Mike Petillo, a 13-year old H.B. Whitehorne student from Verona, and his band, won the Tri-State Music Competition Battle of the Bands against 200 other musicians across New Jersey, New York and Connecticut at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.
The band performed The Allman Brothers song “One Way Out,” but it was Petillo's slide guitar solo that helped to clinch the victory for the young band members.
“It was really cool because you got to see musicians from other places and you got to play in front of all these other people,” said Petillo. “I think all along I knew we were going to win because we had a very talented group of people.”
Petillo plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, a little bit of everything, he said, but his passion is the guitar. The guitar is never far from his hands, said his father, who is also named Mike Petillo.
“You can be creative with it, there's more ways to express yourself than with other instruments,” said the younger Petillo.
Petillo and his band are students at School of Rock Montclair, an afterschool music program that provides weekly private lessons and had been rehearsing for their Allman Brothers performance since May.
In August they performed at Just Jake’s in Montclair and Mexicali Live in Teaneck.
The performance drew such a huge response that they were chosen to represent School of Rock Montclair at the Highline competition against other School of Rock bands in the tri-state area.
“Mike’s band blew the other kids off the stage,” said Tom Nadolski, Director of School of Rock Montclair. “He has a level of poise, grit, and talent that’s beyond impressive, and he and his bandmates were leagues above all the contenders.”
“Given the power of their show and the amazing confidence they displayed, it’s clear that Mike and his bandmates have many more awesome performances in store,” he said.
Petillo has been playing guitar for five years and enjoys playing blues and rock. He says the key to winning is practice, practice and more practice.
“It's a commitment,” he said. “It's not a side project, you have to practice and commit to it.”