TRI-C HIGH SCHOOL ROCK OFF Trouble Clef will represent Valley

By John Benson


Over the past two decades, a rite of passage among teenage musicians dreaming of stardom has been the annual Tri-C High School Rock Off.

This year’s affair, which takes place Saturdays, starting this week and running through Feb. 25, at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is no different with more than 40 bands performing 15-minute sets in hopes of making it to the Final Exam.

One such local group is LaBrae High School act Trouble Clef — Adam Nottingham, 17 (guitar, vocals), Sam Schmucker, 15 (bass, keyboards, vocals), Rory McClellan, 17 (guitar, vocals) and Terence Boggs, 16 (drums) — which formed last fall with only one goal in mind.

“We heard about the Rock Off and were like, ‘Hey, this would be a cool idea. Maybe we can make a few songs,’” said Schmucker, who lives in Warren. “We all play different instruments and multiple genres of rock.

“Our drummer is really into metal. Then there’s Adam, who likes punk and alternative. We have Rory, he’s into classic rock, and I’m into alternative rock.”

Schmucker got his start in music a couple of years ago when he started playing bass. The first song he mastered was Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” From there he joined a couple of friends to jam in garage bands before forming Trouble Clef.

As for the group’s performance at the Rock Off semifinals on Saturday, Schmucker said the quartet will be playing a set of originals. This includes the Iron Maiden-esque “Til We Die,” the alternative rock “Mood Ring” and the punk-metal “Never Back Down.”

While the members of Trouble Clef are taking the Rock Hall show seriously, that doesn’t mean they don’t plan on having some fun.

“At the beginning of our set we’re starting off with a Sponge Bob song just to show our true colors,” Schmucker said. “I don’t know the name of it. We put a metal twist on it. We want to show we’re not just there because we want to win. We’re there because we want to have fun and play.”

That said, Schmucker does believe the four-piece has a decent chance of making it to the Final Exam. So is the band cocky or confident?

“Our music is just really good, and we’re really confident,” Schmucker said. “We try our hardest to stay away from cocky. We’re just really looking forward to this new experience at the Rock Hall. That’s the biggest thing. I’m not going to say I’m not nervous but we’re more like excited.”

A total of 41 bands are in the competition.

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