy.

James [00:42:34]:

Everyone would do it.

Joe Koss [00:42:35]:


James [00:42:36]:

All right. Interesting. That is pretty cool. Tell me about the website.

Joe Koss [00:42:41]:

So Copamadison.org. You can learn more about Copa and Friends of Copa. The Leckrone arts fund. You can give if you want. And certainly we’re accepting donations for any of our causes. Again, our focus is that Leckrone Arts Fund, there is a calendar of events that we do have scheduled a little slower in the summer versus in the school year. But tell me why. Well, the Harmony Project was one of the projects that ongoing during the school year, that monthly event. And we recently got approved with the city of Fitchburg to expand some of the things that we can do in our building and expand the space that we can use in our building as well. So we’re looking to grow that and grow some of the events that we are hosting there as well.

Mike Leckrone [00:43:32]:


James [00:43:32]:

All right, I want to ask you guys to compare your histories with what you’re doing now. So as CFO and CEO of Culver’s, compared to leading this group, can you tell me what are the similarities and what are the differences?

Joe Koss [00:43:45]:

Yeah, well, similarities you’re dealing with people.

James [00:43:47]:


Joe Koss [00:43:48]:

And people are people good or bad.

James [00:43:50]:


Joe Koss [00:43:50]:

And everybody’s got different personalities and different talents and it’s about bringing those talents together and hopefully having a different perspective. I think that’s healthy for any organization, certainly. And so, again, the people part of it, I think, is similar. Certainly the arts are different than ButterBurgers, right?

James [00:44:13]:

Yeah, right.

Joe Koss [00:44:15]:

And for profit is different than nonprofit. I mean, that’s that’s maybe the bigger difference. And so, although we have something to offer up to the general public, we’re also, you know, here with our hands out saying, hey, do you want to give to our cause? And that’s quite a bit of a difference from a for profit enterprise.

James [00:44:36]:


Joe Koss [00:44:36]:


James [00:44:37]:

How about you, Mike, compared I mean.

Mike Leckrone [00:44:38]:

You essentially worked for it’s the same thing. I mean, you have the pieces that you have to put together. One of the tricks is this piece may fit well now, but you add something to that piece and it may not work at all. So what you have to do is make sure you get the right pieces into place. I find a great similarity in what I do with a band, with what I used to do, where we were playing just straight music. You wanted to have the people had the passion. We wanted those people with the passion to be in that group. If you can locate that and it’s in all these kids, the passion is there. You just have to tap it. And I think that’s what I hope Cope is trying to do now. And I think that’s what we’ve seen in the successful programs that we’ve had. The thing that I mentioned this before when we’ve done sites, one of the things that impressed me about the people who are already involved in a Copa, like the group over at Milwaukee is that they take great respect for themselves and for each other. There’s a wonderful sense of respect. I walked into these classrooms, middle of Milwaukee and you’d expect litter on the ground. You’d expect all sorts of things. Not so, as I Mike to say, you could eat off the floors. I mean, they’re very pristine in that way. Kids took great pride in the fact that we’ve got something special here. We want to maintain it and take it to a next level. Now, all the studies tell us, well, that’s not really going to happen. But it did. It’s happening in Milwaukee, what I saw, and there is no reason why we can’t have the same thing in Madison.

James [00:46:37]:

So is the Madison is Copa based on the Milwaukee one?

Mike Leckrone [00:46:42]:

Only from a standpoint, as we copied a lot of the things that they did in setting up our structure, setting up the idea that this is serving all sorts of yeah, there’s nothing wrong.

James [00:46:53]:

With but I always say it’s better to be second than be the first one because the first one makes all the mistakes. It’s easier to follow.

Joe Koss [00:47:02]:

We’ll make our own share of mistakes.

James [00:47:04]:

Yeah. Fair. Totally fair. But yeah, you can learn from, I guess.

Joe Koss [00:47:09]:

Yes, absolutely.

James [00:47:10]:

Other groups.

Joe Koss [00:47:11]:


James [00:47:11]:

Are there other groups like this throughout the.

Mike Leckrone [00:47:16]:

Yeah, yeah. And I keep mentioning the Milwaukee one because I’ve made two or three trips over there to see it, and it is a great they’re talking they do things in different cities. They may call it something else, but they’re trying to get that one group of people that have not been served yet. All right. I think that may be the common goal. Got you.

James [00:47:39]:

Okay. That is interesting. I like it. I love it. Tell me, are you attracting musicians or artists that have interest but don’t have, let’s say, the skills currently, they want to learn them, or are you attracting people that already have skills they’re just underutilized because they don’t have access to?

Joe Koss [00:48:00]:

I would say both.

James [00:48:02]:


Joe Koss [00:48:02]:

I would say both.

James [00:48:03]:


Joe Koss [00:48:03]:

So those seasoned artists that want a place to create and perform yes. Or those future artists that want to learn want to learn the craft as well.

James [00:48:16]:


Joe Koss [00:48:17]:

We want to offer up our facility to both.

James [00:48:19]:

Gotcha. So if a kid sees Prince on YouTube or something like that and says, Why not? I want to play guitar like that guy, they can come to you guys versus I have played for a long time, but it’s been a while. I don’t have a place to play. My parents’basement, whatever, aren’t a fan of me playing drums or whatever. Oil painting, I don’t know.

Mike Leckrone [00:48:40]:

And the common entity in all that is the thing that you’ve mentioned a couple of times, the passion.

James [00:48:44]:


Mike Leckrone [00:48:45]:

If they get that passion at whatever it is, whether it’s at High or just a very moderate skill, if they have that passion, you can do something with them. You can make something happen.

James [00:48:57]:

Yeah. I can remember I don’t know if this is exactly art, but I can remember working on I had a 79 Malibu wagon, and I change engines, all that kind of stuff in there. But I remember time didn’t matter. I would get out of the garage, and it had been 8 hours. I didn’t eat, I barely drank. It’s one of those things that you’re just so involved in it, and I imagine it’s the same for a good artist or even a mediocre artist. Right. Whether it’s learning an instrument or painting or sculpting or whatever it is they’re doing, dance, whatever that is. Just you get in that zone and nothing else matters because you’re so intense on it. So that’s pretty cool. That’s impressive. So people can find you on the website. Yes. Tell me the website one more time.

Joe Koss [00:49:42]:


James [00:49:44]:

All right. Yeah. And do you have any events coming up that people can check out again?

Joe Koss [00:49:48]:

There’s a calendar on the website to see what’s upcoming and maybe out into the future as well.

James [00:49:54]:

All right. Yeah.

Joe Koss [00:49:55]:

We just hope to grow the programming, grow the offerings, grow the fundraising.

Mike Leckrone [00:49:59]:


Joe Koss [00:50:00]:

It’s all part of the challenge, right?

Mike Leckrone [00:50:02]:


James [00:50:02]:

Are you still playing instruments or leading?

Mike Leckrone [00:50:05]:

Well, I quit playing trumpet about ten years ago.

James [00:50:08]:


Mike Leckrone [00:50:08]:

Because I found that I couldn’t play like I thought I should.

James [00:50:13]:


Mike Leckrone [00:50:15]:

A wind instrument. You have to keep up. But I play probably more piano now than I ever did, because I just can go in. And I have a piano in a studio at home. I just go in and play whenever I feel like it. But I’m involved. My playing is learning how to play other people. I arrange a lot. I do a lot of arranging.

James [00:50:40]:


Mike Leckrone [00:50:41]:

And composition. So it’s putting it into. I’m still playing from that standpoint, but I’m not playing from physical. Pick it up and do it. Although every now and then I sing, which the people just hate.

Joe Koss [00:50:54]:

I didn’t know.

James [00:50:55]:

I promise you, you can sing better than me. And trumpet, I’m sure.

Joe Koss [00:50:59]:

And I quit playing the Cornet 40 years ago. I think they asked me to leave.

Mike Leckrone [00:51:06]:

Yeah. In fact.

James [00:51:06]:

All right. Any painting? Anything?

Joe Koss [00:51:09]:

No, I have no artistic ability.

James [00:51:11]:

Oh, you can have something deep down inside.

Joe Koss [00:51:14]:

I sang in the shower.

Mike Leckrone [00:51:15]:


Joe Koss [00:51:15]:

That’s about it.

James [00:51:16]:

That’s close to I don’t know, maybe there’ll be a shower in the facility.

Mike Leckrone [00:51:19]:

But you’d be surprised at how good he could be with somebody who has a little passion for teaching it and takes the time. I used to say there’s no one who doesn’t have the talent to be able to play adequately.

James [00:51:35]:


Mike Leckrone [00:51:37]:

There’s nobody like that. But what you have to do is find out how deep you can tap them to get back what you want.

James [00:51:45]:

Get some drive, I imagine. But I imagine if you’re surrounded by it, you almost would fall into something. Maybe ballet. I don’t know.

Joe Koss [00:51:53]:

You don’t know me that well, do you?

Mike Leckrone [00:51:57]:

But you mentioned ballet. That’s another area.

Joe Koss [00:51:59]:

That’s another dance. Absolutely.

Mike Leckrone [00:52:01]:

Which we’re trying to promote. And that’s a great opportunity.

James [00:52:05]:

Yeah. When you said the arts, I was just trying to think, what all does that include? And I know we talked a lot about music, but that’s a huge gamut. Huge.

Joe Koss [00:52:15]:


James [00:52:15]:

So, I mean, theater and all kinds.

Mike Leckrone [00:52:18]:

Of stuff that’s aspects of the theater you won’t. I know of a couple of people that were in my band that all they do now is costuming and makeup.

James [00:52:28]:

All right.

Mike Leckrone [00:52:30]:

That’s their jobs. And it’s great to see that.

James [00:52:35]:

You raise an interesting point, because on top of those arts, you also have the back end of those arts. Stage design, the lighting, the sound. All those people that keeping the instruments yeah.

Joe Koss [00:52:45]:

Need to keep the show going.

James [00:52:47]:

Yeah. The road crew, I guess.

Joe Koss [00:52:48]:

Yeah, absolutely. And so how do they learn that? Craft.

James [00:52:52]:


Joe Koss [00:52:53]:

And hopefully we can be the place where we can teach some of those skills as well.

James [00:52:56]:

That is very cool. I wish you great success. This is a cool thing that you have going on.

Mike Leckrone [00:53:00]:

Well, thank you.

Joe Koss [00:53:01]:

Thank you.

James [00:53:01]:

It’s going to be the first time that I can think of in a long time that I heard of anyone really pushing the arts. I hear so much about pushing technology, science, software, math, all that jazz. You don’t hear a ton about the arts.

Joe Koss [00:53:19]:

Well, we’ve got, I mean, a lot of great facilities in and around Dane.

James [00:53:21]:

No doubt, right?

Joe Koss [00:53:22]:

No doubt.

James [00:53:23]:

But I don’t hear people pushing, I mean, Shy attending this concert, whatever, right. Something like that. But actually getting the community involved.

Mike Leckrone [00:53:29]:


James [00:53:30]:

Maybe I’m under a rock, but I feel like what you have going on is a really good thing. Helpful to the community.

Mike Leckrone [00:53:37]:


Joe Koss [00:53:37]:

Thank you.

James [00:53:38]:

Cool. I appreciate you being on the show.

Mike Leckrone [00:53:40]:

My pleasure.

Joe Koss [00:53:41]:

Thank you. My pleasure as well.

James [00:53:43]:

This has been Authentic Business Adventures, the business program that brings you the struggle stories and triumphant successes of business owners across the land. Downloadable audio episodes can be found in the podcast link found at drawincustomers.com. We are locally underwritten by the bank of sun prairie. If you could do us a huge favor. If you’re listening or watching this on the web, give us a big ol thumbs up subscribe and of course, share it with all your entrepreneurial friends and those friends that could use a little kick in the art because, hey, that’s what it’s for, right? My name is James Kidman and Authentic Business Adventures is brought to you by calls on call, offering call answering and receptionist services for service businesses across the country on the web@callsoncall.com, as well as the Bold Business Book, a book for the entrepreneur and all of us. Available wherever find books are sold. We’d like to thank you, our wonderful listeners as well as our guests. Joe Koss, the former CEO of Culver’s, as well as Mike Leckrone, the former UW Band director. Two powerhouses that have joined forces to get Copa. Tell me the website one more time.

Joe Koss [00:54:45]:


James [00:54:47]:

Copamadison.org. And that’s C-O-P-A.

Mike Leckrone [00:54:48]:


Joe Koss [00:54:49]:


James [00:54:49]:

All right. COPAmadison. All one word. Couldn’t be easier, right? Past episodes can be found morning, noon and night. Podcast link found at drawincustomers.com. Thank you for listening. We will see you next week. I want you to stay awesome and if you do nothing else, enjoy your business.

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