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The Kids Are Alright!

April 29, 2011 - Jim Price
This spring is quickly turning into a busy and momentous one for the youth movement on this area’s music scene. A number of noteworthy youngsters are making their marks on stages and in studios across the region.

In the studio, 12-year-old State College songstress Riley Roth just issued her debut CD, "Love," this week. Singing and performing onstage now for two years, Riley has already accumulated a number of awards and honors statewide, including finalist at the 2010 Colgate Country Showdown, and winning the 2009 Grange Fair Talent Show. She will perform at the upcoming Special Olympics Pennsylvania State Summer Games in early June, and will also sing the “National Anthem” during the State College Spikes’ opening day festivities on June 19.

Also in the studio, young Hollidaysburg rock trio E.V.K. is putting the finishing touches on their debut full-length CD, "Fat Vinny Was Here," with an expected release date in June. Comprised of 15-year-old singer and drummer Chelsea Moses, her 11-year-old brother Stevie on guitar and vocals, and 15-year-old Emmett Eldred on bass; E.V.K. derived their name from the initials of the late Eric Vincent Kelly – “Fat Vinny” of Fat Vinny & the Wiseguys fame. Kelly was Stevie’s guitar teacher, and would often jam with the youngsters after weekly guitar lessons and show them songs and techniques. After Kelly passed unexpectedly in February 2008, the youngsters named their group in honor of him, and still cite him as a major influence. E.V.K. frequently plays benefit shows and public events during the summer season.

Another young sibling-based group that has gained attention recently is Savanna Dawn, who won the inaugural “Battle Of The (Original) Bands” competition on April 17 at Johnstown’s Venue Of Merging Arts (V.O.M.A.). Based in Somerset County, teenage sisters Savanna and Olivia Mitchell are quickly gaining attention regionally and from the music industry for their bright, siren-like vocal harmonies; delicate and intricate melodies; and poetic, touching lyrics. Backing the sisters is hand percussionist Shane Riley. Savanna Dawn won a demo recording session at V.O.M.A.’s in-house studio facility in Johnstown, and will soon have an official recording from that session to share with the world. In the meantime, some home-made video recordings of some of the girls’ songs can be viewed on YouTube.

Allegory is a group of four Johnstown area high school juniors that is also garnering attention. Singer and guitarist Brittany Berkebile, guitarist Josh Maurizio, bassist Sean Rogers and drummer Zach Georgevich are quickly gaining attention with their bright blend of rock and pop melodies. The group has recorded an initial demo, and has received airplay on Rocky 104.9’s “Homegrown Rocker” program. They were also finalists in the aforementioned V.O.M.A. “Battle Of The (Original) Bands” competition, and frequently play benefit shows and functions throughout Cambria County.

And Scorched, a family rock band from Blairsville, recently issued their full-length debut CD, "Frozen," through Oklahoma-based recording label Tate Music Group. Singer and mother Dawn Waltman, guitarist and father Floyd Waltman, and their children – 14-year-old Kaitlyn on drums and 10-year-old Brandon on keys – introduce a musical variety spanning from light pop to angry metal flavors. Scorched has achieved regional radio airplay and Christian music chart action, and the group is currently involved in an online contest to win an opening slot with national recording group Jars Of Clay.

More area youngsters will showcase their talents this Sunday, May 1, at the 21st annual Crazy Fest Amateur Youth Talent Show, which starts at 1 p.m. at the Greenwood Firehall in Altoona. Organized and hosted by local entertainer Dennie Huber, Crazy Fest encourages youngsters ages 21 and under to show off their skills in front of a friendly and supportive audience, while competing for a wide range of trophies, awards and other prizes in a number of age and performance divisions. Crazy Fest welcomes any kind of talent; including singers, musicians, dancers, baton twirlers, magicians, jugglers, actors, performing groups, bands, and any other talents that the young mind can create. There is no fee for youngsters to register; interested entrants may contact Huber at (814) 942-2516 or even show up prior to the start time of Sunday’s Crazy Fest event.

In the past twelve years, area music fans witnessed the development of youngsters Elizabeth and Arejay Hale – and their band Halestorm – from a fledgling family-based band into a headlining international touring rock band signed to Atlantic Records. Halestorm’s success story should provide inspiration to all young performers, including the ones spotlighted in this article. See these promising youngsters now, and watch their progress in the coming months and years. As Halestorm proved, young dreams can be achieved.

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E.V.K., performing during "Everybody Fest" last October at the Oriental Ballroom in Gallitzin.


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