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The 2017 Tri-C High School Rock Off champion was crowned Feb. 25.
The Waves, a four-member band with members from Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, took first place in the 21st annual competition, which started with semi-final rounds in January with more than 40 bands and solo artists.
"Our live show is what puts us ahead," said Dominic Merlitti, guitarist. "We love writing music and playing our instruments but the live show is why we do this. We truly left it all on the stage and didn't hold back."
As well as Merlitti, 17, of Akron, The Waves includes Mike English of Akron, 18, on vocals and synthesizer, Dylan Radik, 18, of Akron, on bass, and Jake Mally, 18, of Cuyahoga Falls on drums.
The winning band received $1,000 cash and $250 for their respective high school music program. The winning band also received a $1,000 gift card compliments of Guitar Center. Each of the bands or solo performers that moved on to The Final Exam received a $25 gift card compliments of Guitar Center. Second place received $250 cash and $100 for their respective high school music program and Third place received $100 cash.
The winning band also won an appearance at 2017 Live Nation Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center in July. As part of the Grand Prize, GRABBIT also offered a 1-year endorsement for the winning band. In addition, the winning band was invited to attend the March 19 Bon Jovi concert at Quicken Loans Arena.
Merlitti said The Waves were most excited about performing in the Vans Warped Tour.
"The money is great," he said. "But an opportunity to play at the Vans Warped tour is absolutely priceless."
The Waves performed at the Rock Off for the first time last year, and made it to the final round, Merlitti said. However, this will be the final year that The Waves can compete.
"Unfortunately we can't compete next year because we are all seniors," he said. "All of us have competed multiple times, made great friends, and enjoyed the ability to play at the Rock hall. It sucks that this is our last time competing, but we owe the Rock Off for making so many friends."
Other local participants
There were several bands with members from either Twinsburg or Cuyahoga Falls at the Rock Off,, although only The Waves made it to the finals.
Merlitti also performed with No Expectations, which included brothers Ryan, 18, and Jared McGuiness, 16, on bass and drums respectively, and Maddy Slimak, 18, on vocals and keyboard.
Skip Szalek said that the members of Drift had a good time and were looking forward to competing next year.
"The band had a great time competing," Szalek said. "We wrote some good originals that were well received. The band is definitely looking forward to competing next year and is already underway writing new songs."
The band also includes includes St. Ignatius students Mark Ray, 16, bass, Paul Kolbus, 16, on guitar and Greg Kondas, 16, on keyboard; Jackie Ward, Walsh Jesuit, 15, vocals; Julie Blechschmid, North Royalton, drums, 15; and Daniel Hradisky, Brecksville, sax, 17.
Jessica Siracusa, a 16-year-old solo artist and Walsh Jesuit student, said she, too was already planning for next year's competition.
Max Lyman of 3 Car Garage said that he and the others in the band had fun competing.
"We felt very proud and satisfied about our performance," Lyman said. "We did not make it to the next round but as a band that's only been together for three months, we felt we pulled off a great and memorable performance."
As well as Lyman, 18, who plays drums and lives in Cuyahoga Falls, the band includes Cuyahoga Falls residents Tommy Muha, guitar, 18, and Ryan McGuinness, bass, 18; Nick Kokensparger, guitar, 17, of Twinsburg; and Nicole Neiman, singer, 17, of Copley.