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Draper Journal

Teen singers and musicians get their jam on at Battle of the Bands

Feb 26, 2020 11:14AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Corner Canyon High School student Emily Atkisson performed Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” at the PTSA Open Mic and Battle of the Bands on Jan. 30 (Photo by Madison Ward)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

The teen audience surged forward as the band took the stage, cheering and pumping their fists. Caught up in the beat of the music, a couple of kids dove into the crowd and surfed overhead. This was not a scene from a concert at the Maverik Center, but the auditorium at Corner Canyon High School on Jan. 30 for the annual PTSA Open Mic and Battle of the Bands concert.

"Every kid is treated like the biggest rock star on that stage," Corner Canyon Battle of the Bands coordinator Connie Atkisson said. "The audience really gets into it." 

Corner Canyon High School is just one of many schools to participate in the larger, state-wide competition that is Battle of the Bands. The Utah PTA Student Leadership Commission sponsors the program every year. 

Battle of the Bands has three rounds of competition. The first is held at each participating high school. The next round, the multi-region Battle of the Bands, is in March. Three bands chosen from each region then proceed to the state finals, which will take place on April 25 at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City. All of the musical acts are judged on their technical proficiency, musicality, performance, creativity and audience appeal. 

In the past, prizes included the opportunity to create a music video, studio recording time or performance opportunities. The bands, which are put together by students outside of school, reflect a wide variety of musical tastes — everything from rock and heavy metal to pop, jazz and folk. 

An open mic competition for vocal soloists with solo accompaniment was added this year. Each open mic soloist performed one song, either an original composition or a cover song. For the Battle of the Bands, each band performed both a cover song and an original piece.

“It’s the biggest year we’ve ever had,” Atkisson said of the Open Mic and Battle of the Bands that took place on Jan. 30 at Corner Canyon High School. Nine soloists and 10 bands participated. The talented singers and musicians performed original songs in a wide variety of genres as well as covers by artists ranging from David Archuleta to the Charlie Daniels Band, Metallica and John Mayer.  

“Battle of the Bands is something that everyone can do,” she said. “We don’t turn anyone away. There truly is a place on stage for everyone.” 

Following the first round of competition, open mic soloist Emily Atkisson and the jazz band Interdimensional Jazzfest will represent Corner Canyon High School at the multi-region Battle of the Bands on March 21. Corner Canyon will have the honor of hosting the event as well.

Interdimensional Jazzfest, a jazz band made up of students at Corner Canyon High School, will represent their school at the multi-region Battle of the Bands this month. (Photo courtesy Nate Neyman)

“There were a lot of good bands this year,” said Nate Neyman, who plays guitar in Interdimensional Jazzfest, “We were like, ‘Wait — we won?’ We all screamed and hugged.”  

The members of Interdimensional Jazzfest include Neyman, Aimee Johnson, Marty Bodell, Steven Dulgar, Jack Polluck, Field Behrens, Adam Bowen and Jesse Esplin. They began their set with the song “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder followed by an original composition, “Rollin’ with the Groove,” by Neyman and Johnson.

Most of the band members knew each other from the school jazz band and had only been playing together as Interdimensional Jazzfest for about a month before Battle of the Bands. 

“For a few days beforehand, we just really worked hard at it,” said percussionist Jesse Esplin. 

“We just love to play together,” said bass player Field Behrens. “It’s jam time!” 

“I really like the energy in this band,” added trombone player Steven Dulger. “We’re all skilled musicians. It’s really fun to be in a situation where I can use all of the sound the trombone can make. I really love jamming with the boys!”

Singer Aimee Johnson comes from a background in musical theater. “I love to sing, I love to belt!” she exclaimed. To perform the original song “Rollin’ with the Groove,” Johnson donned tap shoes and her dancing added more percussion to the piece. “We just improvised the idea,” she said. “It was fun and it just worked out.” 

Emily Atkisson sang Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive” at the Jan. 30 concert. Her friend Katie Burnett accompanied her on the keyboard. 

“We were so surprised we won,” she said. “It is such a fun song.” Emily Atkisson said she likes listening to “oldies” and already knew the song. She has been singing and dancing at Clayton Productions Performing Arts in Sandy for several years. 

She is excited about the upcoming multi-regional round of the competition but isn’t stressing out too much over it. “My attitude is to just go out there and have fun,” she said. 

The Utah PTA-sponsored multi-region Open Mic and Battle of the Bands will take place at Corner Canyon High School, 12943 South 700 East in Draper on Saturday, March 21 at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $7 and will be available for sale at the door.