BrattRock Helps Teen Musicians Find Their Sound

Oct 12, 2018

Nobody’s born a rock star.

Making the big time takes practice, commitment and a lot of good luck.

But in Brattleboro an annual youth rock festival is trying to help aspiring artists by giving teenage musicians a place to come together, learn a little bit, and rock out.

The event is called BrattRock, and it was started three years ago by Jaimie Scanlon.

Scanlon got the idea after her her daughter’s band signed up in a competitive, battle-of-the bands contest.

Scanlon says the kids were stressed out the whole time leading up to the gig. At the show everyone was sizing each other up and at the end of the night there winners and losers.

She says the whole thing was kind of a drag.

“I thought it would be so awesome to have a non-competitive event,” she said. “Not a battle, but just a chance for them to get together and perform, and appreciate each other, and cheer each other on, as opposed to trying to win something.”

In the first year of BrattRock there were mostly bands from Brattleboro and nearby Keene, New Hampshire.

"I think what's special about rock and roll is live performance. It's about connecting with people in the audience, and all being in one place at one time making music. That's kind of what I think mostly comes out of rock and roll." — Clyde Schultz, guitarist in The Starving Musicians' Fund

This year bands were invited from Boston and from Rhode Island, as well as from Western Massachusetts and Vermont.

When you’re a teenager and you want to play live music, there are only so many places you can play.

Clyde Schultz, 16, from a rock band  based in Ipswich, Massachusetts, called The Starving Musicians’ Fund, said the group was more than happy to drive two-and-a-half hours to Brattleboro to play for an audience.

“I think what’s special about rock and roll is live performance,” Schultz said. “It’s about connecting with people in the audience, and all being in one place at one time making music. That’s kind of what I think mostly comes out of rock and roll.”

The all-day event starts with a series of workshops the artists can choose from.

Vermont Jazz Center Director Eugene Uman, center, leads a class on promoting music and gigs during BrattRock. Classes on songwriting, live sound and collaboration were also held.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Local professional musicians from southern Vermont hold classes on things like songwriting, sound, and how to promote your shows and music.

“We feel like giving the musicians some extra help is one way we can pay them for coming,” Scanlon said. “It’s a lot for some of them to come up to Brattleboro, and they get to meet working musicians who have been doing this a long time. I think they get a lot out of the classes.”

This is the second time Faras Croteau has come to BrattRock.

There were 16 bands and solo acts playing at BattRock this year. Tropical Hot Sauce is a four-piece band from western Massachusetts.
Credit Jess Weitz / Submitted

Croteau is 18, and last year he came up from his hometown of Hatfield, Massachusetts just to watch.

He says BrattRock inspired him to get a little more serious about the music he was playing.

He got some friends together, worked up a set, and today his band, Tropical Hot Sauce, is playing its first gig.

“BrattRock is amazing,” Croteau said. “And I am very glad we are a part of it. This is our first show. Woo-hoo!”

There were 16 bands and solo acts that played on two stages during the all-day festival.

The music kicked off at 5 p.m., and there was plenty of good-old-fashioned teenage-angst-drenched rock and roll.

But there were also folk singers, arty techno music, and all-female bands focused on politics.
BrattRock, just by its definition, features emerging artists who are just finding their sound.

Scanlon, the founder of BrattRock says most of these kids will only play at the festival for a year or two before they move on to college or leave the area.

Some will continue playing music. And some won’t.

Yet Scanlon doesn’t foresee having any trouble finding other young musicians to fill the stages in the future. Rock and roll, she says, isn’t going anywhere.