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Deadline for middle-high school garage band Summerfest competition approaching

Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 7:42 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - The deadline for middle and high school garage bands to audition for the ROCKONSIN statewide competition is approaching.

Wisconsin bands made up of seventh- through twelfth-grade students of any musical genre have until July 15 to send a video of their band performing one song. The organizer, Dennis Graham, said they do not want bands purchasing equipment to make the video adding that they can be shot on a phone. The songs can be a cover or an original composition.

The videos will be judged by music professionals, many of whom have worked with big-name bands in the industry. Twelve bands will be chosen as finalists to play on the Johnson Controls stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee on Sept. 3 and 4. The runner-up and winning band will get to play The Big Gig on the BMO Harris stage on Sept. 18. They will also receive free equipment and a professional recording session in Madison. It is completely free for bands to apply, which can be done by clicking here.

Graham said they do not reveal the rankings of the bands except for the winner and runner-up, saying that the competition is meant to give kids opportunities to get connected with the music industry, have the opportunity to grow in their musical talents, and learn from the experience.

Scorched Waves from Stevens Point made the final 12 twice, once in 2019 and once in 2020. All except one member of the band graduated in 2020, so they will not be applying for a third time, but they said the opportunities it has presented to them have launched their band forward.

“There’s so much talent in Wisconsin and all gathering together in that one space. It’s a very inspirational, but simultaneously heart-crushing place to be,” laughed Tiernan Brinkman, 18, and the band’s lead vocalist.

The band formed about five years ago with two members bumping into each other at a music shop.

“Eleven-year-old Damian trots in and asks for help turning on this electric drum kit, ‘can you help me turn this on?’ and then I hit the button and he just starts wailing away,” Tyler Armstrong, 18, lead guitarist and backup vocalist recalled.

Damian Kessler, 16, is the band’s drummer. Al Vuorinen, 19, is the bassist. Jaren Wojcik, 20, is on the keyboard, percussion, and backup vocals. They are not all the original members of the band, but they have been together going on three years.

The band started playing cover songs but was pushed to create originals when a UW-Stevens Point garage band competition required some originals. They now have about 20 original pieces and an EP.

“Girls and relationships are a very big thing that we write about, but we are also teenagers, so,” Brinkman laughed.

Armstrong and Kessler had heard about ROCKONSIN and they decided to put themselves out there and audition. They did well and said the experience, the community, and the opportunities it provided then and since have been monumental. They have played at least 30 shows over the last few years and they are set to play at the Waukesha Bluesfest this summer.

They said the judges provide feedback they can use to improve and the community of bands that make it to the ROCKONSIN stage at Summerfest create a new music family. Scorched Waves say they play with those bands at other gigs often, including one in Madison last Friday. They also learn from each other and build each other up to succeed.

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