Cleveland high school students prepare to rock off


Photo courtesy of Kate Porter

The 26th annual Tri-C High School Rock Off is here, and over thirty bands of high school students are preparing to compete. The event presented by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Live Nation is a competition in which students play fifteen-minute sets of either original songs or covers with their bands.
To compete, bands have to submit a demo recording of two songs on SoundCloud. Judges that work in the music and entertainment industry decide if the band is eligible to compete. If selected, three performance rounds will take place on January 28, February 4, and February 11. Of the different bands performing throughout these rounds, the judges will choose twelve finalists to compete in a “Final Exam” on February 25.
All finalists will receive prizes that include the opportunity to record an original song produced by Jim Stewart Recording and students from Tri-C’s Recording Arts program. The third-place winner will receive $500, and the second-place winner will receive $1,500, and $100 for their high school music program. Finally, the first-place winner will receive $3,000, and $250 for their high school music program, as well as the opportunity to perform as an opening act at a Live Nation or House of Blues concert.
Last year, the band Psychofuzz placed third in the competition. Senior Ty Jacobs from University School says the band chose to compete again because of the “benefits such as exposure and networking. Plus it’s a really fun show and now that I’ve done it twice before, I wouldn’t miss the chance to play again,” he said. Jacobs has participated his freshman, junior, and now senior year, and this year, he is competing with three different bands: Psychofuzz, Subliners, and Nag Champa.
Hudson High School junior Ethan Ventresca of Psychofuzz has also competed for three years, and says he wants to participate again simply because “I haven’t won yet!”
Chagrin Falls High School sophomore Theo Hawk will compete this year for the first time playing bass with the band Knezzar.
“My band and I are preparing by practicing every weekend.” Hawk said. “One of our biggest challenges is working on musical dynamics and transitions, but we are really excited to meet and make connections with the other bands.”
Knezzar’s vocalist and keyboardist Kate Porter will be competing for a second time this year. To prepare for the Rock Off, Kate has been doing cardio while singing. It’s also the first time they will play keys in front of such a large audience.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been on stage doing what I do,” Porter said. “I’m trying to get back in that headspace to put on the best show I can.”
Kate explained that they missed being on stage and felt grateful for the opportunity of the Rock Off as it was an excuse to get a band together.
“In my own selfish way, I want to live up to my brother’s success. He won with the band Backstage Politics. After he won, all I wanted to do was win.”
Additionally, the five-person band Subliners, composed of members of School of Rock Cleveland’s house band Headliners, will compete as a band for the first time. Sophomore Luca Blaze from Lakewood High and senior Cam Weir from Revere High School described that their biggest challenge in preparing for the competition is finding time to meet and rehearse together because of the size of the group and their busy schedules. Senior John Finley from Bay High School, who has also participated before, is excited for “the potential to make a lot of money.”
“Based off what I’ve seen from the other bands, this year could very well be the toughest competition I’ve seen for the Rock Off,” said Jacobs. “There are some really good bands, and I’m honored to be in and playing with all these amazing people!”