When it comes to finding members for your band, being able to recruit from your classmates at a musical conservatory is a bit like mining for diamonds at Tiffany & Co.
After years spent playing hobbyist bands that lacked seriousness and ambition, vocalist Chris Henderson and guitarist Patrick Fetkowitz decided in 2008 that the time had come to start a project with more long-term potential.
To help round out their roots-rock sextet, Bronze Radio Return, the pair looked to their fellow alumni of The Hartt School, a performing-arts offshoot of the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
¦ What: Nightfall concert series featuring Bronze Radio Return.
¦ When: 8 p.m. Friday, July 11; The Iscariots open at 7.
¦ Where: Miller Plaza, 850 Market St.
¦ Admission: Free.
¦ Phone: 423-265-0771.
¦ Venue website: www.nightfall chattanooga.com.
¦ Artist website: www.bronzeradioreturn.com.
"One of the things that I learned a lot from is the rather competitive nature that comes with being in a musical conservatory," Henderson says. "Not 'competitive' in the sense that we're slashing each other's tires, but ... there's this constant motion and progress at the school from everyone getting better and feeding off each other. That's one of the things that works well with our band."
Henderson describes Bronze Radio Return as a "six-person team" where everyone puts in the same hours and reaps the same rewards. They also learn the same lessons from experiencing the tribulations of life on the road and outside the educational vacuum.
"There's stuff you don't learn in school until you go out and play at a club to two people in Minneapolis or sit in a van for 27 hours," he adds, laughing.
For all the occasional hard knocks they've had to endure - including delays from an overloaded equipment trailer that suffered broken axles and flat tires - the band has earned its share of accolades.
Bronze Radio Return's music frequently has been used in TV placements, including on national programs such as "American Idol" and "The Layover" featuring Anthony Bourdain, as well as in various commercial spots for companies such as American Eagle, Hollister, Nissan and FedEx.
This year, the band has made or will make its inaugural appearances at several major music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and the Hangout Festival. Friday night, July 11, the band will make its Scenic City debut as this week's Nightfall headliner.
With its emphasis on four-part harmonies and its frequent use of a banjo, Bronze Radio Return has received plenty of favorable comparisons to indie/roots rockers such as Mumford & Sons, Wilco and The Avett Brothers, but Henderson says that, while flattering, he much prefers an entirely different response to their music.
"When we play, we think about how it will connect with people and whether it will mean anything to them," he says. "My favorite part of the day - when it does happen - is when someone comes up to me and says, 'You wrote this song, and when I listen to it, every word means something to me. Thank you.' That's the ultimate compliment."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.