Getting a head start on rock roles
Rock bands have a reputation for fomenting conflict from within. Egos clash as fame expands; discord grows over song choice and performance commitments.
And it’s not necessarily any easier if you happen to be weathering adolescence at the same time.
Yet the four members of Awesome Express — Charles Winston, 14, of Needham, on lead vocals and keyboard; Charles Coleman, 16, of Wellesley, on guitar and vocals; Needham 15-year-old Kyle Coulter, playing bass guitar; and Shaqed Druyan of West Roxbury, the band’s 16-year-old drummer — are managing to buck the trend. They literally finish each other’s sentences when talking about the band, and spending much of their nonschool waking hours together over the past year or two hasn’t diminished their determination to make it in the music world.
Success seems to be on their side. Accolades that Awesome Express has accrued recently include “Runner-up Best Band” at the Limelight Music awards, finalist status in the South Shore Teen Talent Competition and the NEGB1 Battle of the Bands, and top honors at last year’s Berklee High School Battle of the Bands.
They recently performed at Slate in New York City, and will be performing at Berklee College of Music’s Café 939 in Boston later this month.
On Tuesday, they’ll kick off Wellesley’s summer outdoor concert series with a free show on the Town Hall Green beginning at 7 p.m.
All four are alumni of Plugged In, the Needham-based “school of rock” that groups aspiring young musicians by age, skill level, and interests during 10-week sessions designed to teach them to become a band while also developing a sense of social responsibility. Coleman and Winston have played together since attending a Plugged In program in 2009; Coulter and Druyan, who got to know the other two while at Plugged In, joined Awesome Express within the past year.
The band plays a mix of classic rock covers and original tunes written by Coleman and Druyan. Composing, practicing, and performing regularly make for a hectic schedule.
“It’s been crazy, but it’s been awesome,” said Coleman, whose musicianship won him a scholarship to a program this summer at Berklee. Druyan received the same honor.
“The whole experience has been amazing,” said Winston. “We have ups and downs, but mostly ups. Earlier, we had trouble agreeing on what songs to cover. Bands always have their little arguments, but it’s still fun.’’ Coleman and Druyan “have written some great stuff for us,’’ he said. “They never come up with anything we don’t all want to play.”
The boys resist comparing themselves to better-known bands. “We’re kind of a Led Zeppelin genre, but we can’t touch Led Zeppelin. They’re an amazing band,” said Coulter. “It’s hard to compare ourselves to any famous band without sounding arrogant.”
Mostly, all four emphasize that performing regularly is an almost equal blend of fun and hard work. Druyan is home-schooled, which he says makes it easier to pursue his music; the others admit that time management can be a big challenge. “People underestimate the difficulty of having a relatively successful band,” said Druyan.
Not least among the factors they credit for their growth as a group are their mothers. Tanya Coleman and Ellen Winston do most of the administrative work for the band, such as booking venues and distributing publicity. They want to do all they can to contribute to the band’s success, said Tanya Coleman, but there are benefits for the mothers as well.
“If I could do this the rest of my life, I would,” she said. “I’m a very lucky mom. I get to hang out with my teenager and his friends at clubs and coffee houses. They are four special and wonderful and fun young men.”
Plugged In begins its summer session for ages 8 to 22 on June 25. Awesome Express has some advice for the next crop of rising stars. “Be confident and have fun with your music,” said Winston. “Don’t be discouraged by what you can’t play.”
Druyan concurred that it’s all about learning from the experience. “Let the creativity flow. Don’t focus only on your own playing or song-writing. Use someone else’s idea to create your own ideas. . . don’t get locked in. Keep an open mind. You never know what or who you’re going to learn from.”
For details on the band and its schedule, visit www.awesomeexpressband.com.
MORE MUSIC: The band Timeflies plays an outdoor concert at NARA Park in Acton at 8 p.m. Friday in a fund-raiser for the Acton Food Pantry. The event represents the culmination of 10 months of work by a small group of Acton-Boxborough Regional High School students who set out to learn about event management and charity fund-raising. Tickets are $15 if purchased in advance at www.mktix.com, and $18 at the concert at NARA Park, 25 Ledge Rock Road in Acton.
Banjo Dan and the Mid-nite Plowboys will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis St. in Framingham, as one of the first stops on the Vermont-based band’s 40th anniversary tour. Tickets are $18, with discounts for seniors, students and Amazing members. Purchase at www.amazingthings.org or 508-405-2787.
ARTISTIC VIEWS: Newton sculptor Nancy Schon, best known for her “Make Way for Ducklings” piece in the Boston Public Garden, will visit the Kolbo Fine Judaica Gallery in Brookline on Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. The “meet the artist” event kicks off an exclusive exhibition of Schon’s work that will continue through Aug. 17 at the gallery, 437 Harvard St. For more details, call 617-731-8743 or go to www.kolbo.com.
Piano sculptures and other pieces by Holliston artist Michael Frassinelli will be on display in “The Last of the Pianistas” at the ArtSpace Gallery, 63 Summer St. in Maynard, through June 29. An opening reception is Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery’s hours are Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment.
IN THE THEATERS: Reagle Music Theatre starts its 44th summer season with “A Chorus Line,” opening at 7:30 p.m. Friday and running through June 24 in the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St., Waltham. The production of the Tony Award-winning musical features stage and screen star Lorenzo Lamas as Zach. Tickets are $34 to $54, with discounts for seniors and students (parental discretion advised, recommended for ages 13 and up). For tickets and show times, call 781-891-5600 or go to www.reaglemusictheatre.org.
The Watertown Children’s Theatre presents “Oliver!” at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St. in Watertown. Tickets are $12, and are available at www.watertownchildrenstheatre.org or 800-838-3006.
Wellesley Summer Theatre for Children presents “Izzy’s History Mystery,” written by troupe members Derek Stone Nelson and Danny Bolton and directed by recent Wellesley College graduate Sohini Pillai, the next two weekends in Alumnae Hall on the college’s campus, 106 Central St. Performances are at 10 a.m. and noon on Saturdays and Sundays through June 24. Tickets are $5, $3 for children, free for children under age 2. For more details, call 781-283-2000.
Nancy Shohet West can be reached at nancyswest@ gmail.com.