Beloit students win alternative music contest
While so much of their generation is defined by heartache and confusion, five young men wish to bring a message of hope and meaning to their peers.
Alakrity - a group of mostly Beloit Memorial High School students - is beginning to make its mark in the music world.
Earlier this month, the band won first place at the regional Launchpad alternative music contest, gaining recognition from among 50 area bands.
Launchpad is a first-ever statewide alternative music competition for high school students. On June 17 Alakrity will compete in Madison against bands from around the state for the Les Paul Launchpad Award and stage time at Summerfest in Milwaukee.
The Wisconsin Foundation for School Music (WFSM) and Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) are sponsoring the contest.
Alakrity is Phil Carper, Andy Lutz, Brad LeBaron, Peter Murray and Wayne Wawroski. Wawroski, the only one not a BMHS student, won't play with Alakrity at Launchpad because of he's 21 and not in high school.
But on any other day, he's an important element to the band's sound.
In Murray's basement, furniture has been cleared and the room is crowded with amplifiers, microphones and instruments. This is Alakrity's typical hang-out. After school and work are finished, music practice begins.
Tonight, they run through “One Last Chance” - a song about being too busy for things in life that really matter.
Alakrity mostly sings about faith in Jesus Christ, healthy relationships and priorities.
Like any teens, the musicians talk about movies, kid each other and discuss popular rock bands. But the priority for these five is to use music to glorify God. And they're not bashful about saying that.
“The goal of the band is to take God's Word and spread it,” Wawroski said.
The punk alternative rock is fast and furious, but some of their words carry serious gravity.
“A Friend's Point of View” is about a friend of Carper's who had an abortion and is his reflection on how he was able to comfort her.
The musicians admit they've been ridiculed for their beliefs and been unpopular for their music lyrics that teach about leading lives of faith or about pain at seeing friends make poor choices.
“A lot of our friends are mad about what we do, mad about our message,” Murray said.
Carper and Lutz have been playing together the longest. They formed Alakrity in middle school with a few other pals, who have since moved on.
LeBaron stepped in when the band most needed him. He had never played a bass guitar before but learned to play two days before a concert at a school.
“He did well for never touching a bass before,” Carper says jokingly. “And he still does pretty good.”
Murray and Wawroski joined after that and Wawroski credits the good influence of the band for helping him get his life on the right course.
There are a few rules for playing with the band: no sex, no drugs, no alcohol. To some of their peers, that might make them nerds. But for the young musicians, it's not about being cool. It's about glorifying God with their music.
It's tough at times to stand up to pressure and avoid temptation, so they spend a lot of time together, doing what they love to do - playing music.
Alakrity has the popular shaggy hair-do look, which the five say is what makes them comfortable. After all, rocking with a crew cut looks dumb, they say.
As the identity of Alakrity solidified, they began to transition from playing covers of popular music to writing their own music early in high school.
At least they hope it's original, they joke.
They've cut an album with six tracks and are beginning to get more exposure around the Stateline Area. They play mostly at churches and schools and have been to a few music festivals.
People are starting to recognize them outside of Beloit and that's flattering and thrilling. But the musicians never want the popularity to interfere with their purpose of sharing hope and faith.
Their parents know the music is important to them, but the guys say the adults don't quite realize just how important.
They want to make it their life, their career, their dream.