Meet the Band: Morgan Lewis & ROCKius

April 17, 2023 (Updated April 21, 2023)
ML Rockius
Photo Credit: Cathy Breslow

Our firm band, Morgan Lewis & ROCkius, took top honors at the ninth annual charity event Law Rocks San Francisco on April 20, 2023. Morgan Lewis partners Joan Haratani, Geoff Holtz, Doug Crisman, and Mike Schlemmer; of counsel Louis Nguyen; senior attorney Marisa Chaves; and associate Ali Gonsman rocked out to raise money for Child Advocates of Silicon Valley.

Morgan Lewis & ROCKius started in 2015 as a fun way for our Northern California lawyers to express their creative talents. Learn more about our band members.

ML Rockius Vocals
Photo Credit: Cathy Breslow

Joan Haratani

What instrument do you play in the band and how did you learn to play?

I play the drums. I started to play about eight years ago after deciding I wasn’t getting younger and learning how to play wasn’t going to get any easier. So I hired a teacher and bought a drum kit.

What musicians inspire you?

I grew up admiring Karen Carpenter. She had a beautiful voice and was such a talented drummer. I also grew up listening to the great Buddy Rich and my father would tell me stories about watching Buddy perform during the 1940s. Lately, I’m into Bernard Purdie and James Gadson who have their own shuffle and groove, respectively.

How often do you rehearse?

It varies widely, from not at all to (rarely) four or maybe even five times a week. I should practice every day, even for 20 minutes, but the days seem to fly by. When we have a show coming up, we try to rehearse once a week or so as a band, and sometimes the rhythm section has an additional practice session to make sure that we are locked in.

What was your first concert?

I was a violinist and my first concert was when I was in seventh grade playing with a high school orchestra.

What’s been your favorite performance you’ve done?

By far and away, playing for my partners at our annual meeting. We, the band, were so excited to be performing in Arizona. We practiced hard and consistently and felt that we came together sound-wise for that performance. We had a blast!

What advice do you have for people who want to pursue music and law?

Music is so nurturing for the soul. It’s fun and playing with my firm family is one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. The bond I feel we have is deep and profound. It’s a wonderful feeling of connection and trust. And love!!

Joan Haratani

Geoff Holtz

What instrument do you play in the band and how did you learn to play?

Alto sax. My grandfather made band instruments—including the saxophone I still play today—and he got my siblings and me started on wind instruments at a pretty young age.

How do you balance being a musician and a lawyer?

Well, I just don’t practice that much—it’s nonbillable time!

What’s your favorite genre of music?

I’m a huge jazz fan. Although I love the 60s and 70s funk and Motown tunes the band plays as well.

What’s the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

The air was so dry when we played at the partner retreat in Arizona that my reed kept drying up, which is not good for a woodwind player. I had to keep dunking my mouthpiece into a glass of water to keep it moist.

Louis Nguyen

What instrument do you play in the band and how did you learn to play?

Keyboards. I started playing piano when I was 9 and played in various bands up to my early 20s. After many, many years of not playing in a group setting, it’s been quite fun playing with ROCKius these last seven years.

What’s your favorite memory with the band?

Saturday morning practices. Our band generally rehearses for four to eight weekend mornings leading up to a performance. I love the rehearsals, working out parts with the band, and seeing the songs evolve to the polished, final setlist. For me, the fun comes in the journey leading up to the actual performance.

How do you balance being a musician and a lawyer?

Ever since the pandemic, I have incorporated playing the piano into my daily routine: 15 minutes before work, 10 minutes at lunch, 15–30 minutes at night. Playing music daily has provided a great way to stay grounded and clear my head throughout the workday—some of my more inspired legal writing has come after a session of noodling on the piano!

What’s the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

The mouthpiece to my vocorder (a voice-altering instrument) accidentally flew out of my mouth during our “California (No) Love” opening. Womp, womp . . . .

ML Rockius receives FVAP Judge's Choice Award
Photo Credit: Cathy Breslow

Mike Schlemmer

What instrument do you play in the band and how did you learn to play?

I play trumpet, as part of the band’s horn section. I started playing in fourth grade public school, and always enjoyed it—in part because it is such a versatile instrument (jazz, rock, classical, funk). Like many busy lawyers, I spent several years with it sitting deprived on a shelf, but a few years back I decided it was time to make music a priority in my life again.

Do you play in other bands?

I also currently play in San Francisco’s Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band. It is an institution, dating back to 1978, and is the original “gay” band from which all other gay choruses, bands, etc. have sprung. As you might imagine, one of its missions is to use our common threads of music to help break down stereotypes and foster diversity.

We are the “official band of San Francisco,” and get to have a good time playing at various pride events and fundraisers throughout the year.

What’s your biggest challenge as a band?

Coordinating schedules, deciding on mutually agreeable practice spaces (we are spread pretty far, geographically), narrowing down potential song choices, and getting our friends and colleagues to help contribute to the associated nonprofits we try to raise funds for. But we have been wildly successful on each of these fronts, as we all recognize that this is a great opportunity to make a difference (and have fun doing so).

What advice do you have for people who want to pursue music and law?

Do it—don’t hold back. Something magical happens in the brain for those who embrace creativity or the arts. It allows the more linear, logical, “always analyzing” side of our brains to take a break, and doing so frankly helps sponsor greater cognitive balance and capabilities.

Who’s your favorite member of the band and why?

Joan Haratani is the glue that keeps us all together. She is the spirit of the band, keeps us on target, and literally sets the beat that keeps us aligned.

She should also be recognized for her significant personal financial contributions toward our fundraising causes. She is generous in time, spirit, and money, and sets an amazingly high bar that the rest of us aspire to reach.

Mike Schlemmer - Trumpet
Photo Credit: Cathy Breslow