Art of Play proves you're never too young to put a little swagger in your step.
But, swagger can only get you so far. And, so, this band of middle school eighth-graders has also brought their chops.
Those chops brought them first place on Feb. 8 in the "Stars of Tomorrow Amateur Night" event at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. And, on Feb. 29, the quartet of young musicians will take their talents to the fifth-annual Morristown's Got Talent, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
All this before they have even set foot in high school. Art of Play's youth, however, does not reflect in its demeanor when talking about the success the band has had thus far.
Vocalist, guitarist and drummer Domenico Randazzo, the most senior member of the band at 14, described the audition process for "Stars of Tomorrow," in which only 10 acts were selected among the nearly 300 that tried out. "When we got to the event, we were the first to play," the Frelinghuysen Middle School student said. "Not a good thing."
A "nerve-wracking" experience, the boys in Art of Play decided to participate in a longtime Apollo tradition, rubbing a tree stump there for good luck. Considering the outcome, it didn't hurt.
But the band–consisting of Domenico, plus 13-year-olds Ricky Webber (keyboard and vocals), Tyler Volk (drumming and raps) and T.J. Coon (bass and vocals)–have not had to follow their musical dreams alone.
Music Director Devonne Allison recalls when he was able to get the four members of the band together in early 2011 via his time as Ricky's piano teacher. "They just work and work," the 27-year-old said. "I love them; they're like my little brothers."
His "little brothers" will perform a three-song medley at Morristown's Got Talent, consisting of The Beatles "Come Together (which is the song that got Art of Play first place at the Apollo)," "OMG" by Usher and "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. The performance will incorporate the band's multi-instrument versatility. "It's a talent show, so we wanted to show some talent," Allison said. "They can sing, play and switch instruments."
They have had a lot of practice. Domenico began whacking the drums when he was 2, moving to guitar at 5, piano at 6 and, finally, vocals when he was 10-years-old.
Ricky started on piano at four-years-old, but lost interest for a couple years, picking it up again when he was 7.
Tyler started playing drums when he was six-years-old. Rapping, the Randolph Middle School eighth-grader said, "was just picked up."
T.J., by comparison, came late to the musical party, picking up his guitar when he was in fourth grade, vocals when he had just reached middle school.
Domenico said the name Art of Play–often abbreviated AOP–came pretty randomly during a brain storming session, when the as-yet-named band struggled to find one that fit. "We thought it was catchy," he said.
With an eye on not only the music, but also how they will be able to successfully present that music, and, the "AOP" image to audiences, Art of Play is poised to surely make an impact.
"Watch out," Domenico said.
"I was just going to say that," a laughing T.J. said.