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Today's Family Magazine

Local teens battle in Tri-C High School Rock Off

Feb 27, 2017 11:30AM ● By Today's Family
By Paris Wolfe

John Love, on the edge of 17, started playing guitar when he was in seventh grade at Saint Gabriel School in Concord Township.  In February, the junior from Lake Catholic High School was on stage twice at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  His band – Lonely Pirate Committee – was a finalist at the 2017 Tri-C High School Rock Off.  They were one of 12 bands, out of 40, that made it to the “Final Exam” playoff which was held on February 25.

The eventual winners – The Waves from the Akron area – received $1,000 and $250 for their high school music program, a $1,000 gift card to Guitar Center and will get to perform on the Warped Tour.

Love got his first acoustic guitar from his dad and never stopped strumming.  Like many a budding guitarist, that led to electric.  Then he picked up the bass and started playing with Fletcher Barton of University School and Pearce Gronek of Shaker Heights High School in the Lonely Pirate Committee.  Today, they practice original songs and play psychedelic rock in Fletcher’s basement.  And, they have a gig coming up at the Agora in Cleveland.

A hit among northeast Ohio teens, the Rock Off competition has broad reach.  The 2017 event brought 40 bands and seven solo artists from four states to the stage.  Over the past 20 years 1,250 bands have competed.  And, several performers have launched successful music careers.

“Our goal is to engage, teach and inspire,” says Todd Mesek, the Rock Hall’s vice president of marketing and communications.  “We want to inspire young artists and give them a launchpad that shows them a path for the next level.”

Many winners have gone on to music careers in bands, on Broadway or as agents.  Last year, two Rock Off bands performed at Cleveland’s Warped Tour weekend.  And in summer 2017 the Rock Hall will showcase some of this year’s bands in its outdoor live music experience.

“It’s pretty impressive,” says Mesek.  “You tend to think they’re kids and not that good yet but we’ve been impressed with the level of competition.  It’s building momentum and the competition is heating up.”

The Rock Hall will begin collecting demo recordings for the 2018 event in mid-summer through late 2017.  Aspiring rock artists are wise to start thinking about how they’ll handle recording, entering and performing.  Watch for information.  Follow @hsrockoff on Instagram and Twitter and get a head start on the 2018 Rock Off.

As for John Love, when he graduates from high school in May 2018, he plans to study music in college.  He wants to be a professional guitar player.