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Marketing Coordinator by Day, DIY Music by Night

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Dylan Cooper | KzooConnect

People are noticing Michigan's improving economy - especially here in Kalamazoo. We're seeing new construction, both commercial and residential. Our small businesses are flourishing and finding labor scarce. Statistics show that young professionals, ages 25-34, are recognizing the opportunities, and they are again choosing to live and work here. According to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder the state has made great stride in attracting young college graduates.

A recent Western Michigan University grad, Dylan Cooper, is a good example of this turning tide. Cooper is an Account Coordinator for LKF Marketing in downtown Kalamazoo, and a Muskegon, Michigan native. He graduated with an Advertising and Promotion degree from WMU in 2017 and could have headed to Chicago or another big city to pursue his future. Instead, Cooper embraced Kalamazoo's offerings for young, college-educated workers. With degree in hand, Cooper set his sights on Kalamazoo's marketing agencies.

Cooper's Google search turned up LKF Marketing, an advertising, marketing, and web development firm. Based on their website, Cooper decided it looked like a fun place to work, and he was impressed with their client list. No openings were posted, but that didn't stop Cooper. He shot them an email with his resume, explaining why he wanted to work for LKF.

LKF's president and owner Heather Isch was impressed by Cooper's motivation and positive attitude. She hired him. Since then, Cooper has been in his element as Account Coordinator with the firm. According to Cooper, his days consist of project management and support of the company's account representatives, all in a cool and creative environment.

Down the road five years, Cooper sees himself with LKF in a higher-level role, perhaps an Account Manager himself. He wants to keep living in Kalamazoo. Cooper lists local music, beer and festivals among his favorite pastimes. When the weather cooperates, Cooper likes to walk or bike to work from his home in the Vine neighborhood, hike at Al Sabo Land Preserve and hang out at Davis Field Park.

"I love Kalamazoo," says Cooper. "The community has a different, artsy, college vibe and a fun music scene."

When night falls, however, a whole different side of Cooper emerges.

Cooper has loved music since he was 8 years old, when he took up drums to be like his cool cousin. He performed in an 8th grade talent show with friends, and jammed with his buddies throughout high school. Today, Cooper is the drummer in the Kalamazoo punk/noise rock band Vines.

Cooper and his band Vines perform around Kalamazoo and the Midwest, coordinating gigs through an informal network of non-traditional music venues, using social media - what's known as the DIY music scene.

"We're amateur musicians, doing it ourselves," explains Cooper.

This means they not only perform, but also act as their own promoters, merchandise vendors and chauffeurs. They book performances about twice a month, playing in basements and for house parties, as well as in places like Bell's, Louie's and Shakespeare's in Kalamazoo. Vines is a side gig for all of the band members, some of whom are also roommates, and have been friends since childhood.

Vines' next big thing is a Midwestern tour, including stops in Ann Arbor; Bloomington, Illinois and Akron, Ohio. Door donations and merchandise sales will go towards gas and food, in typical DIY fashion. Anything extra goes into a band fund to allow the band to record additional music in the future.

Until then, fans can follow Vines on Facebook, and download their music, including 2017's EP Circle of Stones, which also has links to the band's social media.

What's Cooper's idea of the good life?

"I get to play in cool cities with my best friends." He goes on to share, "I want to keep having fun and playing as much music as I can.

"I want a dog. I'm enjoying life, because life is short, and I want to take advantage of what I have."

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