Rocker moms Wendy Goldstein and Laura Curtin will be as close to the front row as they can get on January 21, 2012 when their sons Max DiRado and Gabe Goodman of the high school band, Closer Than We Appear with band mates Jack Duff and Ben Garman, play in the finals of the SchoolJam USA competition at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA. Closer Than We Appear from Scituate, MA, is one of eight bands that will compete for a prize of $5000 for their school’s music department, sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
Note: This article was published in 2012 – Closer Than We Appear did not win top honors in 2012, but went on to become part of the New England RADAR Award Class of ’14. SchoolJam USA has been cancelled by NAMM.
The boys from this band are not new to winning prizes or making good music. They started by winning a song-writing competition in sixth grade, and haven’t looked back. Self-described as an indie/alternative band, Closer Than We Appear consists of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Gabe Goodman (sophomore); bassist Jack Duff, (sophomore); lead guitarist Max DiRado (freshman); and drummer Ben Garman (junior). Max lives right across the street from Gabe and the boys have been friends since the day they were born. Gabe writes their original lyrics: “He’s very good at painting a picture with words,” says Wendy.
The moms found SchoolJam USA while researching gigs online and did a lot of additional research about the venue before signing Closer Than We Appear on to compete for this national competition. To advance to the finals, bands had to post three original songs and encourage fans to vote for them. Forty percent of their qualifying score came from votes with sixty percent of their score coming directly from judges who evaluated their music.
Not all young bands are able or choose to compete at this level. Having a supportive team of rocker moms behind you who can manage the details really helps make it happen. Wendy and Laura have insisted on taking care of business from the very start: “It’s a grown up world, with grown up rules” explains Wendy, “They started the band in middle school and we don’t want them talking to strangers. They should do the creative, make the music, and trust us to make connections for them.”
It’s a grown up world, with grown up rules.
– Wendy Goldstein
I asked Wendy if the boys had given them any push-back on managing the band as they’ve gotten older – whether they wanted to have more input: “It has not been a problem at all. They have no interest in looking for gigs. We find them and negotiate the business part. Parents are, by default, the band manager.”
Wendy and her husband, art teacher Mike DiRado, have always supported Max. Both parents have degrees in fine art and believe that “Art is art and artists need an outlet.” Mike took guitar as a kid and plays in a cover band with friends while Laura’s husband Alan Goodman sings and plays the guitar for fun. This meant there were instruments and equipment available in the home, but third grader Max and fourth grader Gabe took their first guitar lessons together at an after school club run by the local PTO. To continue providing guitar lessons for Max, Wendy had to find a local resource on her own and Laura paid a guitar teacher to come to their home. Now, Laura drives an hour each way from her home in Scituate to bring Gabe to a special voice coach she found – all in extra time carved out of their day.
In addition to finding gigs, these moms manage most of the band’s social media connections on ReverbNation, Facebook and YouTube. Wendy, an accountant, says she spends as many as 15 hours or more per week on band management activities. Her husband, Mike, also puts in hours, running the sound at concerts and acting as resident “roadie.” Laura, a full-time nurse, started spending about 2 hours a week on the band’s activities a few years ago, but now spends as many as 10 hours per week. The uptick in her time spent with the band is due in part to bringing the boys to all-ages rock venues to gauge the scene and the competition. “Since I’m a big music fan, I have no problem spending a Friday night listening to live music. It has also been a great way to network with other parents of young musicians,” Laura explains.
Wendy shares how she and Laura have become a part of what she calls “the underbelly” of the teen music scene in New England. But it appears to be a warm and fuzzy one: “There is a lot of parent support and involvement,” she says. “You see the same parents at each of the venues and they are generous and willing to share information.”
More information translates into more gigs, more exposure, and more “successes” in the teen music scene. For Closer Than We Appear, momentum really began to accelerate after they entered and placed as semi-finalists in the teen category of the ISC International Songwriting Competition in 2010.“They didn’t realize what an accomplishment this was,” says Laura. “But this inspired us to think about what direction the band should be going in and who to contact.”
This led them to the SchoolJam USA “Battle of the Bands” competition, but they almost didn’t enter. Laura shared that the boys were a little gun-shy from other “battle” formats they had entered and not won. “Closer Than We Appear is a more lyrics and music based band and bands that are more performance-based and audience driven tend to win these competitions.”
But Laura went on to say: “Once they posted their songs on the SchoolJam website and voting began, walls of comments appeared on the site. It was so powerful for them. It helped them to see that this competition has value and that they don’t have to be just a performance-based band to get recognition.”
This weekend – all of the rocker moms and dads – and all of the rocker siblings – will be in the audience to cheer on their favorite band: Closer Than We Appear. And you can be there too! SchoolJam USA is streaming live video of the eight bands performing on Saturday and you can access it on their website here.
Here’s hoping all of the bands have a great show!
Do you know a rocker mom or dad who would like to share his or her story? Comment below – I’d like to interview them!