September 3, 2014

Sprint’s got a corporate band — and it’s championship caliber

Cleyson Brown Unlimited will compete Saturday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland against seven other groups in the finals of the Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands.

Hold the phone — Sprint’s got a band.

And Cleyson Brown Unlimited is a good one. We’re talking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland good, at least for one day.

That would be Saturday, when the seven-member band competes there against seven other groups in the finals of the Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands.

The band formed last year just for this moment.

“Wow, just to be able to play at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve never had the opportunity to go there,” said Mark Thorstenberg, a billing supervisor by day and a singer by choice.

Mostly, the band plays classic rock, Thorstenberg said, though members have their own influences from funk, hard rock, rhythm and blues and alternative rock.

The competition required bands to submit three recordings. Cleyson Brown Unlimited did their versions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and The Decemberists’ “Down by the Water.”

Cleyson Brown Unlimited follows other local hopefuls of years past.

American Century Investments’ band called Soul Focus won the competition in 2007 after a third-place finish in 2006. A Hallmark Cards Inc. band called Suitably Twisted and Overland Park-based Sunflower Group’s band called the Kansas City Weasels have competed, too.

Sprint previously sponsored the Direct Connectors band, which took third place at 2004’s finals and again in 2005.

The company supports the band in various ways, specifically paying the $8,000 entry fee for the finals. There was a $2,000 regional fee too, which Sprint picked up.

In return, Sprint enjoys a bit of brand marketing.

The hall of fame plans to stream the finals live. For a preview, check out Cleyson Brown Unlimited’s performance in regionals that were held in Nashville, Tenn., last April.

Sprint employees have been able to listen to the band rehearse most Tuesdays at the employee activity center on the headquarters campus in Overland Park.

If you haven’t picked up on the name yet, Cleyson Brown of Abilene, Kan., founded the Brown Telephone Co. in 1899 that ultimately became Sprint Corp.

If you haven’t picked up on the shameless promotion yet, “Unlimited” is one of Sprint’s competitive calling cards in the wireless marketplace, offering unlimited data plans to smartphone users.

Not an accident. Sprint picked the name through an employee contest that had the company’s history as a theme.

So it follows that Sprint’s band will compete against Mattel’s band called The Toys, and Hasbro’s band called Toys 2 Men, etc.

The competition, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Central, raises money in part for the hall of fame’s music education program.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.


6:50pm – 7:05pm – Mattel / The Toys

7:10pm – 7:25pm – HelloWorld / Toy Box

7:30pm – 7:45pm – DaVita / DaVita Blues All Stars

7:50pm – 8:05pm – Olympus / Peripheral Vision

8:10pm – 8:25pm – Sprint / Cleyson Brown Unlimited

8:30pm – 8:45pm – Hasbro / Toys 2 Men

8:50pm – 9:05pm – Pep Boys / Gwen & the Boys

9:10pm – 9:25pm – Level 3 Communications / Kings of the Phone Age

The band

David Freeland — Saxophone, keyboard, vocals; program manager in the network organization.

Frank Minolfo — Bass, vocals; manager of the regional site development central region PM team.

Pamela Sankey — Vocals, auxiliary percussion; manager in industry analyst relations within corporate communications.

Jason Smith — Drums, vocals; electronic surveillance technician in Sprint’s electronic surveillance unit.

Rick Spindler — Lead guitar; scoping and pricing manager for national site development.

Mark Thorstenberg — Vocals, auxiliary percussion; billing supervisor with the consumer billing services settlements team.

Corey Vitt — Guitar; payment operations specialist.

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos