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Nick Vollbrecht playing with Jivan at Toxic Prom at Basement Transmissions on April 9, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Captain's Press)

Walking into the Limelight: A High School Musician’s Journey

Chinese philosopher Laozi once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Over my high school years, I have developed from a hopping hipster who diddled on the guitar to a semi-professional musician who performs three times a month. But this journey had to begin with a first step.

I found myself first captivated by music when my parents bought me Guitar Hero 2 in  third grade. For some reason, the feeling of my little plastic guitar controller in my hand made me feel so enlightened.

My parents funded my first guitar in fourth grade. At first I found it hard to play, and I couldn’t muster the effort to even touch it. I went to a group lesson with numerous other kids around my age. After a few months, I moved to private lessons.

From there, I became much more interested in playing. I started to write short songs about themes typical for a new musician: love, playing guitar and growing up. I even performed Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the school talent show. I sang the lyrics and pretended to play my guitar.

In middle school, I got my first electric guitar. I started learning how to play Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and other classic rock hits. I delved into the world of heavy metal and I started to go to local shows at Basement Transmissions (BT), which inspired me to start my own band.

My first band was never really serious. We just jammed some Black Sabbath songs and ate pizza. It wasn’t until my friend Aidan Sloppy invited me into a new group that I became serious about music. After a long time of deliberation, we somehow came to the name Jivan, which is the Hindu word for “life.”

More and more, I found myself in the confines of my bedroom playing the same guitar riff over and over until I eventually built an entire song around it.

When we had a sufficient amount of music prepared, we performed our first show at BT in the summer of 2013. That first concert changed my life forever. It was an exhilarating rush of euphoria and adrenaline. Each note resonated through my soul, giving me a confidence that was foreign to me. I was on top of the world. When we stopped playing, the roar of applause let me know that those months of efforts were not in vain, and people genuinely enjoy our music.

As Jivan evolved into a well-oiled music machine, I began to write acoustic songs outside of the band, which led to my interest in music composition. There’s something about the process of composing that fascinates me. Every little nuance can change the feeling of a song tremendously. I performed at a few shows as a solo artist, exhibiting these more personal songs to a different crowd. It feels stranger to play alone because everything relies on you — the rhythm, the melody, the deliverance, and on top of that, there was a much bigger sense of anxiety I felt because all eyes and ears were on me. Nevertheless, I loved it.

I continued to write more songs both with Jivan and my solo project I call Volbs. I am currently in the process of recording and producing an album I hope to release this summer.

Music production is an entirely new world to the regular performing musician. It takes a lot more skill and creativity to actually make a recorded song sound good, and the fact that I am learning all of these skills on my own (with a little help from the Internet), makes me feel  accomplished and knowledgeable.

Although my main focus in music is rock, I have branched out and expanded both my musical taste and with whom I play. During my senior year, I became a very active member of McDowell’s Vocal Ensemble. There were a lot of times where I had to lead the group and even serve as the only bass that performed at some of the functions. In addition to that, I performed with the All Millcreek Orchestra at their yearly concert and at the senior banquet as a jazz guitar duo with Aidan. In addition to that I was the music director for the school’s production of Julius Caesar, and I composed the jingled for the commercials McDowell Media made for Coldstone Cremery. I have performed so often that I consider myself to be a semi-professional musician at this point in time.

I am a budding musician growing into the garden that is the  music world. I will be attending the University of Akron in the fall for music composition, and I plan on forming an indie rock band with my new classmates. I have never been so excited in my life for something new, because I know I am walking onto the next stage of my life (pun intended).

In the future, I hope to be a full-time career musician performing with a band and maybe even making it big. That is the dream of every musician, and it’s a vast ocean to swim through. But I have never been so committed on anything in my life. I will fight to reach this dream my entire life, and I will not stop until it is met. Until then, I will be taking baby steps to build myself up.

These past few years have surely been a journey for me, but what is a journey without companions? Through thick and thin, I have never lost hope or inspiration thanks to my peers and mentors. I am eternally grateful for all they have done to me, and my one hope is that I can give back to them with my music. All musicians have a goal. Some aim to play massive festivals. Some desire a record deal from a major label. I, however, wish only to make people feel like they are not alone in their dark times. I want to be the music someone listens to when they go through a breakup, or lose someone close to them, or have a bad day at work. Who cares about fame? Fame makes hideous tricks on the brain. I just want to help people feel like themselves again.

About Nick Vollbrecht

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