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I'll never forget the time I made it into my high school's variety show during my freshman year. Every student has dreams of being the most popular kid in school. I was the quiet kid in school. I never caused any trouble, I never asked questions and I never started conversations. I wanted to be popular, but I knew that I needed a new image. I always enjoyed music; I always thought the drums were cool, so I began to play the drums. I formed a band with a few of my friends in hope to gain little popularity. In order for us to get our peer's attention, we had to try out for the variety show. I would have never imagined that playing in the variety show for my peers would transform me from a nobody into a somebody. I had two main goals that I wanted to get from being in the variety show: to gain recognition from the students and to play music on stage in front of a large audience.
I formed a band with my friends from middle school. Matt Bochicchio, one of my best friends, played guitar. He was always the hardest to get to practice because he was on the high school soccer team so it was difficult for him to find any free time to practice. Matt was so good on guitar that we made him the lead guitarist. Ian Williams, who was a wanna be badass, played rhythm guitar. Ian was always getting himself into trouble with the teachers. Ian wasn't as good as Matt which I found ironic because Ian had been playing guitar a lot longer than him. Fritz played bass and he was the most terrible bass player that I had ever played with in my entire life. Fritz is his last name; his first name is Matt. We called him Fritz so there wouldn't be any confusion. He only wanted to be in a band so he could get chicks, but his plan didn't work out. Nick Naro, a lady's man in his time, was our singer. He wasn't a really good singer, but he had a PA system and back then, that's all that mattered.
The band was originally mine and Matt's, but we lost control of it to Nick whom loved the spotlight. He let his ego go to his head and we would get the impression from him that we didn't matter.
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The only thing that made your band cool, back then, was the equipment. If you didn't have the big expensive amps, the loud PA system, the seven-string guitars and the monster size drum set, you were nobody. That was the image we were able to obtain with the little help from our parents and our bi-weekly checks from our minimum wage jobs. But, even though we had all that equipment didn't mean that we were good. We needed practice and practice we did.
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When the day finally came, we were psyched. Try outs were right after school, but I needed to go home to get my black Premier Cabria drum set. As soon as I got home, I packed everything in the kitchen since I had to wait for my father to arrive home from work. When he got home, we placed the drums in the back of his white Chevy truck. The one thing I never liked about being a drummer was all the heavy hardware, cymbals and drums that I had to lug all over the place. After I arrived at the school, I unloaded my drum set and began to put it together as quickly as possible. We had to wait for the novice acts, the dancers and the singers to finish before the bands could try out. We were in the middle of the list to go on stage which was good since we didn't want to go first or last. The pressure was on since we were the only freshman band trying out against all of the upper-class-men bands. The odds were against us.
They called our name and we began to set up as quickly as possible on the stage. Once they gave us the cue to begin, Matt played the intro. We were about half way into the song and the judges abruptly stopped us. "Robert, could you step over here?" asked Mr. Yazinski, my English teacher. "Who is in your band?"
"Well, there's Ian Williams, Matt Bochicchio, Matt Fritz, Nick Naro and myself." I replied.
After that moment we were sure that we made it into the variety show. But, we wouldn't get the real results until the tomorrow morning. The next morning, we checked in the main foyer for the list of names of the acts that made it into the variety show. There was our band's name, The Flaming Tree Frogs. Nick came up with that name and we will never forgive him to this day for suggesting that stupid name.
We did the unthinkable: we were picked instead of any of the senior bands that tried out that night. But, we were not the only band in the variety show that defeated the seniors. There were three junior bands that were picked. The judges scheduled the dress rehearsal for next Wednesday. After the dress rehearsal, the seniors, who were hosting the show, gave us some tips on how to improve our stage presence.
The variety show was scheduled to go on that coming Friday. There were two shows, one in the morning for the students and one later at night for anyone willing to purchase a ticket. The morning show was a blast. There were two acts; we closed the first act. The anticipation of going on stage in front of your peers was unbearable. It was extremely hard to sit back stage and wait for our turn. They finally told us to set up behind the curtains. As soon as they announced our band name, the girls in the crowd went crazy. They announced each of our names one-by-one signaling us that it was time to get ready. Right after they opened up the curtains, Matt played the intro, I tapped out the cymbal rhythm and Nick began to sing the first line. We rocked out the hardest that we could have. The crowd was feeding off our energy, which was an amazing thrill. When we finished the song, we got a standing ovation. The girls' screams reminded me of the time when The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. But, our dream didn't end there because we still had to play the latter, that night.
The evening variety show was sold out. Everyone who was back stage wanted to talk to us. This was a new experience for me since I was never the center of attention. We eagerly waited again for our turn to step out into the spot light. Of course Ian being Ian was playing his guitar extremely hard back stage and broke a string. We were lucky enough to find another guitar that one of the juniors from the band Idolize, who was gracious enough to let us borrow it for the show. We got situated back stage again before our turn. The announcers again announced our names; all the girls jumped out of their seats and lined up in front of the stage. They opened the curtains and Matt played the intro. I tapped out the catchy rhythm on the cymbals. Nick began to sing the first line. That night was our greatest performance. The crowd went wild.
When the curtains closed, all we could do was stare at each other in amazement. We never believed in a million years that we would be up on stage playing in front of a screaming audience. Everyone who was lined up in front of the stage wanted our autograph. All the other bands who performed in the show wanted us to open up for them in future gigs. I never thought playing the drums could get me so many friends. After playing the variety show, we gained popularity so fast it was astonishing.
After our performance in the variety show, we played two nights at an under-age club called Club Millennia. Our egos were able to break our band apart, but that break up didn't end my pursuit to create music. Then I played Club Millennia again with a different band that consisted of Matt Bochicchio (the lead guitar player), Mike Cooper (our new singer and rhythm guitar player), Jeff Brown (our new bass player), and myself on drums. That was the best band that I had ever played in. We remained a band for a while until our music differences split us up. I later formed a band with my brother on bass, Eric Muholland (a kid I met at a football game) on guitar and Sean Smith (a friend from marching band) on percussion. I enjoyed playing in all of those bands, but they never became as popular as The Flaming Tree Frogs. Even the popularity of The Flaming Tree Frogs was able to diminish over time. After being in so many bands, I realized that I didn't want to be in a band so that I could become popular. It just was not me. Though I did enjoy the popularity that The Flaming Tree Frogs provided for me, I only enjoyed for limited amount of time. I now love being in band just because I get the opportunity to create music, which is one of my inner most passions in life.