Celebrating a Decade of Dreams
by Christopher Long
It was any teenager’s typical July Sunday. That is, if in your teenage world, “typical” is defined by starting out the day at noon – performing the National Anthem in front of 20,000 Tampa Bay Rays / New York Yankee fans, and then commuting immediately (via a luxury tour bus) from St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Stadium to an afternoon soundcheck for an evening concert appearance at Orlando’s famed Full Sail Live. But for the teenage members of The RockNRoll Chorus, life on the road – touring across the country, playing to thousands of fans each summer is their definition of “typical.” And for the last decade, this celebrated New Jersey-based vocal troupe has been providing dream-come-true experiences for aspiring young performers, while building an impeccable reputation as a world-class concert act.
The brainchild of veteran vocal teacher and music biz insider, Joe Cantaffa, The RockNRoll Chorus was first launched in 2006 as the ultimate opportunity for high school-age kids to learn the ropes of the entertainment industry in a variety of authentic, professional settings. Despite operating initially on less than a shoestring budget, a handful of hungry teenagers in cutoffs and T-shirts believed in Cantaffa’s vision of creating a national-level, rock-appella-style, recording and touring group – and were all too eager to sign-on. In short order, their debut album, What They Didn’t Teach Us in School, had been produced and released. By 2007, a slew of live concert dates had been slated. And so it began.
The RNRC tagline is direct and to the point – “No instruments. Just voices.” And from the vocalized guitar parts (cue distortion effects), beat box techniques, soaring voices and arena-style audio / visual production, the group’s live show has developed into a bona fide rock and roll spectacle. As a result, there was considerable anticipation regarding their current 10th Anniversary concert tour – including tonight’s show in Orlando.
By 6pm, Central Florida fans already were being wanded by security and ushered into the Full Sail auditorium, while the group made final backstage preparations – primping, preening, body-stretches, vocal warm-ups and receiving pre-show instructions from its team of professional coaches and experienced handlers. Showtime – 7pm!
In typical fashion, The RNRC truly delivered the goods in O-Town, with each of the 25 members leaving behind a quart of sweat on Full Sail’s enormous, state-of-the-art stage. Throughout the high-energy, hour-long performance, fans cheered and sang along to much-loved classics by U2, Journey and Queen, as well as more recent favorites from the likes of Parachute and Coldplay.
Having delivered an amazing performance, most cast members clearly were experiencing a post-show, backstage adrenaline rush. However, for the group’s senior members who are heading off to college this fall, the Orlando concert evoked a mix of emotions, as it brought the tour one day closer to completion – the tour that would be their last with The RNRC – a cross-country trek that also would culminate in an appearance at the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At the ripe old age of 18, Natalie Lorenzo is the cast’s “elder stateswoman.” Having performed with The RNRC throughout her entire high school career, the recent graduate reflected openly on her personal experiences with the group over the last four years.
“It’s been wonderful,” Lorenzo commented, while relaxing in the greenroom with fellow veteran cast members, following the Full Sail show. Preparing to pursue entertainment business studies in the fall, she spoke humbly, and quickly made clear that for her, being in The RNRC was not about trying to become a star, but rather, about building relationships. “The RockNRoll Chorus affects so many people in so many ways,” Lorenzo continued. “You could be in the group for two months, or four years, and can still have connections with people for years after.”
With plans of studying theatre this fall, Danielle Burg echoed Lorenzo’s sentiments. “It was better than great,” the retiring cast member recalls of her three-year RNRC run. “(Joining this group) was honestly, the best decision I ever made,” she continued. “I’m really not ready to leave yet.”
“It’s hard to think about what it will be like when I leave for college and I don’t have this – a show every day,” confessed Mackenzie Price, of her two years performing with the group. Soon to be pursuing a career in the fashion industry, Price added that she’s grateful for, “the friendships that I’ve made, and the experiences that I’ve had.”
“This group actually has helped me to define what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are, and what I love to do,” mused longtime member, Ethan Greenberg. As an incoming senior, Greenberg still has one more year with the group – and he seemed to hit upon the precise reason why being part of The RNRC has meant so much to so many members over the last decade. “Connecting with people is one of the reasons why I love this group so much. But it’s really the connection we have with each other.”
But as seasoned cast members bid farewell to the group, fans and life on the road this summer, new members who share the same hopes and dreams, stand in the wings, waiting to experience their big break. And as the cast evolves, and the brand continues to gain recognition, the future of The RockNRoll Chorus remains bright, indeed. In fact, the group’s latest album, No Guilt ‘Til Monday, (their 7th overall) arrives this October. And with founder, leader and visionary, Joe Cantaffa mapping out next summer’s tour, he’s also already planning to produce their next album – one that he expects will be the first RNRC record to contain ALL original songs.