Teen musicians are breaking out of their bedrooms and onto the local music scene. Western New York is full of opportunities to spread talent and begin a potential career.
School can be one of the best places to start. Some parents and teens choose to take private lessons as well.
"We had to join the school band," says Jacob Klimchuk, a senior at Akron High School and drummer for the bands Seigwyrm and Mercy Beat.
Many schools offer music lessons to develop talent. Clubs such as a guitar club or a talent show can showcase a musician at school. It can also be a place to meet other teens interested in music. Forming a band and learning from each other is how many musicians gain the courage to play at different venues.
Open mic nights enable performers to connect with other musicians and gain knowledge and experience about performing and other musical opportunities.
The Clarence Center Coffee Co. hosts a teen-friendly open mic at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Daily Grind Cafe in Lockport has open mics from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
St. Peter's United Church of Christ in West Seneca holds an open mic from 7 to 10 p.m. every third Friday of the month, where teens are encouraged to perform.
"The most important thing is to make connections with people and promote yourself," says Justin John Smith of Buffalo band Dali's Ghost. "Choose your locations wisely."
Finding gigs can be a challenge, as well as unpredictable.
"I was supposed to just play with [former band] Rock Candy and there was a country band playing before us and their drummer didn't show up -- I had to fill in," says Jacob, remembering his first gig.
"Wnymusic.com has a section where people can put ads up looking for bands and certain musicians," he said.
Speaking with other performers and inquiring whether they need someone to play in between their sets or open for them can be beneficial for both acts. Talking with the booking agent at a venue about acquiring a gig might also be a successful way of landing a show.
Buffalo has many music and art festivals, and although some are quite exclusive, they can provide publicity and venues.
The Buffalo Infringement Festival, Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, Lewiston Art Festival, Taste of Buffalo and Music is Art, to name just a few, all included teen performers last year.
"The Buffalo Infringement Festival opened me up to more opportunity and it helped me spread my music to more people," says Erin Jeffords, a senior at Clarence High School and a singer/songwriter.
There can be more to a performance than just the music. Arriving on time, being prepared and being responsible for equipment at gigs shows professionalism. Audiences can tell when a musician is doing his or her best.
"You need the ability to put on a show. It's not all about how you play, it's about how you look and perform, too," Jacob said. "Sounding good and putting on a good show, and in my case, doing all my stick twirling and flips and head spinning."
"I crack jokes all the time. I embarrass myself on purpose. I typically go for happier songs," Erin says.
Not every aspect of being a musician is glamorous though.
"The set up and tear down, it's just a pain in the butt," says Jacob about using his drum equipment at shows.
Publicity is essential.
"Talk to as many people as possible. ... On Craigslist, MySpace and Facebook, you can post shows," Jacob says.
"I think that social networking is critical and you have to learn how to write a good press release for the newspapers," said singer/songwriter Michael Meldrum, the founder of the Buffalo Song Project and mentor of many local musicians, including Ani DiFranco.
"You need the contact number for the newspapers. You wanna keep a mailing list ready at every gig. Little postcard-sized mailing applications -- ask people to fill them out so you can invite them to subsequent shows and collect them at the end of the gig.
"It helps to have a record and reviews of the record and your shows. ... Print a lot of posters and get them out there," he said.
"You definitely need hard work and dedication," Jacob said. "Work hard, never give up and just keep going after it if that's what you really want. Play as much as you can with as many people as you can. You're bound to get somewhere."
Erin Sydney Welsh is a freshman at Clarence High School.