The Proctor High Rock Band poses for a photo after a rehersal last week. Pictured (l-r) Aaron Audet, Cheyenne Grundt, Luke Shaw, Morgan Howard, Megan Elrick, Sam Tilden, Tori Breese, Marvin Atwood and Ryan Johnson.
By Dave Hoffenberg
Most know Aaron Audet as a musician in the Killington/Rutland Region, not as a teacher. But, in fact, he has taught music at Proctor Jr/Sr High School for the past 16 years, and has molded his students into talented young rockers as well as classical musicians. Audet’s role at the school includes a wide range of music classes, Rock Band being one of them — and he likes them all. “I’ve pretty much taken everything I like to do musically and put it into the curriculum,” he said.
On Sunday, April 26, Audet’s School Rock Band will perform at the Pickle Barrel Nightclub from 3-5 p.m. All proceeds to benefit the High School Music Program. Refreshments and raffles will be also be offered at the event. Pre-purchase tickets at Proctor High School for $5 or at the door for $8.
The Rock Band is comprised of eight high school students whose unique talents together form an outstanding band. The Proctor High School Rock Band has been around for many years and each year there are talented kids that join continuing their on-going reputation for excellence.
The band’s members include third year singer Megan Elrick, second year singer Morgan Howard, first year singer Cheyenne Grundt, first year guitarist Marvin Atwood, first year drummer Sam Tilden, second year piano player and singer Tori Breezs, third year drummer Ryan Johnson and third year bass and singer Luke Shaw. The group is made up of six seniors and two sophomores so next year Audet will have to rebuild. “This year the band is really solid,” he said.
The set list for the Pickle Barrel show is comprised of popular tunes of Pop, Classic Rock, Modern Rock, Motown and even some Bluegrass. You’ll be singing and dancing along, Audet says. His favorite song on the program is Jackson Five’s “I want you back.”
Rock Band is a full year class and always attracts self-motivated kids, he said. “They practice and pick the tunes. Every once in a while I have to give them a push but for the most part, they’re pretty self-directed. I just get to play rhythm guitar and then critique them. I tell them if they’re singing flat or not singing it right or if the guitar or drum part needs to be different.”
They’re homework assignments are to learn the songs. Audet will give them four songs to learn over the weekend. If they learn them all they get an ‘A.’ Audet says all the kids are very talented for such a young age.
“The Rock Band is great, I’m really impressed with them … It’s really impressive to see what these kids are doing,” said Audet’s student teacher, Cynthia Toftness-Hutchins, a senior from Castleton who has been assisting with the program since March. “It’s not often you see so many kids so dedicated to what they’re doing and doing it well. They sound really good and it will be a good time,” she said, looking ahead to Sunday.
Audet hopes crowds will come out to the show. In addition to the much-needed fundraising support, he says “The kids are really playing awesome, they sound really good. People should come up and support them and check them out. We’re hoping the student body will come out as well. Having it at the Pickle Barrel should help because the kids get to hang out at a nightclub that they can’t normally get into. There’s going to be a big light show and big sound,” he said. “I have some Jr. High kids opening the show, there should be six songs before the Rock Band starts. I wanted to give them a shot at playing something cool.”
Meet the band
Elrick plans to continue her passion for singing after high school. “When I go to college I’ll be going for Athletic Training but this is something I like to do with my friends, it’s fun. It’s fun to perform,” she said. She’s been singing since she joined the chorus in 5th grade. She got into the Rock Band because a friend, Alyssa Valerio, had been in the band all four years before graduating last year. “She has an amazing voice. She taught me how to play piano and sing at the same time. She told me how hard work and dedication leads into having fun no matter what,” Elrick said of her mentor.
Singer Morgan Howard started singing at music festivals like the New England Music Festival when she was in the eighth grade and has continued to do so throughout high school. Music is in her family. “My Mom, aunts and grandparents can all play guitar and sing. I try to play guitar, I’m not that good right now, but I’m working on it,” she said laughing. “We’ve been working really hard all year and we like to have people come see us play,” she continued. “Folks will see the musical impact that Mr. Audet has had on us and our school… We’ve just been working really hard and it’s nice to have people appreciate it.”
Audet recruited first year singer Cheyenne Grundt to be in the band. She also has an amazing story.
“When I was two I had a tumor that took a third of my brain. After taking it out I couldn’t talk. I actually sang songs before I could talk,” Grundt said. “I really want to do something with music as a career… I’m really good with technology so I want to do something with that, too. I actually had to learn on a computer to be able to talk and do what I do today.”
Guitarist Marvin Atwood is in his first year in the Rock Band. He wanted to join sooner but scheduling wouldn’t allow it. He’s been playing the guitar for about seven years and plans to stick with it, if he can.
“It’d be nice to stick with it. It’s fun to play and it’s rewarding because I can see myself progress,” he said. But acknowledges that there will be obstacles. “But I don’t know. It’s difficult, it’s definitely difficult.”
Sam Tilden is one of two drummers in the band. He’s only been drumming for a year and a half. He got into it from playing the video game “Rock Band.”
“I always played the drums in that game and thought I should play the real ones,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun… I really got into it.”
His favorite drummer is Jimmy Sullivan from the band, “Avenged Sevenfold.” He likes his “Very fast beats, which are more complicated with a lot of fills. He sounds incredible, I love it. I absolutely, definitely want to stick with this,” he said.
He’s heading off to Husson University in Maine next fall. “I can’t bring my drum set into my dorm room,” he said, but doesn’t think that will stop him from playing where he can. “We have a big set list,” he said of the upcoming show. “We’re not a bad band, I actually think we’re pretty good for our age and I think we’ll put on a really good show.”
Tori Breese started playing the piano when she was seven but sings as well. It’s hard for her to pick a favorite between the two but leans towards piano. Her parents have encouraged her since she was little. She’s going off to college soon but hasn’t decided yet between Providence, Holy Cross, St Michaels and UVM. She encourages people to come out to the Pickle Barrel because, “This is going to be one of the last concerts of the year for us and we’ve been working hard all year. Some of these songs we’ve been playing since the beginning of the year. We’re really well rehearsed and we’re excited to be playing somewhere different.”
Ryan Johnson, on drums, started with the Rock Band three years ago. “Just before that Mr. Audet gave me a chance to play in Concert Band. I took on that pretty quickly.”
He likes having Audet as a teacher, too. “He’s laid back, as long as we do our work and get stuff done… As long as we try our hardest, we’ll get a hundred.”
After high school, he’s moving down to Georgia to get his welder’s certification and already has a lucrative job lined up with his aunt and uncle’s company.
Luke Shaw has been playing the bass for three years and he sings as well. He started playing bass right before joining Rock Band. “I had some friends that were in Rock Band that wanted me to join and they didn’t have a bass player. They just handed me a bass and I taught myself how to play,” he said. When asked why the community should ocme to the show Sunday, Shaw simply said: “Because we’re going to give them a hell of a show!”