Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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School of Music Alumni Return Home to Headline Festival

+Tyler+Childers+and+the+Food+Stamps+performing+at+the+Whizzbangers+Ball.
Baylee Parsons
Tyler Childers and the Food Stamps performing at the Whizzbanger’s Ball.

The sky is full of stars at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, and the first annual Whizzbanger’s Ball is coming to a close. 

The clock hits 10:30 p.m., and thousands of fans stand in the crowd eagerly trying to get closer to the stage for the headlining performance.

The opening chords of “Whitehouse Road” come through the speakers, and the crowd hoots and hollers as six wildly popular men, including two Marshall University alumni, hit the stage.

In 2014, Craig Burletic and Rodney Elkins completed their Jazz Studies degrees from Marshall’s School of Music. Today, they travel the country, selling out shows with Tyler Childers and the Food Stamps.

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The inaugural Whizzbanger’s Ball in Glen Jean, West Virginia, allowed the band members to return to their home state after performing in various states in the previous weeks, including an opening performance in Orlando, Florida, for the Rolling Stones. 

“I don’t think it was ever in our heads not to come back,” said Burletic, the band’s bassist. “We’re going to play some shows year-round, but we used to play every Sunday at Shamrock’s, so it’d be weird not to play here.” 

Elkins, the band’s drummer, said the best part of coming back to perform in West Virginia is getting to see so many familiar faces. 

“When we get to come home and have all of our friends playing on the same show, it’s just like a family reunion,” Elkins said. 

The festival’s line-up included several previous performers from Huntington’s 9th Street Live and The Loud, formerly known as The V Club, including John R. Miller, Of the Dell, William Matheny and more. 

Even so, Burletic said he often notices the faces of Appalachia following the band along on their tours. 

“We’ve been playing Madison Square Garden, the United Center and that stadium with The Stones, and it’s felt like doing local shows,” Burletic said. “I looked out and saw Ian Thornton, the guy who’s doing this, and I see friends who I didn’t know were going to be there. I look at their faces, and it feels like a privilege, but it also feels like a normal thing.”

Having performed with Childers since late in their college careers, Burletic and Elkins have become seasoned professionals when it comes to performing at large venues and festivals. However, Elkins said he thinks back on the band’s early days at The V Club frequently.

“There’s a lot of history there,” Elkins said, “so I’m always thinking about old times when we were at The V Club.” 

From scheduling their own shows and setting up their own stages to getting assignments turned in by their deadline, being a college student and trying to launch a band was anything but easy for the Marshall grads, Burletic said. 

“The biggest difference now is that it’s easier to have a healthy lifestyle,” Burletic said. “I wish I would have let myself get some C’s in my other classes instead of beating myself over the head over a sociology paper.”

“Especially for performance majors, try to love it and not go in thinking, ‘I’m practicing right now,’” Burletic added. “I practice every day, and I’m lucky to have this job with Tyler; I feel like I got a grant to fund my research.”

Elkins, who grew up in a musical family, said Marshall may not have prompted his love for music, but it showed him the importance of academics.

Both performers agreed they would not be where they are today if they had always been thinking about the end goal.

“I want to be really good because it matters to me, and I love to play every day,” Burletic said. “I’m just playing to play every day without thinking much about places and where it’s going to take me. I play every day because I like to do it and hope that maybe something good might work.”

 

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