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Chalk up the talent to Bay's Rock Central



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January 28, 2014 | 01:16 PM
FONTANA — “Was that too loud?” Michael Foley, guitarist, asked. “Can you still hear?”

Foley and the other four members of the band Chalk were performing in one member’s basement. Though their guitars were hooked into amps, and the microphones connected to tall speakers, the first song of their Sunday night practice wasn’t blown out.

“We tried to put a lot of sound proofing in,” Eric Schirtzinger, drummer said. The group tries to meet in his parents’ basement on Sunday evenings for practice. “It’s hard to get everyone together during the winter because everyone has so much going on.”

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Guitarist Emmalyn Meyers plays basketball for Williams Bay High School, songwriter and guitarist Zach Ott is waiting for high school graduation, and Schirtzinger takes lessons at Rock Central.

The band members, aged 14 to 18, have all been playing instruments and singing since they were young, well, younger.

Foley, 15, said he started playing guitar after he broke his leg in a sledding accident about five years ago.

“We had some of those saucer type sleds,” he said. “We decided it’d be cool to use it like a snowboard.”

His parents gave him a guitar for Christmas that year, and he spent a lot of time recovering from the leg injury and learning guitar.

Sophie Engerman, 14, started performing in musicals and plays when she was very young.

“When I was about 10, I kind of quit doing that and joined School of Rock, now Rock Central (in Williams Bay),” she said. “My dad liked classic rock, and he got me into it.”

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Engerman is lead vocals for the band.

Schirtzinger, 17, said he started playing guitar when he was about 5 years old.

“Then I played saxophone in school, then drums when my little brother was taking lessons,” he said. “I really liked the drums. It’s fun to hit stuff sometimes.”

Meyers, 17, said her sister’s music collection pushed her into music.

“She would listen to songs, and I’d play along on my toy guitar,” Meyers said. “I kind of taught myself when I was 8. I liked to learn Disney Channel songs, like the Jonas Brothers’ music.”

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Ott, 18, was playing in middle school band when he wanted to learn more.

The group met at the Williams Bay music school, then called School of Rock, now Rock Central.

“We’ve been playing together for about two years or so,” Engerman said. “There’s no story behind our name. We just kind of talked about name ideas for a few hours one day, and when it was over we just said Chalk. It works.”

Their music works, too. The band wrote, played and recorded a full album of original music.

“Sales have been really good,” band manager Braden Schmidt said. “We’ve sold more than 100 copies of the album in the first two weeks it’s been out, and there have been more than 200 iTunes downloads.”

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Ott wrote most of the lyrical content of the 10 songs, and the rest of the band worked together on the music.

“We used to say we’re a classic rock band,” Engerman said. “But maybe now we’d say we’re alternative rock but not hippie.”

Foley said the album could be classified as modern rock.

“It doesn’t really fit one genre, though,” he said. “It’s southerny. It’s pop. It’s everything.”

There was consensus on their favorite song: “Willow.” Or maybe the title track “Before the Rain.”

The band performs at venues in the area during the summer with their original songs and covers of rock songs.

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