The Young­bloods

All-stu­dent band plays Beale

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Beth Bright, ad­di­tional pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of Sher­ree Hughes

Afairly com­mon as­pi­ra­tion for many mu­si­cally in­clined teenagers is to start a band and make it big. Thanks to the Spa City Blues So­ci­ety's ef­forts through the na­tional Blues in the Schools pro­gram, lo­cal stu­dents are get­ting to live out that dream and learn from lo­cal mu­si­cal masters in the genre.

The Young­bloods were formed out of a five-day camp held at Na­tional Park Com­mu­nity Col­lege last sum­mer. The So­ci­ety had held a pre­vi­ous camp two years prior, but the in­ter­est in per­form­ing died out when school went back in ses­sion.

Af­ter the 2014 camp, the stu­dents were ea­ger to con­tinue prac­tic­ing and per­form­ing as it fit into their sched­ules, said Sher­ree Hughes, co­or­di­na­tor for the group.

“When the camp wrapped up, they were want­ing to per­form,” she said. “They did a show at the (Hot Springs) Mall and have done a few at the Ar­ling­ton (Re­sort Ho­tel & Spa). But when they kept want­ing to per­form, that's when we set our sights on Mem­phis.”

The Young­bloods kicked their prac­tice ses­sions into high gear, meet­ing ev­ery Sun­day — and even­tu­ally Satur­days — to re­hearse their set list for the 2015 In­ter­na­tional Blues Chal­lenge, held from Jan. 20-24 on Beale Street in Mem­phis. The band was part of a youth show­case where other bands in their age group were es­sen­tially the open­ing acts for the week's Fri­day evening ac­tiv­i­ties.

“All the kids are put in a Fri­day show­case start­ing around 5 o'clock that evening, and the groups never know what venue they're go­ing to draw to play at along Beale Street,” Hughes said. “But our kids were lucky and drew Rum Boo­gie. They couldn't have had a bet­ter venue and bet­ter event or­ga­niz­ers to work with and they had a blast.”

The five mem­bers that were able to re­hearse and at­tend the Chal­lenge were 15-year-olds Ethan Kuntz and Michael Sousa, 14-year-olds Jack­son Vic­to­rian and Zoey Pierce, and 13-year-old Marston Murdock. Each one brings their own style and flair to the group, and they all came to the group in a dif­fer­ent way. But they all have a pas­sion for the blues.

“My mom ac­tu­ally found out about the pro­gram and work­shop through Face­book, but I wasn't able to get in­volved this sum­mer,” said Pierce. “I had played clas­si­cal pi­ano for about five years and around Oc­to­ber, they were look­ing for some­one to play pi­ano. I never would've thought I'd be play­ing the blues, but it's def­i­nitely a lot of fun.”

For Pierce, meet­ing other stu­dents her age in Mem­phis play­ing blues and get­ting in­volved was a high­light and made the ex­pe­ri­ence worth it, as

ner­vous as she may have been. For that, she en­cour­ages any­one in­ter­ested in join­ing the group to give it a try. “It's def­i­nitely a good ex­pe­ri­ence to be in this group,” she said. “Even if you don't know how to play an in­stru­ment, you'll learn how from some of the best in town.”

Kuntz, who plays lead gui­tar for The Young­bloods, said the per­for­mance on Beale Street went very well, con­sid­er­ing it was the group's first per­for­mance with a new au­di­ence.

“No per­for­mance ever goes per­fect and there's al­ways some­thing that could have gone bet­ter, but I re­ally think we re­ally did a re­ally good job for our first time to per­form some­where that wasn't the Ar­ling­ton,” he said. “We prac­ticed a lot lead­ing up to it — some­times four-hour prac­tices — and we did three shows be­fore­hand. We were as ready as we could have been and it was re­ally fun at Rum Boo­gie.”

When asked if they con­sider them­selves a club, Sousa, Vic­to­rian and Murdock agreed that they re­ally do con­sider them­selves a real band.

“I don't think you can play on Beale and not con­sider your­selves a band,” Sousa said, with Murdock adding that “Beale Street was the best thing to hap­pen for us.”

As Vic­to­rian said “Who at our age gets to say they've played at Rum Boo­gie? Play­ing with th­ese guys has been amaz­ing.”

Hughes said one of the re­quire­ments was for the stu­dents to choose songs for their sets that demon­strated what they had learned about the genre.

“They learn in the work­shop how blues is in all mu­sic — the `blue note,' they call it,” she said. “They chose `In the Pines' by Lead­belly, but they chose it be­cause he was Kurt Cobain's main in­flu­ence. They came up with that them­selves.

“And th­ese kids have done more in just a few short months learn­ing and the im­prove­ments they've made have re­ally shown through. With­out the help of Jared Roberts and Mike Fraz and all the other mu­si­cians that help th­ese kids along the way, they would've never been able to ac­com­plish what they have. We're just re­ally proud of them.”

“I don't think you can play on Beale and not con­sider your­selves a band.”

The Young­bloods made their Beale Street de­but at Rum Boo­gie, open­ing the com­pet­i­tive show­case for the 2015 In­ter­na­tional Blues Chal­lenge, held from Jan. 20-24.

Mem­bers of The Young­bloods, from left, Zoey Pierce, Jack­son Vic­to­rian, Michael Sousa, Marston Murdock and Ethan Kuntz.

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