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Teen musicians make their way in WNY music scene

As Western New York concert venues announce their summer lineups, remember not to overlook local bands and artists – especially the ones making a lasting impact at a young age. Identical Difference, Crooked Gener8ion and Elliott Hunt are just a few of the names Buffalo’s talented youth has to offer. From a sister duo that can be found at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, to a band that plays hard rock, to an act that’s looking to break the mold of young singers before him, the local scene has a variety of genres to satisfy any musical taste – and they’re all in or fresh out of high school.

Identical Difference

Over the past year, sisters Skyler and Taylor Bogdan, of Tonawanda, have realized that while they may share a few differences, their similarities overpower any distinctions between them – hence the duo’s name, Identical Difference.

One similarity the pair can agree on is their passion for music. Taylor, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Amelia School who will be attending Mount St. Mary Academy in the fall, has been perfecting her singing talent since she was 3. Skyler, 16, on the other hand, has only recently found the confidence to add vocals to her repertoire, which previously consisted of background guitar.

“I finally broke out of my shell and haven’t looked back,” said the junior at Mount St. Mary Academy.

In terms of sound, the sisters say they are heavily influenced by artists across the musical spectrum: Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, the Arctic Monkeys and John Mayer have all played roles in shaping the tone of the duo. Taylor Swift has had the most significant impact on Identical Difference, they said, since they connect with Swift’s focus and attention to fans.

Despite the sisters’ accomplishments, not everything always goes according to plan.

“One of the biggest challenges we face as teen musicians is that people don’t always take us seriously,” said Taylor, claiming that this has proved to be a challenge in finding venues.

Their age hasn’t become too much of a setback, however: Identical Difference has garnered the support of family, friends, classmates and new fans through impressive venues like the Hard Rock Cafe in order to promote the group’s first demo CD.

“There are always setbacks with being a musician, but if it’s something you love to do, then you can always find a way to overcome these setbacks,” Skyler said. “Being in a group with my sister has ultimately changed my life for the better.”

Crooked Gener8ion

You might have seen the red wristbands around town, or maybe saw the group perform live at local shows, all of which is evidence of the success of Crooked Gener8ion. The up-and-coming band provides a youthful take on rock icons such as Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and even Bob Dylan.

The group’s members – Mat Missert,19, a Tonwanda resident who attends Villa Maria College; Connor Ryan, 20, a Cardinal O’Hara High School grad; Gabe Marrone, 17, a senior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute; and Ryan Weatherbee, 18, a senior at Cardinal O’Hara High School – have aspirations to make a living as musicians, and they are determined.

Mat said that while the band has “no set destination,” the future is looking bright, especially considering how far it has come in the short time it has existed.

“A lot of our friends and schoolmates have bought our wristbands and shirts, and also have come to our shows,” said Ryan, who plans to attend Villa Maria College in the fall. “We’re glad to have met and played with many talented and amazing bands and musicians, and we’re happy to be in the great Buffalo music scene.”

From rocking the Forvm at Burtfest to building on their skills in frequent music classes, the bandmates are clearly determined to make a name for themselves. This summer will be eventful, considering the group will be recording its first album, “Love’s Blacklist,” and headlining at Mohawk Place in August.

“If you set a goal for yourself, and you believe that you can reach it, nothing can stop you,” Ryan said. “Limitations only exist if you create them.”

It doesn’t seem that anything will be stopping Crooked Gener8ion anytime soon.

Elliott Hunt

Simplicity and originality are the main musical goals for Elliott Hunt, a junior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. While he is joining the broadening indie and alternative genre, he isn’t prepared to brand himself as just another face in the crowd.

The musical spark that has been ingrained in Elliott for several years has developed into his passion.

“When I was more of a kid than I am now, which may be hard to believe, my dad always took me to his recording studio, where I had chances to meet icons like the Goo Goo Dolls when he produced them,” recalls Elliott, whose dad is Marc Hunt, who teaches audio and visual production at Erie 1 BOCES and was recently inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. He has worked with the Goo Goo Dolls and formerly owned EarCandy Audio.

Elliott has taken his father’s advice to heart in chasing his ambitions.

“He showed how whether you’re doing what you love and love doing it, such as pursuing music, there’s always gonna be moments when you wish you could be doing something else, but if it’s something you really want, then you’ll have to struggle for it,” Elliott said.

This “struggle” seemed to have made its first appearance when Hunt had his debut gig closing for a heavy metal band. It’s not difficult to imagine the crowd’s surprise when two singers and an acoustic guitar took the stage to perform afterward, but the audience responded “perfectly,” he said.

Elliott has come to grips with the reality of the music industry and fully embraced it.

“It’s very hard to make something that is yours that people will remember is yours,” he said. “You don’t want to fall into the idea of mirroring another band, because there’s already been a Simon & Garfunkel or Rolling Stones.”

He has declared his ultimate goal as becoming “more than a local name.” With production of his debut album wrapping up at the end of this month and a performance that was held Monday at Mohawk Place, he has all of the credentials to achieve exactly that.

Katie Czerwinski is a senior at Cardinal O’Hara High School.