Smells like teen spirit |

Smells like teen spirit

Greg Marshall, Of the Record staff

Think of it as American Idol writ small.

With teenagers strumming electric guitars, playing keyboard, saxophone and trombone, eight youth bands will duke it out at the Kimball Art Center Saturday.

Only one will be named the best youth group in Summit and Wasatch Counties at Battle of the Bands.

The first band performs at noon in the Kimball’s Main Gallery. Groups play 20- minute sets with 15 minutes between bands for setup. Mayor Dana Williams and Brian Richards, the executive director of Mountain Town Stages, are among the judges, who will rank bands based on vocals, musical proficiency and overall performance.

In addition to ranking the groups, Williams and Richards, both experienced musicians, will provide feedback. Judges are looking for a winner, but they also want to teach, said Jenny Diersen, the Kimball’s education director.

Students from Treasure Mountain International School’s National Junior Honor Society will sell concessions during the show. Proceeds go to the middle school’s sister institution in Uganda.

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Battle of the Bands, which is free and open to the public, will be played against the backdrop of dozens of student drawings. The event, co-sponsored by the Paul Green School of Rock and Mountain Town Stages, is part of the Wasatch Back Student Art Show, an annual exhibition of student work that typically attracts hundreds of submissions.

"We wanted to blend artwork and music together," Diersen said. She helped select the eclectic mix of jazz, heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll groups that will take the stage. The performers are between 12 and 17 years old, and many are already skilled musicians. Most groups feature six performers. One student will perform a solo acoustic mini-concert. "These kids have a passion for music," Diersen added. "They’ve taken time out of their busy schedule to do something for the community. We want people to come support them."

The chance to perform in front of a crowd is an important lesson for aspiring musicians, said Tony Ollerton, the general manager for School of Rock in Utah. The School of Rock partners with Utah Conservatory, based in Park City, to offer lessons for locals. "You learn so much on stage," Ollerton said.

Unlike in school music classes, many of the bands performing Saturday formed without the prompting of parents or instructors. Kids are responsible for practicing. In some cases, they even write their own music.

The result is likely to impress, organizers say. "It’s about giving kids the opportunity to showcase their own bands," Ollerton said. "I think it’s really fulfilling Randy Barton’s vision of local music," referring to the founder of Mountain Town Stages. The organization will stage hundreds of concerts each week this summer.

Battle of the Bands runs Saturday, May 23, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Kimball Art Center. Admission is free.