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A senior stunt 'in the footsteps of the Beatles' Four Newfane grads-to-be choose gig over ceremony

Four seniors at Newfane High School said they've been planning to imitate the Beatles' last live performance, a rooftop concert in London, since they were freshmen.

Their own version, held on the roof of the school on June 12, was a senior prank that ended their high school experience earlier than expected.

The two-song gig cost students Aaron Brown, Christopher Florio, Paul Giazzon and Jesse Jolley the chance to attend their graduation ceremony on Saturday.

The students said they have been told they are not allowed to attend, even to observe, the high school's commencement.

Their parents said they will still graduate and can pick up their diplomas when they're allowed back on school grounds next week.

Brown said the musical stunt had been a dream of the childhood friends for quite some time, and it was timed so that they would start playing as students arrived on buses.

"We wanted to do it since we were freshmen to follow in the footsteps of the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane," he said.

After the band was unplugged by an assistant principal and a sheriff's deputy, the four were charged with third degree criminal trespassing, according to Chief Deputy Christopher Carlin.
Carlin said the Sheriff's Office was called at 7:29 a.m. and told that students with musical instruments were on the roof of the school and had refused to come down when asked by Principal Steven Burley. Carlin said the students did not have permission to be on the roof and the criminal charges were made at the request of school officials, although he added that the performance was ended without incident.

School officials, including the superintendent and principal, declined to comment.

Board of Education member Carl Stieffenhofer said, "I think the action taken was right."

The students said they expected to be punished for their stunt, and even expected worse.

"Not going to graduation, that was easy for us," Giazzon, 17, said. "We pretty much figured it."

Jolley, 17, said the band had planned the performance in detail for three days, scoping out the site, then setting up the equipment the night before and arriving at school early for the prank. They had brought a full drum set, amplifiers, guitars and a microphone to the roof undetected.

"We've been planning this forever," Jolley said. "That morning I couldn't wait. I figured we had already set it up and we couldn't turn back."

The students were given appearance tickets and have a hearing Tuesday in Town Court, Carlin said.

None of the students said they thought the charges were unfair, although Denise Florio said she's worried that her 18-year-old son Christopher will have a mark on his adult record.

"I know it was wrong, but they were not out to hurt anybody," she said. "They were out for a memory."

Florio said she has told her son to be respectful of the judge and hopes he will only get community service or a fine.

Carlin said the charge is the lowest level misdemeanor, and unless the students have had previous criminal charges, they would be eligible for youthful offender status, which could expunge the incident from their records.

Florio said she's disappointed she won't be able to watch her son walk across the stage on Saturday, but "can't help but smile" at the prank.

She said that she's going to have her son wear his already purchased cap and gown when he goes to the school office to pick up his diploma.

Giazzon said that while he's disappointed he won't be at graduation, the performance was the "picture perfect" way to end his senior year.

"It was something I'll never forget," he said. "That was basically our goodbye to the school."

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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