Do you know the secrets of the students walking next to you in the hallways? We all hear about the accomplishments of the student athletes, but there is another talented group that you may not be aware of… the Rock Stars of Oyster River!
With many different Oyster River High School student musicians now showcasing their talent through Coffeehouse and local open mics, we focus on five that have stood out. These musicians share how they got into music, what performing is like to them, and much more!
Will Blandini (‘24) is a student musician who plays the piano, guitar, and trumpet. He started playing classical piano around the age of 5 or 6, but decided classical wasn’t for him. Instead, he decided to learn how to play the guitar. He continued with electric guitar lessons for 7 years, but stopped when he was 13. In the school band, he played the trumpet, and from that got into jazz and joined the school’s jazz band. He decided to start taking jazz trumpet lessons after, and is still taking those lessons now.
Blandini describes playing music as, “The best feeling. I always get into the music and feel as though it shows in my playing.” The sound when your part blends with the rest of the band creates something magical, and that drives Blandini and makes him want to get up and perform.
Over quarantine, Blandini has also gotten into producing music. He said, “It all started as a thing I wanted to learn during quarantine and slowly but surely found a love for it and been working on it ever since,” He continues, “I didn’t know how extremely hard it was and I’m still trying to perfect my craft.” He has grown to love music production and now is very excited for a new music production course being offered at the school for next year.
He has lots of new ideas planned for songs, starting with his newly released single, ‘Somethin’ Slick’ which is a “Lofi style song with no vocals,” he explains.
If you want to check out more of Blandini’s music, look for him on instagram @blandinistudio_1!
Brenden Barry (‘22) is a student musician who plays the bass and the rhythm guitar. He’s been playing bass for about two and a half years after trying to pick up the guitar, but found he was more suited to the bass. His dad was the person to get him into music, introducing Barry to all sorts of different classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Grateful Dead, and the Allman Brothers. From there, his music taste broadened to anything from “baroque pop from the 60s, metal from the 80s, or rap like Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, and Cypress Hill.” He continues, “I love most music, and to me it’s not the genre that defines the song but the individual song. If a song speaks to me, for whatever reason, then it’s alright in my books. I never limit myself to genres.”
Barry enjoys both playing and recording. “I think it’s a lot of fun to just sit down and play along with these songs, with everything recorded through a mic and an amp,” he says. Barry has floated around all over the local music scene, but currently plays rhythm guitar in a local band called Scrumptious with a couple of classmates. Scrumptious usually plays at Mouth of the River’s quarterly Coffeehouse, but they have also been playing at open mics at the Freedom Cafe and hope to soon get a regular gig there.
Although Barry enjoys playing with his peers, he also enjoys playing bass with different musicians that reach out. “I’ve been trying to find different musicians to make a different band and play more of the music that I enjoy.” When he gets the chance, he tries to join in with different musicians when invited. “It’s nice to have people be like, ‘I like your playing, come play with us,’” says Barry. He also thinks that it’s nice not to have to worry about band dynamics and to be able to just go on stage and have fun.
Barry has always been good at public speaking, but has found performing to be a little different. “You are putting your hobby out there in front of people and I remember the first gig that I ever played I was shaking with fright the whole time, but eventually, the more you do it and the more you realize that people are there and they’re going to enjoy it no matter what and you just get into the rhythm of things and just kinda relax.” Barry explains that still getting up on stage at Coffeehouse can be scary because you don’t want to be the one to mess something up. One thing he has learned is that, “if you mess up, not a lot of people know and everyone is there to support each other -that’s the great thing- to know that whether it’s people in the audience or fellow musicians they’re always going to support you.”
If you want to check out Barry’s music, look for him on instagram @officialbrendenbarry or hear him play at our Coffeehouse!
Ethan Bessette (‘22) is a student musician who sings, plays the trombone, the euphorium, and the piano. He has been involved with music since before he was born, when his mom would sing to him in the womb. Since he was little, music has been a big part of his life. He got a feel for music when he was little, just messing around on his keyboard.
In the seventh grade, he joined the school’s jazz band with music teacher Dave Ervin, who ended up being a big influence for Bessette. Bessette describes him as “such an amazing person and teacher. I respect him a lot and definitely owe a lot of my musicianship to him.” Jazz band got him more into singing, which he has found a passion for, and helped him to practice the trombone more.
Bessette has performed with some school groups and other people, with his most notable achievement being getting into jazz and classical all states on vocal bass. He first started performing mostly at the Freedom Cafe in downtown Durham, during the open mic nights and teen nights. There he performed many vocal pieces, and even a few original piano pieces. These experiences have helped to get him more comfortable in front of an audience.
One of his favorite memories of performing is when the jazz band took a trip to China his freshman year. The students had gone to China in collaboration with UNH’s Confucius Institute to play the background music in a silent nature documentary. He recalls,“ I remember that during one of the performances, hitting the high G on my trombone was so cool.”
If you want to check out more of Bessette’s music, look for him on instagram @ethan._musician or hear him play at Coffeehouse or in the Freedom Cafe!
Zach Smith (‘22) is a student musician who plays the guitar. He started playing the guitar when he was little, after his dad introduced it to him, and he has played ever since. He has always liked music, both listening and playing, and sees it as a good release. Smith likes to play any type of music but he says mostly “look for songs that sound cool or look hard to play because I like challenges.”
Smith’s favorite part of performing is “Seeing myself get better. It’s really satisfying.” He goes on to talk about how he used to get really scared and nervous performing, but over time has gotten used to it and is a little more confident. His first time on stage was at his fifth grade talent show playing the ukulele. “I remember it being really quiet and everyone staring and I couldn’t tell if they liked it or not,” he remembers.
Smith’s advice for beginners is to “Stick with it! There’s a lot of good stuff online. Put yourself out there to get noticed and don’t be afraid to perform.” He mentions how it’s fun to have someone else to learn with so you can feed off of eachother and have friendly competition. The most difficult part of learning an instrument to Smith is “playing what usually sounds bad and needs work. Sitting down and focusing on the areas you need improvement and honing in on those is probably the most difficult but having that awareness will make you a better player.”
If you want to check out more of Smith’s music, hear him play at Coffeehouse!
Gracie Gallagher (‘22) is a student performer and singer who acts in shows and plays. She has been interested in singing since she was little but the things that drove her to start singing were the movies that she would watch and the celebrities that she looked up to that were musicians.
Her first time going on stage, Gallagher was “super nervous and anxious in the lead up and anticipation of going onstage.” But since then, and after being involved in more shows, “’I’ve learned that everyone watching is always rooting for you. People in the audience aren’t hoping that you’ll do badly, they’re always on your side and want to be in support of you, not the opposite. Messing up the tiniest bit isn’t going to be something people remember, especially if you keep going like nothing has changed.”
Gallagher’s favorite memory of singing was recently being in a show called “Be More Chill” at the Seacoast Repertory Theater in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She has been performing at this theater since 2018 and has been in four teen mainstage productions, but in this show “my role, Christine, was my first major lead role at a professional theater. It was super fun and was an experience that really made me appreciate singing and performing so much more,” Gallagher explains. She also talks about the special relationships and connections you make through these performances and how they really add to the positivity of the memories made.
If you want to check out more about Gallagher’s singing, watch her sing at Coffeehouse!
Photos by Sofia Sarzosa and Will Blandini