Forty-one bands. Seven solo artists. Four states. 62 schools.

And one Twinsburg High School guitarist inspired by virtuosos of the instrument.

This is what makes up the 2017 Tri-C High School Rock Off.

Frank Imhoff, general manager and director of special events at Live Nation, said this year's competition for high school bands received more than 50 entry forms, plus 35 final submissions through a contests sponsored by ReverbNation.

"This year's winning band can win the opportunity to perform at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center," Imhoff said. "Plus the event has a new sponsorship with Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs, the Gladiators and the Monsters."

Imhoff said he was "excited to see the event continue to expand regionally."

"We have our first performer from New York state, Kayla C. from Monroe-Woodbury. The Rhythm Section from Rhode Island is returning, they performed last year as Poppasquash Point," Imhoff said. "Also, we've never had bands from Columbus, this year we have five. Over the last two years we've had bands from Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island."

The Rock Off again will be at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1100 E. 9th St. in Cleveland. The preliminary rounds are Feb. 4, 11 and 18. Three bands from these four concerts will be selected to play in the Final Exam on Feb. 25.

Local talent

Two bands and two solo acts have connections to Twinsburg and Cuyahoga Falls. The acts include bands Drift and The Waves, and solo artists Jessica Siracusa and Stillness in Motion with Nick Kokensparger, of Twinsburg.

Stillness in Motion with Nick Kokensparger

Kokensparger, a 17-year-old Twinsburg High School student, said he participated in the Rock Off last year with the band Clairvoyant.

"Although we did not win, it was still a pretty amazing experience that I was honored to be apart of," he said.

Kokensparger will perform twice this year in the Rock Off: once as a solo artist, and with 3 Car Garage as the lead guitarist.

"I also have the great pleasure of performing my instrumental set, 'Stillness In Motion' on Feb. 18," he said.

"Alien" is the words Kokensparger uses to describe his music.

"It's more of an unconventional show then what people are used to and truly is still a unique way to perform a show that has only really been mastered by only a handful of guitar virtuoso's like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and other instrumental guitarists like Frank Zappa and Eric Johnson," he said.

Kokensparger said he first took up instrumental guitar in 2015.

"One thing that pushed me towards instrumental electric guitar like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani was my singing voice was never very strong but i still wanted to express myself musically," he said. "In my own unique way, I then made the guitar the 'voice' of the performance with songs from modern artists like P!nk and Taylor Swift ... I'd never need to sing a note, [and] it also helped me learn music theory, different scales and made me more familiar with the guitar itself and the worlds of possibilities in utilizing the instrument."


This six-member band formed five years ago. Currently, the band 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.

This will be Drift's third appearance, said Ward.

"We have made it into the Finals each year," Ward said. "We are hoping to either win, place or show this time at the Rock Off. Either way, we will have a great time performing."

Ward said that Drift was known for its "great stage presence and killer vocals."

"We play and write a wide variety of songs. From hard rock to funky bluesy rock," Ward said.

Jessica Siracusa

Siracusa, a 16-year-old Walsh Jesuit student, said she has been playing piano "2. from a very early age."

"Friends of mine from high school have played at the Rock Off before and that peaked my interest," Siracusa said. "This is my very first time competing. I am hoping to make it into the Finals."

Siracusa said she writes and performs her own, original songs.

"I cannot wait to perform on February 11th no matter what the outcome," she said. "I will take what I learn to help me throughout the year and also use the experience to make the 2018 competition a better one."

The Waves

The four-member The Waves performed at the Rock Off for the first time last year, and made it to the final round, said Dominic Merlitti, who plays guitar for the band.

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.

"We feel that our live show is what sets us apart," Merlitti said. "We put so much passion and soul into our music that performing it live is an amazing experience for us and the crowd. We each are influenced by something different, allowing for the creation of a broad spectrum of musical fusion."

Merlitti said the type of music The Waves plays varied.

"We don't limit ourselves to one genre so our music is hard to define," he said. "Alternative Rock comes the closest but we have music that anyone can jam to and enjoy. It's like a mixture of Fergie and Jesus."


`The winning band will win an appearance at 2017 Live Nation Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center in July. As part of the Grand Prize, GRABBIT also is offering a 1-year endorsement for the winning band.

For details on tickets and the performance schedule, visit online.


Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio