With the annual Battle of the Bands event coming up, students ready the garage bands they started with their friends on a whim. But after the big battle, where do they go from there? There are not a lot of places in McHenry for these young musicians to perform to the public, and that puts a dent in those who want to pursue music in their future.
Ten or twenty years ago, there were many places in McHenry and its surrounding county where bands could play–including the Just for Fun Roller Rink on Route 31. But since the internet became an easier and more convenient way to share music, the local music scene has disappeared.
There are still some places in McHenry that do provide performance opportunities, however, that are more than just open-mic nights. Some of these places include Siren Records, Epic Deli, Hidden Pearl (when it opens), and, on occasion, even Just For Fun. “The most important thing to do, above all else, is to communicate,” says East senior Nathan Bodecker. “Make yourself or your band be known to not just businesses but different groups of friends and contacts that can help you out in some way. Not that you always want to play at a birthday party, but you have to start somewhere.”
Having the space to show others what musicians have created is important for their growth. “The teenage to young adult years are chaotic years of incredible change,” says Bodecker. “A great mass of students are passionate about the arts and for performing, and a great many at least want to try.” Giving these opportunities to aspiring musicians keeps that drive going and, as Bodecker says, “lights a flame for someone’s life to begin.”
At MCHS, there are a few opportunities for musicians to perform besides Battle of the Bands. There is the Variety Show, which is like a talent show without the competition. Tri-M Music Honor Society also hosts the Cozy Coffee House. “The coffeehouse gives students an opportunity to perform without the pressure of an audition or competition,” says Tri-M president Indigo Tooke. “It’s a great way to bring students in the arts together to appreciate each other’s respective arts.”
The school does what it can to give student musicians chances to showcase their art. However, outside of school walls, that dedication and support is inconsistent. “When it comes to performing, it’s something I aspire to do way more often than I do now,” Bodecker explains. “I definitely would like to have clear set gigs to perform. Prioritizing school and outside activities is often a challenge in itself, so to add the stress of gigging here and there isn’t possible.”
Music is an important part of many students’ lives. These people, especially those who are majoring in music or music performance, should have more real-world experiences before they dive into furthering their education—experience this community no longer offers. Bodecker says, “Music’s ability to make the mind escape from the restlessness of the world and latch your true emotions and your complete, honest self is something that almost anyone in some way is involved in.”
It is up to local musicians to create their own scene. By calling venues already known to give these opportunities, the high demand will cause a ripple effect with other businesses because they’ll see how popular live performances can be. With bands and musicians booking themselves, however, it is up to non-musicians to go watch them perform and give them support so that it doesn’t fall through. Live music is a community effort to keep the spark alive.