A new face graced the judges’ table at the Battle of the ‘Burbs auditions Wednesday night. Aron Magner scribbled notes on his judge’s rubric as solo singers, duos and bands hit the carpeted stage at the MilkBoy in Ardmore.
“I was kind of just thrown into this,” Magner said. “I’m not sure what I’m doing because I’ve never judged before. I keep thinking, ‘Am I being too hard?’”
Despite his lack of experience judging, musically, Magner is more than qualified. The keyboardist for the band the Disco Biscuits, Magner continues to tour and perform. The Disco Biscuits also include Allen Aucoin, Marc Brownstein and Jon Gutwillig and began more than a decade ago.
A graduate of Lower Merion High School, Magner also teamed up with Ropeadope records founder Andy Blackman Hurwitz to form a record label at Magner's alma mater. With the help of the school district, Magner and Hurwitz started an afterschool club for Lower Merion and Harriton high school students to kick-start their own label, which will release the single recorded by the Battle of the ‘Burbs winner after the competition ends in a full-audience show Feb. 4 at MilkBoy. The last audition will be held Jan. 25.
“I’ve helped start record labels at Temple and Drexel universities, but I really wanted to do something at the high school level,” Hurwitz said. “It’s a joint project between the high schools to bridge the communities.”
The goal for the label mirrors the sights set by the Youth Advisory Council for the Battle of the ‘Burbs: Just because teens go to separate schools doesn’t mean they can’t branch out and meet other like-minded peers. Wednesday night, The Bad Tequila Experience came from Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter High School in the Northeast section of Philadelphia to audition.
While Magner and Hurwitz’s record label initiative only stretches between two Main Line high schools, Hurwitz said he enjoys finally being able to see the students connect after working on the label with Lower Merion School District administrators for around a year.
Ace the Ram records officially launched after the students returned from winter break in early January 2012. The students chose ATR because of both school’s athletic teams: the Lower Merion Aces and Harriton Rams.
For students involved, ATR offers hands-on experience. From setting up social networking sites to advertising and sales and distribution, the students are at the helm of the label. With technology and the schools’ resources, Hurwitz said ATR records is proof “they don’t need anybody,” he said.
“When I went into the music business, I really had to struggle,” Hurwitz said. “But this transcends music. They can do this on their own, and it's unbelievable what they can do.”
With three kids of his own heading into Lower Merion School District, being involved with ATR records will keep Hurwitz ahead of the curve.
“I just wanted to really be apart of the community again,” Hurwitz said, adding, "I’m just trying to stay one step ahead of [my kids].”
Keep up with Neighbors for more on ATR records. If you’re a student at Lower Merion or Harriton high schools involved in the project, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From top to bottom*: TBD consists of three Harriton High School students who say they do a pretty good cover of Linkin’ Park’s “Numb.” Here, they perform an original.
Rebecca McCarthy and Nicole Wang of Lower Merion High School agreed the Battle of the ‘Burbs was something they had to do. Another thing they remained intent on? “Acoustifying a hip-hop song,” McCarthy said. The duo performed Drake’s “Forever.”
The Bad Tequila Experience ventured to Ardmore to audition because they’re trying to gain exposure beyond their normal fan base in the Northeast. “It’s very chill and low-key here,” vocalist Nayo Jones said. “Everyone’s really friendly.
The Dingleheads perform an original song.
Neon Gray, who lent their drum set to all bands for the evening, performs a song so new it didn’t have a title.
*Other acts included sophomore Christina Brennan from Merion-Mercy Academy, Andrea Cantor from Barrack Hebrew Academy and the band Different Perspective.