By Lynzi Sringer
A four-piece band of talented and industrious young teenagers rock the stage at all-age recreational center and music venue, Ben and Ari’s. If I Was Royalty plays out their original song, “Sweet Insomnia” with strong and raspy vocals, a hard-hitting beat and bass line, and grungy, crunchy guitar.
Setting the stage with something fresh and new, Preston Nash of Sam Ash Music Store’s program, Ash Rock, is determined to give rockers of all age and skill level a creative space to express themselves.
Nash and Florida-based musician Jeff Stone created Ash Rock together in February of 2012 as a program that places single musicians into a band, and, according to the company’s website, “Gives beginner to intermediate players their first rock group experience.” Initially they wanted to help younger people who wanted to be in a band fulfill their dreams.
Ash Rock is for musicians of all ages and experience levels, and is perfect for anyone who wants to join a band.
“These are not professional musicians in Ash Rock. You won’t be judged for your skill level,” Stone said. While Nash and his wife, singer Rocky Nash, had played around with the idea, Stone put a program for adults in motion. “I wanted to help musicians who didn’t have an outlet to get back in a band and perform,” Stone said.
Ash Rock now offers a variety of band project opportunities, including Ash Rock Originals, a program where participants write their own songs and spend time in the recording studio. There is also Ash Rock Generations bands for adults, which tend to play mostly cover songs.
Teenage songwriter Maren Huelsman, a longtime member of Ash Rock Originals brings an eclectic mix of blues, jazz, rock, alternative and singer/songwriter style to the table. Huelsman is motivated by her ability as an artist to bring about change through her music.
“If I can connect and communicate an inspiring message with my music, that’s just everything to me,” Huelsman said. “For someone to relate and understand my voice, and to say ‘yes’ to the feelings I sometimes think are crazy.”
Huelsman says that Ash Rock has given her a platform to freely express herself with confidence in both her band Chasing Time and as a solo artist. She has recently advanced as a solo artist to the second round of the One Voice, One Guitar competition held at Thirsty Scholar. Huelsman will compete with many other singer/songwriters who will use the same Taylor Guitar each night. The winner of the competition will win the guitar and other prizes.
Other members of Ash Rock share these sentiments as Huelsman. Guitarist of Ash Rock Generations band Zene, Rafael Perez, expressed his gratitude for the program.
“I had always had an interest in singing, and the program has helped me build the confidence to become a backing vocalist while playing guitar.”
While Zene is Perez’s main band, he also sits in and plays with other bands both within the Ash Rock program, and in the Indianapolis live music scene.
“The Ash Rock program has taken me from a home musician of 25 years, to a well-rounded gigging musician,” Perez said. “I have played a wide range of music in the program and I feel my guitar playing has improved dramatically due to the challenges of playing all these different genres.”
Paying homage to the creator of the program, Huelsman gushes with appreciation for Nash.
“He has dedicated a ridiculous amount of time, passion, care, knowledge and wisdom to the program all while maintaining an artistry himself,” she said. “He has helped me discover who I am as an artist, be comfortable with what I am, and he has taught me so much about music theory, business, performance, songwriting, etc. All in all, he’s just the man.”
Video of “Sweet Insomnia”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovIZ9V6_bkM