Striking a chord
In high school, extracurricular activities provide structure and guidance to young minds seeking to expand the boundaries of hobby, recreation and intellectual pursuits.
But sometimes, it's outside school walls where kids truly find passion and purpose.
That's true for the boys of Sound Pharmacy, a group of Lake Oswego High School seniors who have formed over the past few years into a solid group of musicians.
"We've been best friends since we can remember. It was just kind of a coincidence we all happened to play music," says Jackson Schelonka, a singer and guitarist.
The crew of six includes Schelonka, Laz Glickman on keyboard, Michael Campanelli on bass, Spencer Brown on drums, Cole Schillinger on vocals and Cole's older brother Spencer on guitar.
Having been friends for years, the group has incredible chemistry as musicians. They're able to feed off each other's strengths and weaknesses in order to create a full-bodied sound that mimics a variety of styles, from R&B and rock to jazz, with a little hint of hip-hop peppered in.
The group cites blues-rock guitarist John Mayer, R&B singer D'Angelo and hip-hop phenom Anderson .Paak as some of their biggest influences. Most of the students are involved in music classes at LOHS in some way, shape or form, but it's their self-starting attitude that makes their pursuits outside the classroom even more impressive.
It all started during May Fete 2015, the annual end-of-the-year celebration at LOHS that includes a song and skit from each class. As freshmen, Cole and Laz decided to team up with Brown for a May Fete performance Little did the three know this would be somewhat of a genesis for Sound Pharmacy.
"It wasn't organized until recently. It really started as a jam session thing. When we had extra time, we'd just call each other to come over," Glickman says. "It's always been hard for us to get everyone together because we're so busy."
That changed recently when the group decided to get a little more serious about their music. Brown's father Mike asked the boys if they'd be interested in playing a show at the Lake Theater and Cafe in August. If they were, he said, he'd make it happen.
The boys agreed, and soon after they finalized a set list and practiced their tunes, they were taking the stage to perform in front of a packed house of family, friends and community members.
"We played for two hours, so putting together a setlist for that was kind of stressful," Campanelli says.
The event went off without a hitch. They played for nearly two hours, including covers and a few original songs the group wrote themselves.
"We all have different influences and ways of writing songs, so we kind of write individually, but we always have what the other parts are going to sound like in the back of our heads," Schelonka says. "It's even cooler when we get together and work off each other to build one big song for the band instead of just for an individual."
To date, Sound Pharmacy has five or six original songs in the works, and the group is planning to continue that work throughout this school year.
The group is proactively looking for places to perform or play a weekend gig here and there, but sometimes they decide to just take their music to the streets of downtown Portland to get some practice in front of an audience.
"The goal is to make just enough money to buy lunch afterwards," Campanelli says.
A show at Portland's Analog Theater — a hot venue for up-and-coming bands — would be a huge step forward for the boys, but they're also hoping to book another show at the Lake Theater soon after the success of that first gig.
"This is going to sound cheesy, but when we get on stage, it's like we're one with each other," Schelonka says. "It's not six dudes playing in a band, it's this one group, and that's something you only get when the guys you're playing with are your best friends."