High school bands pair up with anti-gun violence club

Hickman High School clubs Academy of Rock and Kewpie’s Demand Action come together to host a concert at Rose Music Hall to gain attention to issues of gun violence in schools.


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Music can be an important aspect of most people’s lives and being able to share that commonality can create a special bond between people. At Hickman High School, The Sweaters, The Adaptation, Blackwater, Mr. (e)Wilco and Spoonfeeder came together with Kewpie’s Demand Action, a club against gun violence, to share their talents in support of tighter gun regulations on October 7th.

Celena Schmolzi, founder and leader of Kewpies Demand Action and a sophomore at Hickman, said she enjoyed pairing up with Hickman’s Academy of Rock, a 15-year-old club that creates their own radio show every day at lunch and provides young musicians opportunities to play at local venues.

The five bands in support of Kewpie’s Demand Action set the stage for their performances. On first was Mr. (e)Wilco, taking an electronic twist with their unique two-man act. Following them, Spoonfeeder took the stage. Lauren Stokes, lead singer and guitarist of Spoonfeeder, lit up the audience with her remarkably harmonious stage presence.

Stokes has played music for most of her life and is actively involved in Academy of Rock. She has mainly had a solo career with music, but recently created the three-person band. Since the formation of Spoonfeeder, Stokes has been focusing more on her own individual music as well.

“I started playing at the Blue Note, the Rose and Cafe Berlin and with the school, and I got noticed by a recorder who records in Columbia,” Stokes said. “He’s in a heavy-metal band called Bardock. He records through his house, but its super professional and he sends out shipments of his CDs to different states and tries to get them picked up by record labels, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”

Stokes is currently two songs away from finishing her debut album.

Adjacent to Spoonfeeder, Blackwater took the stage and heightened the acoustics in the room with their abounding instrumental presence, serenading the audience with a mix of rock, soul and blues tunes. Next in line was The Adaptation. They charmed the stage with their energetic, alternative sound with a slight touch of bluegrass cacophony.

Kyren Penrose, lead singer of The Adaptation and senior at Hickman, has been heavily involved with different musical organizations at Hickman throughout the years. Since Penrose and his band became partners with the Academy of Rock and Dark Room Records — a local recording studio for all Columbia Public School students — they have had the opportunity to perform throughout Columbia.

“We did a couple of shows over the summer,” Penrose said. “We played at PDM, Gay House a couple of times and Rose. We played at Cafe Berlin. We just kinda play all over. We were in the Mid-MO Rock Awards. We got nominated for an award for best new band of the year...it’s like the Grammy’s of Missouri.”

The success that The Adaptation has experienced in Columbia prompted the band to want to go as far as possible with their music. After graduation, the band has plans to travel.

“We’re going on tour,” Penrose said. “We’re going to the Midwest, hopefully up the West Coast and all over the place. We are coming out with a new album soon. I’m hoping to make it as big as I can get it and maybe make a living off of it.”

Lastly, The Sweaters ended the show with their indie trio, wrapping up the Academy of Rock showcase. Hickman sophomore Ben Cohen juggled being the lead singer and drummer, as Anders Harms and Henry Cohen consorted with their skills at guitar. With a grand round of applause, the concert was concluded.

Brock Boland, faculty advisor of the Academy of Rock, has been a part of the club for over a decade. Boland gets to see students in the organization grow and helps musicians who are starting out by securing them gigs around Columbia. The club is mainly run by students, which is not something teachers necessarily get to witness in a regular classroom.

Boland and Schmolzi worked together to set up the concert, where audience members can support Kewpie’s Demand Action and get the word out about what the club has been doing to stop gun violence.

When it comes down to a pure love of music, these Hickman students understand what music can do to improve their lives.

“It’s everything. It keeps everyone going and moves life forward and makes sure that people don’t get too down or too up or stay right in the middle,” Penrose said. It helps everything. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now if music wasn’t in my life.”

The first year of the Academy of Rock and Kewpie’s Demand Action collaboration concert plans to continue in the years to come, according to Boland.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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