Student bands prepare for Winterfest

Every December, when the year and the semester are nearing a close, the best of Leesville’s talented musicians start to show their faces… to the entire school.

All eyes will be on the Winterfest Assembly this coming semester, but the process of inventing and choosing the acts that keep our attention (sorry, folks, but the acting part is pretty corny) is a show unto itself.

The fiercest competition, of course, is among the rock bands.

Though only a few groups of Leesville musicians describe themselves as ‘rock bands,’ many talented students put together musical acts for audition. Because of the wide variety of student musicians, only one or two actual ‘bands’ are admitted to the Winterfest assembly yearly – and this narrow chance at recognition promotes serious, passionate competition.

“We got really excited about auditions,” said Taylor Whitley, guitarist for the student band Dillinger, which performed at last year’s Winterfest assembly. “[Preparing] is a lot of fun, but it can cause stress… but we work really hard.”

Succeeding in the auditions, which started December 14, is key for some upstart groups to get a taste of the limelight – or as close to it as a high school assembly can offer.

“Getting to play in front of all our fellow students is rewarding,” said Scott Levy, who played bass in The Josh Mabellos Experience, a band that was featured in the 2010 assembly. “There’s a bond between bandmates that you see [when you’re all classmates].”

Bassist John Kleinert of Dillinger agreed. “I enjoy entertaining other people [with my music]… it gives me more to focus on as a musician.”

A few collaborative musical efforts are born solely from a desire to perform in the assembly instead of a relatively long-standing band like Dillinger or The Josh Mabellos Experience.

“We thought it’d be fun to come together for a common interest,” said Dominic Sirkin, drummer for the newly-formed band Blevins & the Bolsheviks. “I mean, it’s fun to jam, and even better to take that into the music showcase that is Winterfest… it’s an awesome opportunity to play in front of everyone.”

Either way, the auditions took only the bands that express the most of what the judging panel feels students want to see. For the sake of the Winterfest audience weeks from now, we should hope that more rock bands succeed in their auditions in the coming years and show their musicianship on the lighted stage.

“Being a member of a band motivated me to get better – I’m a much better bassist since I joined Dillinger,” explained Kleinert. “It’s something I can take seriously.”

I myself am in a rock band made up of Leesville students, and that group is auditioning for Winterfest. And I couldn’t agree more – preparation is serious and actually quite nerve-wracking. Rockin’ out with my band, playing bass, and “taking it seriously” is an entertaining experience. If you don’t play an instrument for fun with friends, you’re missing out in a big way. Maybe you’ll be in time for next year’s assembly.

When at long last the results of the auditions were released, the high hopes of veteran performer Dillinger came to fruition – the band will perform the energetic rock hit “Knights of Cydonia” by Muse. However,  aspiring band Blevins & the Bolsheviks was less fortunate, falling short of the prize after their audition performance of “Limelight” by classic rock group Rush.

Despite this year’s results, Winterfest depends on the ingenuity of student musicians who come together to entertain their classmates. Next year, grab that guitar and take up your drumsticks… The Pride is waiting!


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