Musicians from Pat Sommers' Rock Shop have played all over Vienna and Northern Virginia. But what's it like to really make it big?
Twenty-three music students from the program will get a taste of fame when they open on Saturday night at the Delancey, a music club in Manhattan.
They'll be bused from Vienna to New York City, where they'll prepare for their set just like a full-time, touring band.
Sommers, whose rock credentials include touring with bands such as Jagged Steel, Sticky and Cypress and recording with Roger Daltrey and Kiss’ Ace Frehley, . Those who audition are put into their own bands, covering popular tunes and writing some of their own with bandmates.
"They know playing in a band is hard work and that they need to put that work in before playing on stage," Sommers said.
So when Sommers was asked to play a reunion concert with his old band in New York, he quickly knew who the perfect opening act would be.
“I really thought these kids were more than qualified to open for us,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity and one that I don’t think many people get. We have a tour bus coming in and they will be doing what the big boys do.”
In all, six bands from Rock Shop will be playing, performing covers and one original song a piece.
“I want them to know the pressures of needing a new song -- next week -- because that’s how it was for me when I was out on the road,” Sommers said.
Jason Saitta, a student and singer and guitarist for the rock shop's "That’s What She Said," is thrilled to be making his NYC debut.
“What I’m looking forward to most of all is the ability to play a venue so far away from home, and get exposure for Rock Shop and my band as well,” he said. “Also the popularity at school for playing a show in New York isn’t bad either.”
That’s What She Said will be playing classic rock tunes by Joe Walsh, ELO, the Killers, Eddie Money and Bryan Adams. Saitta also plays bass in the more modern rock band Simple Drag, who will be playing songs by Paramore, Florence and the Machine, Pretty Reckless and Tat.
“What I’ve learned from Pat is that it takes a whole lot of work to be a good musician. It’s not all fun and games and just playing on a stage, contrary to popular belief, but it requires effort and dedication to be good at what you want to do,” Saitta said.
Saitta’s mom Vicki is happy there’s a safe place for teens and preteens to go to learn the ins and outs of creating rock music and credits Sommers with inspiring her son.
“I think the trip to New York will be a great experience for all of the kids. For them to be able to play there is a dream come true for many musicians,” she said. “They will have the experience of opening for a bigger band and to see how that all works out. It is a huge opportunity for them.”
In addition to the opening slot at the Delancey, the kids have also been asked to do a quick acoustic set at the famous Hard Rock Café that afternoon.
“This is going to be an amazing trip,” said Dakota Shea, who serves as Sommers’ right-hand man and helps each of the bands prepare. “Pat is a great teacher and everyone is so jazzed about this.”
After they leave the big city, the members of Rock Shop will play for their home crowd in Vienna from 4:30 to 6 p.m. May 5.