Most bands form – and sometimes break up – organically, but it was by design that a group of Hilliard musicians met with success and enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime thrill of playing at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But after recording a second EP of original material and completing a summer tour, the six members of Threat Level Midnight will go their separate ways.
Named for a reference to a fictional movie script in "The Office," Threat Level Midnight features Sarita Gara, 19, a 2017 Hilliard Davidson High School graduate and Ohio State University freshman; Mark Fullen, 16, a Davidson rising senior; Alex Mateos, 18, a 2018 Davidson graduate; Bryan Ream, 18, a 2018 Hilliard Bradley High School graduate; Anna Wallace, 18, a 2018 Hilliard Darby High School graduate; and Megan Woodruff, 18, a 2018 Bradley graduate.
Graduation ceremonies for the latter four teens were last week.
"(These students) became like a family to me ... (and) truly exceeded by expectations," said Phil Nagy, who instructs Academy Vibe with Trevor Torrence at Hilliard City Schools' McVey Innovative Learning Center.
Academy Vibe is a music-based program in which students receive the experience of working in a professional-grade recording studio, and the MILC, which is based at 5323 Cemetery Road in the district's former administrative offices, is billed as an alternative-education setting that specializes in blended and innovative learning.
Except for Mateos, who replaced Aaron Sartain last fall, the members met simply because they each auditioned to enroll in an Academy Vibe class called Performer's Institute in in August 2016.
As it turned out, they were the only six to register for the class and it was not offered again the following year because it lacked the requisite number of students.
Nagy wrote the curriculum for Performer's Institute as part of Academy Vibe.
"Their job was simply to be a band," he said.
And so the students found themselves starting from scratch and facing not only the challenge of the curriculum but learning each other's personalities and even coming up with a name for the band.
They also had to learn about marketing, making T-shirts and other merchandising, building a website and cold-calling to book performances, Nagy said.
Roles within the band proved to be less challenging, members said, because each already had a clear niche for particular instruments.
Wallace plays the electric violin, Ream guitar, Mateos bass, Fullen drums and Gara keyboards.
Woodruff is the lead vocalist, with Gara and Ream also contributing vocals.
The group recorded a four-track EP of original compositions, "The Self-Titled EP," which is available on iTunes and Spotify.
However, group members consider their performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the band's greatest accomplishment.
In February, Threat Level Midnight placed fourth out of 54 high school bands performing in the "High School Rock Off" competition at the hall of fame.
The stakes? Playing at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls when the Vans Warped Tour – a traveling rock festival that has toured since 1995 – stops there this year.
"The stakes were high (at the competition); it was a chance to join the Warped Tour," Mateos said.
"But we did a pretty good job, we landed fourth," Woodruff said.
Ream said he enjoyed the atmosphere of the venue and the chance to meet other great musicians.
"What stood out to me the most were the judges," Wallace said. "It was a really cool experience to get feedback from them, to hear what we did well and where we could improve."
Fullen said "it was a little nerve-racking" but he was pleased with the performance.
Their stage presence landed them two shows in Cleveland and a TV appearance on Cleveland's FOX affiliate.
"I'm super excited about that," Woodruff said.
The band was scheduled to perform on the FOX 8 Cleveland morning show May 28 and at Cleveland's Centennial Plaza on Thursday, May 31.
Threat Level Midnight also has two local concerts scheduled: June 8 at the Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit St., and July 1 at Skully's Music-Diner, 1151 N. High St. Both venues are in Columbus.
For information on appearances, ticketing and music, go to threatlevelmidnight.rocks.
Proceeds from tickets sales, merchandise and music sales provided the band with the $1,000 necessary to record its second EP at Sonic Lounge Recording Studio in Grove City, Ream said.
The EP isn't titled yet and the group still must make track selections, though it has more than enough original material to do so, Ream said.
"We plan to do a few more shows this summer, too," Woodruff said.
But all good things must come to an end – mainly because of college for the four recent graduates.
Woodruff said she would attend Capital University to study music technology.
Ream said he plans to attend Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, to study music production.
Wallace said she would study violin performance at McGill University in Montreal.
Mateos said he plans to attend Bowling Green State University.
"They did more than I ever expected," said Nagy, who has served as the band's manager and is planning its farewell show in early August.
He credits their success with bolstering Academy Vibe at the MILC. The program has expanded from 24 students in its first year in 2013 to 85 students this past school year, the fifth at the MILC, he said.
Nagy said his next set of successful musicians might not be far behind.
A three-member group named While I'm Away will begin working with him as second-year students in Academy Vibe when classes resume in August, he said.