The 2017 Tri-C High School Rock Off champion was crowned Feb. 25.

The Waves, a four-member band with members from Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, took first place in the 21st annual competition, which started with semi-final rounds in January with more than 40 bands and solo artists.

"Our live show is what puts us ahead," said Dominic Merlitti, guitarist. "We love writing music and playing our instruments but the live show is why we do this. We truly left it all on the stage and didn't hold back."

As well as Merlitti, 17, of Akron, The Waves includes Mike English of Akron, 18, on vocals and synthesizer, Dylan Radik, 18, of Akron, on bass, and Jake Mally, 18, of Cuyahoga Falls on drums.

Second place was Montage, whose members are from the Cleveland School of Arts, and Time Out, from Hilliard Darby.

All of the prize money is compliments of the local School of Rock franchise. The winning band received $1,000 cash and $250 for their respective high school music program. The winning band also received a $1,000 gift card compliments of Guitar Center. Each of the bands or solo performers that moved on to The Final Exam received a $25 gift card compliments of Guitar Center. Second place received $250 cash and $100 for their respective high school music program and Third place received $100 cash.

The winning band also won an appearance at 2017 Live Nation Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center in July. As part of the Grand Prize, GRABBIT also offered a 1-year endorsement for the winning band. In addition, the winning band was invited to attend the March 19 Bon Jovi concert at Quicken Loans Arena.

Merlitti said The Waves were most excited about performing in the Vans Warped Tour.

"The money is great," he said. "But an opportunity to play at the Vans Warped tour is absolutely priceless."

The Waves performed at the Rock Off for the first time last year, and made it to the final round, Merlitti said. However, this will be the final year that The Waves can compete in the Rock Off.

"Unfortunately we can't compete next year because we are all seniors," he said. "All of us have competed multiple times, made great friends, and enjoyed the ability to play at the Rock hall. It sucks that this is our last time competing, but we owe the Rock Off for making so many friends. Hopefully we will be doing big things by this time next year. No matter the time of day, The Waves will never stop. They keep on crashing on the beach like our never ending thoughts."

Other local participants

There were several bands with members from either Twinsburg or Cuyahoga Falls, although only The Waves made it to the Final Exam.

Merlitti also performed with No Expectations, which included brothers Ryan, 18, and Jared McGuiness, 16, Woodridge High School students, on bass and drums respectively, Dominick Merlitti, 18, a senior at Archbishop Hoban on guitar, and Maddy Slimak, 18, a senior at Woodridge High School, on vocals and keyboard.

Skip Szalek said that the members of Drift had a good time and were looking forward to competing next year.

"The band had a great time competing," Szalek said. "We wrote some good originals that were well received. The band is definitely looking forward to competing next year and is already underway writing new songs."

The band also includes includes Mark Ray, St Ignatius, 16, bass; Paul Kolbus, St. Ignatius 16, guitar; Jackie Ward, Walsh Jesuit, 15, vocals; Julie Blechschmid, North Royalton, drums, 15; Greg Kondas, St. Ignatius, keys, 16; Daniel Hradisky, Brecksville, sax, 17.

Jessica Siracusa, a 16-year-old solo artist and Walsh Jesuit student, said she, too was already planning for next year's competition.

"We will compete again next year," Siracusa said. "We have a whole year to experiment and write new music. We would like to thank everyone involved in making this a great experience for the kids. A big shoutout to the sound and stage crew."

Max Lyman of 3 Car Garage said that he and the others in the band had fun competing.

"We felt very proud and satisfied about our performance," Lyman said. "We did not make it to the next round but as a band that's only been together for three months, we felt we pulled off a great and memorable performance."

Like The Waves, this, too, was the final competition for 3 Car Garage.

"All of us in the band are seniors so we will be going our separate ways," he said. "Hopefully there will be other competitions similar to the Rock Off that we can participate in at our respective colleges. It was a great and fun night and if we had another chance to do it again, we definitely would."

As well as Lyman, 18, who plays drums and lives in Cuyahoga Falls, the band includes Tommy Muha, guitar, 18, of Cuyahoga Falls; Ryan McGuinness, bass, 18, of Cuyahoga Falls; Nick Kokensparger, guitar, 17, of Twinsburg; and Nicole Neiman, singer, 17, of Copley.

Kokensparger also performed as a soloist during the Rock Off.


Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio