Here’s a music quiz. From a line-up that includes Imagine Dragons, No Doubt, Robert Plant, Foster The People, Napa Youth Symphony, Snoop Dog and Young the Giant, which group probably doesn’t belong? Presuming you guessed the Napa Youth Symphony, you would be wrong. The truth is, it’s a trick question. Regardless of your musical preference, the orchestra very much belongs because the one common thread tying these musicians together is they will all be performing at the 2015 edition of BottleRock Napa Valley.
Of all the diverse talent signed up to take the stage at BottleRock, each will deliver their own unique sound and have taken a variety of paths during their journey to the Napa Valley songfest. But for a group of young adults who have already had the distinct honor of showcasing their talent at Carnegie Hall in New York, the “Yankee Stadium” of music stages, the idea of sharing the same bill alongside some of their favorite rock and roll artists could not have ever been considered imaginable at this point of their melodious career.
As BottleRock enters its third annual act, some of the blossoming musicians are, in fact, already seasoned performers at the three-day event. Violinist Jonah Eisenberg, a senior at Napa High School, and the Napa Youth Symphony made their debut at the inaugural event in 2013, and when they appeared as the opening act for Macklemore and proceeded to launch into a superlative rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a popular song originated by the British rock band Queen, the kids became instant rock stars.
“Surprisingly, I was not as nervous as I thought I’d be performing in front of that many people, “ said Eisenberg. “It was definitely cool having the backstage experience, watching the other bands perform and being treated like a VIP but it didn’t have the same feel as a formal symphony where there’s a lot more procedure. We all just walked on, played two songs and left.”
Eisenberg is graduating high school this year and with plans to pursue a science degree in college, this part of his musical career is coming to a close following a five-year run playing with the Napa Youth Symphony. But not before he ends on a high note with one final curtain call on the Saturday of BottleRock weekend.
Contrarily, this year’s music festival marks the beginning for conductor Tristan Arnold. Having taken over the Napa Youth Symphony baton last fall, this will be his first BottleRock and the rookie is excited about leading 30-40 high school, plus a few middle-school student musicians in front of thousands of people who are, most likely, buying tickets to hear a much more contrasting musical genre from the classical tunes performed by the orchestra several times a year at Napa’s Lincoln Theater.
“Music events like BottleRock are fun because you get exposed to bands you wouldn’t normally buy a ticket to go hear,” says Arnold. “Orchestral music is something that really benefits from hearing it live and the Napa Youth Symphony is definitely in a position to be one of those newfound discoveries for people not tuned into classical music. Plus, it’s great for us since we have an opportunity to get some face time with many local Napa residents who may not know about our organization and to let them know what’s happening in the Napa Valley with music education.”
Apparently, one person who may already be well schooled in the likes of Beethoven, Mozart or Shubert is Arnold’s girlfriend. It seems she has some other musical priorities at BottleRock and already has plans to be hanging out at the No Doubt tent while her music man is waving the baton.
Mandy Lindsey, a freshman at Vintage High School, won’t have that luxury. She has her sights set on seeing one of her favorite bands, Passion Pit, but having performed at last year’s BottleRock, she knows the drill. Before joining the throngs of party rockers, Lindsey will need to first pay attention to Arnold’s conducting maneuvers while she plays percussion. It’s a moment she’s relishing.
“It was really cool to be with the other bands and experience what it’s like for these bands who go to a ton of music festivals,” says Lindsey. “We had awesome chairs we got to sit in backstage and I had all these techs willing to fix my drum set whenever I was having a problem. I just told them, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing but please just fix my drum set.’ Every time we needed something there was always someone there to help.”
Whatever it was they remedied, it worked. After the orchestra moved from backstage to the main stage and sounds began emanating from their instruments, the front rows in the audience started filling up with arm-waving Bottlerockers chanting the words to the classical version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
BottleRock may or may not turn out to be the extra-curricular highlight on these kids’ college resume but for their 15 minutes of fame in the Napa Valley, they will be the envy of their classmates living the rock star dream. NVL – By Robert Kaufman