Dayton band The Werks is taking the country by storm - one festival at a time

Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 11:00 AM
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

            Dayton band The Werks rocked the house at the Werkin' in the New Year show at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus on New Year's Eve.
            Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com
Dayton band The Werks rocked the house at the Werkin' in the New Year show at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus on New Year's Eve.(Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com)

The Werks

Web site: http://www.thewerksmusic.com/

Band members: Rob Chafin (drums), Dino Dimitrouleas (bass), Norman Dimitrouleas (keyboards), Chris Houser (guitar)

If there is one thing you will never heard said about The Werks (or its members) it is that they don’t work hard. The Dayton band is on the road, out playing with friends, recording an album or generally just immersed in music nearly 100 percent of their lives. This work ethic, combined with the joy that music obviously brings these talented musicians (and obvious music-lovers) has brought them national recognition within the jamband set.

This year will be no different for these self-professed road warriors as they hit the road on a mind-blowing festival circuit that includes the Hangout Music Festival, Wakarusa Music Festival, All Good Music Festival, Dark Star Jubilee, Camp Bisco, Electric Forest Festival, Gratifly Music and Arts Festival, Happiness and Harmony Festival, Bear Creek Music Festival, Summer Camp and their own festival The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival.

We sat down to talk with the band about their sound, festival season, the road and other general shenanigans.

Active Dayton: Your musical style is often called “Psychedelic Dance Rock” – How did that name come about?

Norman Dimitrouleas: (laughs) There isn’t really a true way to label our sound.

Chris Houser: Yeah, we’ve been labeled so many things.

Dino Dimitrouleas: It’s kind of hard to label what we do into one name. Some nights it is psychedelic dance rock, some night it’s hard rock, some nights it is more of a singer-songwriter feel. It really changes by the set list.

You oftentimes play a cover or two during your sets, what are some of your favorite songs to cover? Or what would you like to cover in the future?

DD: My favorites are the ones that are truly unexpected. Killing in the Name of (Rage Against the Machine) was one of my favorites because it was such a curveball for the audience.

ND: And it really seemed to work.

CH: Luckily (laughs)

DD: Yeah .. I guess we just love the shockers. Maybe even a slow, cheesy dance song. Our audience can expect the unexpected.

Rob Chafin: Sex Machine was so much fun at All Good.

CH: Final Countdown at the Werk Out was amazing with Jason Hanson on kit. He actually learned the song a couple of hours before we took the stage. Best Feeling the year before at Werk Out with Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident was amazing as well. We really do a lot of covers because they are so much fun.

ND: Jukebox Hero. We kept getting asked by this fan to do Jukebox Hero and we finally said yeah … let’s do it.

RC: Foreplay/Long Time by Boston would be one that would be fun to play.

You guys are seemingly playing every night and coming off a tour right now … what do you love about being on the road? And what is your least favorite part?

DD: My favorite part is the experience of going to different places around the country and meeting new people. Each town is different, but also kind of the same.

ND: Best part: Seeing the road family. Worst part: Being away from the home family.

DD: Yeah one of my least favorite part is when you are on the road, you are in the grind. If something goes wrong back home, your hands are kind of tied as to how you can help. That’s hard.

CH: But this is our dream and that is part of what you have to do to live the dream.

RC: Being on the road is amazing because it is like we have best friends in each city. It is a very close-knit family feel. And we are travelling the country visiting our best friends.

CH: I would say that building those relationships around the country is the best part, and I agree that being away from my family is the toughest part (Chris has young siblings).

How has the travel schedule changed over the years?

DD: When I joined the band (summer 2011), the band was already touring hard. I would say that it has gotten a little more comfortable over the past year.

ND: When I joined the band (2008), the s!#t was not comfortable.

CH: Yeah, we recently (in the past 9 months) have gotten a bus which sleeps 8. That is much more comfortable than in the past when we were sleeping in any space we could find on the floor of the van.

ND: And one of us yelling up to the front, “Turn the heat on back here!”

DD: Yeah, before the bus we would sometimes pull into town with no sleep.

RC: And having highly terrifying experiences, like pulling into town once with no brakes.

Personally, I have seen about 10 shows over the past year since I discovered your music last year at All Good. In that time, I have always have thought you guys look like you are having the best time on stage. How do you bring the joy day-in and day-out?

DD: No matter how bad it gets being on the road every day, I try to remember that we are on stage, doing what we want to be doing. It is indescribable. We were all music lovers who remember the feeling of seeing live music. It is multiplied when you are on stage connecting with an audience in the moment. Even on our worst day it is still exciting. We appreciate all of these things and try to send out good energy.

CH: Yeah, but it doesn’t happen every time. Some days are rough and sometimes we are not playing our best.

ND: But that is the great thing about the band. We have three other people to lean on and help pick you up. We also implemented the smile rule.

What’s the smile rule?

RC: When someone messes up, rather than getting mad or frustrated, we just smile at them.

So because I always think you are having a great time, really it is that a lot of you are messing up?

CH: (Laughs) Yeah, basically we are all just f#@$ing up all the time and it looks like we are having a blast.

As a professed music-lover and concertgoer, I have to say you guys and your crew are amazing guerilla marketers. I see your stickers all around the country. How did that idea come about?

CH: Laughs .. well the first stickers came out in 2005. They melted off cars when it rained. We handed out business cards and stickers everywhere. Hell ... we wore our own band’s shirts. (laughs)

DD: We have been known to give merchandise and stickers away. We want our audience to take a part of our show away with them.

ND: The Werk It stickers took on a life of their own.

RC: We had to trademark them.

DD: People would ask us for rolls of stickers. Not ‘Can I have a sticker? But can I have a roll of stickers?”

RC: I remember last year at All Good … I stood at the top of the hill and rolled a whole roll down the hill. It was crazy the people were like piranhas diving for stickers. It was wild.

Rumor has it you have a new album in the works? Is a new album on the horizon?

CH: We are hoping for the fall.

RC: We would love to release it at The Werk Out.

CH: But we don’t want to rush it … so if it is ready by then, great. If not we will release it when it is ready.

DD: It is hard to say when it will be ready before we even start recording (just starting after Galactic Passport Tour concludes). But we are very excited.

As you are on the road most of year, how do you find the time to write new material? Do you write collaboratively or is it generally one of you bringing the song to the group?

CH: We all are constantly coming up with new ideas. Rob and Dino are the strong songwriters. I occasionally have my moments of inspiration.

ND: Yeah. There are even some rare times when we are alone with our instruments and we get to work on some things.

DD: Well … some songs write themselves. Seriously, there are some songs that I have written in 20 minutes. Others I will work on for weeks at a time – trying to get all the parts into the right places. You have to just stick with it. I will sometimes record ideas on my phone and later listen back and try to piece things together. I am constantly looking for inspiration.

Speaking of music festivals … I have to say that I thought your set at All Good last year was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. What is it about All Good that makes you want to come back year after year?

CH: It really is just a privilege to play that festival. Tim Walther (All Good Music Festival founder) has always been super supportive of us.

ND: I think this is our third year straight playing it. It is an amazing time and a great festival. I think one year there was a press release to come check out the Werks in an early set. I think it said “Come rage with The Werks at the crack of noon.” (everyone laughs)

RC: Being a part of All Good is fantastic. Its stature, the other bands, really the whole thing is so well put together.

DD: Yeah, they put on a major production. It is amazing to play in our home state, amongst legends. Last year our set was between Bob Weir and Phil Lesh (founding members of the Grateful Dead). We were sound-checking on the side stage, while Bobby Weir was finishing up his set, and I looked over and said “Houser! Houser!!! I’m playing with Bob Weir right now.

You are also heading to the beach for the Hangout Music Festival  … who are you excited to see there? What made you want to get on that bill?

CH: Mainly word of mouth. Everyone who we spoke with about the festival or has been there has said nothing but great things. And it is on the beach.

ND: AND it is on the beach. Anything that is on the beach I am cool with.

DD: And the lineup is amazing.

ND: Stevie Wonder! (pauses for dramatic effect)  Stevie Wonder!!!

RC: AND Tom Petty.

So do you guys often stay and check out the scene and other music? Will you stay at Hangout?

CH: It really depends on our tour schedule. But usually for the bigger festivals, we will stay the whole time.

RC: Yeah … if you are wandering around the scene … you will definitely run into us. We’re not only musicians, we are fans as well. We won’t pass up the opportunity to see great music.

Same question about Wakarusa Music Festival. What is your favorite part of playing that venue or that festival? Who are you looking forward to seeing?

ND: This is our third time at Waka. And it is definitely one of my personal favorites. I have seen some crazy things go down at Wakarusa.

CH: Wakarusa has always been a great time. And they have always been fantastic to us. The organizers  have helped us a lot by putting us in great slots and really helped our band’s growth overall. We love playing there.

ND: One of my favorite moments came a couple of years ago. I was up by the rail catching Perpetual Groove’s set. This guy came flying up and jumped over the barricade. I mean this guy just Michael Jordaned it and he was wearing only his underwear. He dove straight into Adam’s (Adam Perry) keyboard. The band had to play without keys to finish up the set. The guy (stagediver) must have been really feeling it.

CH: He was feeling something.

Oftentimes you bring guests onstage to play with you? Who are some of your favorites from the past? And who do you hope to collaborate with this summer?

CH: John Gentry Jr. – hands down. He sits in with us regularly when we are in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.

ND: The Kung Fu Guys are some of our favorites. Johnny Neel (former Allman Brothers band keyboardist) is great because I can sit back and watch.

RC: The String Cheese Incident guys were great.

CH: Jaden Carlson (the 12-year-old guitar prodigy) sitting in with us in Breckinridge was killer. She learned four songs off our album and played great.

DD: Having someone sit-in makes the same old, same-old different and special. We have played these songs thousands of times, but we play better and have to be sharper when someone else is playing with us.

CH: It also produces a lot of ideas and allows us to take the music places it’s never been before. We have a lot of respect for all of the people we play with.

ND: People we would love to play with? Stevie Wonder!!!!

RC: AND Tom Petty

You also play host to your own festival? The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival in September. How did you go from playing festivals to hosting your own? How involved are you in the band selection and logistics?

CH: We are the most involved we have ever been this time around. We worked with Steve Trickle (Trickle Productions) of Legend Valley

ND: He used to handle a lot of the Hookahvilles

CH: and he has been a great influence and asset in helping us get this off the ground.

DD: It really was like “How can we host a big party for all of our friends?” We bring a lot of the bands we play with on the road into Ohio. We often-times hand-pick bands that we want to showcase, or to be a part of the party. There are all levels of experience levels. From bands just starting out to others who are more established in the scene. Regional bands to bands like Lotus who are more established but we want to be a part of our party. Every band is special and every band is treated as equally important.  

ND: It really is a public party – for our friends and family.

RC: And Trakstar (an electronic dance music side project of Todd Stoops of Kung Fu and Rob Chafin who according to the rest of the band have no music yet and are a Michael McDonald cover band) will be making its first U.S. appearance.


To see The Werks this summer, be sure to check out on one of the following festivals.

at Legend Valley (formerly Buckeye Lake Music Center) near Columbus:

Dark Star Jubilee: http://www.darkstarjubilee.com/

All Good Music Festival: http://www.allgoodfestival.com/

The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival: http://www.thewerkoutfestival.com/

Or take a road trip:

Hangout Music Festival: http://www.hangoutmusicfest.com/

Wakarusa Music Festival: http://www.wakarusa.com/

Dark Star Jubilee to return to Legend Valley

Published: Friday, February 07, 2014 @ 1:11 PM
Updated: Friday, February 07, 2014 @ 1:11 PM

            Despite early sound issues due to rain, Dark Star Orchestra threw down a beautiful acoustic set on the second day of the All Good Music Festival in Thornville, Ohio.
            Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com
Despite early sound issues due to rain, Dark Star Orchestra threw down a beautiful acoustic set on the second day of the All Good Music Festival in Thornville, Ohio.(Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com)

Dark Star Orchestra and All Good Presents announce today the return of Dark Star Jubilee to Legend Valley in Thornville, OH, just 30 minutes east of Columbus, on Memorial Day Weekend May 23-25. Hosted and curated by Dark Star Orchestra, world-renowned re-creators of the Grateful Dead live experience, this third annual Jubilee festival features these artists:

* Dark Star Orchestra (3 nights)
* Yonder Mountain String Band
* Galactic
* Keller Williams with More Than A Little
* New Riders of the Purple Sage
* The Wailers (performing the Bob Marley album Legend in its entirety)
* Anders Osborne
* The Werks
* Toubab Krewe
* Cornmeal
* UV Hippo
* Rumpke Mountain Boys
* The Ragbirds
* Aliver Hall

plus additional artists still to be announced

The Dark Star Jubilee features an intimate setting within hallowed and historic grounds, offering up nearly 36 hours of music, all with non-overlapping sets. The stages are set up side by side allowing fans to see and hear the entirety of each and every artist listed on the lineup without having to hike between stages or choose between bands.

Attendees can camp within the concert bowl, a few hundred feet from the stage, making the experience that much more up close and personal. The Erie Reader summed up the Jubilee experience well with this passage from its review of the 2013 event: “Along with that certain electricity in the air that comes at the front of every good, long outdoor music fest, some of the first things I encountered when arriving on the Valley's grounds last weekend were a noticeable lack of hassles, a noticeable abundance of playful little kids, and a whole lot of friendly Deadheads – all there to share in the getting-down.”

Having just welcomed a new member and celebrated their 16th anniversary, Dark Star Orchestra have an exciting year ahead of them with a return to Jamaica and the oncoming milestone of surpassing the Grateful Dead’s 2318 shows played. Ever committed, the band has been endorsed by critics, fans and even all the living members of the Grateful Dead themselves have joined and played with DSO on stage. A quote by their own soundman of three decades Dan Healy puts it clear as he once said of DSO: “I can close my eyes and go back 30 years”.

Drawing from the vast Gospel and R&B scene of Richmond, VA, Keller Williams with More Than A Little is blazing new ground in the world of funk. Keller describes the project as, “funking up some of my favorite songs mixed with some interesting, familiar covers done the ‘More Than A Little Way.’ ”

Dark Star Jubilee tickets are available now with discounted ‘Early Bird’ tickets for a 3-day GA festival pass for $109 ($40 off gate price) and for ‘Good Lovin’ VIP’ festival admission at $225 ($65 off gate price). ‘Little Star Kids’ is a $25 ticket for pre-registered children ages 4-12, who must be accompanied by a festival ticket-holding adult. Festival attendees ages three and under are free while youth above age 13 must have a full price festival pass. Gates open at noon Friday, May 23. Complete ticket options with pricing are available at www.darkstarjubilee.com.

For complete information on the Dark Star Jubilee, please visit www.darkstarjubilee.com.

INTERVIEW: Yonder Mountain String Band

Published: Monday, May 27, 2013 @ 10:56 AM
Updated: Monday, May 27, 2013 @ 10:56 AM

            Ben Kaufmann of Yonder Mountain String Band brings the crowd to a frenzy at the 2012 All Good Music Festival at Legend Valley near Columbus, Ohio.
            Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com
Ben Kaufmann of Yonder Mountain String Band brings the crowd to a frenzy at the 2012 All Good Music Festival at Legend Valley near Columbus, Ohio.(Brian Glass/Concert-Captures.Com)

Yonder Mountain String Band

Web site: http://www.yondermountain.com/

Band: Adam Aijala (guitar), Jeff Austin (mandolin), Dave Johnston (banjo) and Ben Kaufmann (bass)

If you are a fan of music festivals, bluegrass, alt-country or jambands, you have probably seen a Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB to a lot of their fans) show recently.

If you haven’t caught them yet, put them on your short list (you won’t be disappointed). You can expect a high-energy jamgrass show that will get you up on your feet.

The 15-year-old Colorado band has been a fixture on the festival circuit for years and this year will be no different as the band will be actively traveling the country to major music festivals including Wakarusa Music Festival, All Good Music Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Floyd Fest, Strings & Sol and their own party -- the Northwest String Summit.

We spoke with bassist Ben Kaufmann and banjo-guru Dave Johnston to talk about the festival season, the road, new music and their rise to fame.

Active Dayton: You guys are on tour right now … what do you love about being on the road?

Dave Johnston: Well, I would say my favorite part is that there is a lot of down time. It gives you a lot of opportunity to do anything … or nothing. You have time to read a book you are interested in, AND there is this great camaraderie with the guys while traveling on the bus and yelling at the at the same sports team on the TV.

And what is your least favorite part?

DJ: My least favorite part is probably that there is a lot of downtime. Spending a lot of time traveling on the bus and yelling at the at the same sports team with all the guys.  In all seriousness, some of the worst parts happened a little while back when our bus broke down and we had to live in mini-vans. It was a stark reminder of our past.

Ben Kaufmann: First world problems, you know?

How has travel changed over the years?

BK: We’ve been lucky to have experienced slow and steady growth for almost 15 years. We started in an RV and saw sketchy, terrifying things. We were young and brave. We graduated to mini-vans and then vans and to buses now. We have grown from playing bars to bigger clubs to festivals and sometimes we get to play Red Rocks (Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado). 

Personally, I have seen about 20 shows over the years, and I always have thought you guys look like you are having the best time on stage. How do you bring the joy day-in and day-out?

DJ: I try to really remind myself how lucky I am to get to play with such great musicians day-in and day-out. I feel really lucky to get a chance to connect with people, and that they appreciate our music.

You have been together for more than 14 years and probably know a lot about each other … so other than Jeff (Austin) … have any of you perfected what I like to call the “Faces of Jeff?”

DJ: It cannot be perfected. It can only be experienced.

BK: I used to notice it more, but Jeff just really gets into the moment.

Well the fans definitely love it!

Rumor has it you have a new album in the works. True?

BK: Yeah, we are working on it soon in Chicago. We try to work on it on our days off. We work on our days off. (laughs)

As you are on the road most of year, how do you find the time to write new material?

DJ: We have kids now. We used to have down time to pursue writing at home more. Lately, I have to make time and make it an obligation every day to write and work on it each day. No matter how I am feeling, I always try to fulfill my obligation to write. Even if it means just staring at a blank page. I make it a point … like keeping an appointment. It is something that is important.

It seems you have a short break coming up after your west coast tour … how will you recharge your batteries before an aggressive festival season?

BK: I go home and enter a world that is so different than life on the road. I have the family experience with a 14-month-old boy. My sleep schedule flips from late nights to early mornings (and sometimes late nights, too). After a day or two to readjust, I settle in to the most rewarding time. I recently got to watch my son take his first steps. If that doesn’t fill you up and rejuvenate you, I don’t know what would.

Speaking of music festivals … I have to say that I thought your set at All Good last year was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. What is it about All Good that makes you want to come back year after year?

DJ: You would be hard-pressed to find a better person than Tim Walther (All Good Music Festival founder). Tim has always been a great proponent of the band.

BK: Tim is definitely one of the good ones. All Good has always had a great vibe and something really pleasant about it. It is not too intense and really feels like home. Playing music with great friends ... It is just a great time and I hope I can play it for as many years as I can.

You also used to hold a festival at Mulberry Mountain (and are playing Wakarusa this year) … what is your favorite part of playing that venue or that festival?

DJ: Yeah the Harvest Fest. It is definitely the same site, but different scenes. It has been almost 10 years since we have played Wakarusa. And here is another example of a quality individual in Brett (Brett Mosiman) putting together a great festival and lineup.

BK: I am really looking forward to coming back. The festival is 10 years old and I am really looking forward to seeing how it as changed over the years.

While doing these festivals, do you guys get to see a lot of the other acts?

DJ: It really varies by band member. Sometimes I make it a point to check out some music, other times it depends on how I am feeling and what our schedule is like. Jeff and Ben oftentimes do see some more music. Adam (Aijala) seldomly does.

BK: It really varies from festival to festival. At Harvest and Telluride, I often check out a lot of music depending on the vibe. But at a lot of the bluegrass festivals you may seem the same bands playing the exact same set from last year. That’s so foreign to me, and I don’t generally watch because I have seen it already. Usually, I will look at the schedule to see if there is someone I want to catch.

Oftentimes you bring guests onstage to play with you? Who are some of your favorites from the past? And who do you hope to collaborate with this summer?

DJ: I obviously really like the banjoists – someone like Danny Barnes. But I haven’t really checked out this year’s festival lineups to know who we might collaborate with.

BK: I really enjoyed playing with Victor Wooten and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. We did a show where we transitioned each band member one-by-one until the entire band had swapped out. It was remarkable playing with Victor who told us beforehand that he didn’t really play upright bass. Then he comes out on stage and he is all kinds of great. Guest sit-ins are always a surprise, but generally anyone can sit in with us. There are no limitations as to who qualifies. That’s such a wonderful thing. Really in the moment improv stuff. It is a great thing about being in this band.

You also play host to your own festival? How did you go from playing festivals to hosting your own? How involved are you in band selection and logistics?

DJ: Yeah the Northwest String Summit. It kind of just happened. I don’t want to say it fell into our laps, but we were playing Dexter Lake and we got the opportunity to throw our own party. It is fun to try to manage to get who we want there. We have a broad sense of input to suggest bands. There are a great group of guys that help us run it and they help us coordinate and make it successful.


To see Yonder Mountain String Band this summer, be sure to check out on one of the following festivals.

 At Legend Valley (formerly Buckeye Lake Music Center) near Columbus:

All Good Music Festival: http://www.allgoodfestival.com/

 Take a road trip:

Wakarusa Music Festival: http://www.wakarusa.com/

Northwest String Summit: http://www.stringsummit.com/

Musician Josh Groban to play at Fraze, tickets go on sale this week

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 4:50 PM

World reknown singer and songwriter Josh Groban will surely “lift up” the Fraze Pavilion on Aug. 13 during his just announced 8 p.m. show.

Members of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will accompany the chart-topping artist during the evening, which will feature songs from Groban’s latest album, “All that Echoes.”

“I think it (the concert) is going to be a wonderful draw,” said Chuck Duritsch, communications and media manager for Dayton Performing Alliance. “I think they are going to sell out very quickly.”

The Fraze is located at 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering.

Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday at the new Fraze FanFare store in Town & Country Shopping Center, 300 E. Stroop Road, Kettering.

Advanced tickets range from $139 for Plaza seats to $55 for lawn & terrace. The price for lawn and terrace is $60 the day of the show. There will be a four-ticket per person limit the first day of the sale.

Duritsch said the concert has been under wraps for some time, and DPO is excited to take part.

“We have not done something with the Fraze for a couple of years, so we are really excited to be be back at the Fraze,” he said.

The concert will be Groban’s first appearance at the Fraze.

The 31-year-old Los Angeles native is best known for his hits “The Prayer” and “You Raise Me Up.” He has sold more than 21 million records. “All That Echoes” is Groban’s sixth album.

Contact this blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth

What’s it like to try out for ‘The Voice’? Area native learns

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

A Middletown native’s journey on NBC’s reality singing competition show, “The Voice,” has come to an end. However, far from being dejected, 22-year-old Alicia Pitts said this is just the beginning.

“I wasn’t really heartbroken,” Pitts said. “It was a learning experience. It just let me know what I need to work on. It was a lot of fun.”

In fact, Pitts said she was surprised she even made it through the first round of auditions.

“When they called my name, I did a double-take,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d make it. I’m not as confident because I haven’t been doing it for very long.”

Pitts said she’d been singing off and on for quite some time but had never sung in public until she was a senior in high school, and that was with a choir, not an individual performance. Her preferred musical tastes are country and “a lot of older music.” She is currently enrolled at Miami-Jacobs Career College at Springboro, studying to be a dental assistant.

“I want to make the kind of music that will bring people up, music that people can relate to,” she said. “I’d like to be a role model. I’d be the first person with a musical dental office. Nobody’s ever seen that.”

When Pitts heard about the first-round auditions for “The Voice,” held this year in Memphis, Tenn., she decided to give it a try. With some help from her parents, she made the long drive.

“I’ve always been told that I’m good,” she said. “That I should try out for something. And I like what ‘The Voice’ is about. I like that it’s more about how you sound than what you look like.”

Pitts said the audition was highly organized but fairly low-key. When it was her turn, she sang before one individual. She opted for Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”

“Nobody really said much,” she said. “I thought there’d be a lot more people auditioning than there were. You sit in a room with 10 people, and if you make it, they call your name.”

Once she passed the first round, she learned that the second-round auditions would take place in New York City, a much greater distance to travel, and once again Pitts would be doing it on her own dime. Fortunately, her classmates at Miami-Jacobs rallied around her with a secret fundraiser, selling bracelets and holding a jeans day, where students wore jeans to school and contributed $1. However, the secret fundraiser didn’t stay secret for long.

“I gave some bracelets to some friends, and then suddenly I was seeing them everywhere,” she laughed. “It was really nice having everyone support me like that.”

Pitts drove the 13 hours to New York City, and stayed in a hotel about one mile away from the audition site. Again, she sang for just one person, performing Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.”

“Again, I sat in a room, but nobody called out names this time,” she said. “Somebody just came in and said that everyone in our room didn’t quite have the potential they were looking for.”

Now, Pitts is back home and returning to classes, but she already has her eye on a future of singing.

“I’ll definitely audition again next year,” she said. “This won’t be the last time.”