Winning teen band from Hampton hopes to raise money for autistic child
Brothers Jake and Zack Leya, Matt Bauman and Shannon Drew are The Options. The band recently was named the top high school band in the Rock Challenge, sponsored by Sardonyx Productions. They're using their talents to raise awareness about autism.
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It can get a bit noisy at Chris and Amy Leya's home in Hampton.
Mr. Leya and the couple's sons, Jake, 17, and Zack, 15, play in bands, and between them, they have 13 drum sets plus several guitars, keyboards and other instruments.
"The boys grew up thinking every dad was in a band, I think," said Mr. Leya, a software engineer by day.
His boys have released a CD with their band, The Options, which also just won Rock Challenge, a competition hosted by Sardonyx Productions.
After several rounds of competition Sunday, the band was named the top band in the high school category.
So, things promise only to get nosier and busier.
Since the band's CD was released, Mr. Leya has been playing less with his band, Bad Bad Ants.
"Every parent knows how that goes," Mr. Leya joked.
He was instrumental in helping the boys and band mates, Matt Bauman, 17, also of Hampton, and Shannon Drew, 15, of Cranberry -- in getting their CD produced and recorded.
He also is helping them promote their music so that they can raise funds to help send an autistic child to camp.
It all began when Jake decided to start a band while he was a student at Central Elementary School in Hampton. He enlisted his younger brother and his cousin, Eric Leya, to write and perform some songs in the school talent show.
Since the Leya boys have a cousin, Tony Michaca, who has autism, they decided to use their music skills to promote awareness of the disorder while raising money for Autism Speaks.
Their dad helped by recording the boys in their home studio in the basement. The boys sold the CDs and raised $600 for the organization.
Flash-forward a few years and the same dad was driving the band to midnight recordings at Audible Images Studio in Pittsburgh.
The boys' cousin had left the band, and Matt, a friend and bass player, was recruited. They met Shannon through a music camp.
She is the main vocalist.
"We wanted it to be professional and [Audible Images] gave us a cut rate if we recorded in off-hours. So here I am with these guys, recording for as long as they could maintain their energy in the middle of the night," Mr. Leya said.
"A lot of parents do the same type of things for their kids who play sports or do other activities."
"I don't do sports or anything like that. I love music -- it's my passion," Jake said.
"All of my life, my dad was in a band so I just thought I'd be in," Zack said.
"Since I'm not in any sports, this is my 'thing.' "
When Jake asked Matt to join the band, he thought it would be a "temporary gig."
"And here we are four years later, still playing together," said Matt, son of Ellen and Jeff Bauman.
All three boys play in the varsity band at Hampton High School.
Shannon joined The Options three years ago at age 12.
She is the daughter of Debra and Kevin Drew and attends Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School in Moon.
"This is a great opportunity. Kids don't get to do things like record CDs," she said.
Jake and Matt write lyrics and music, working with Zack to create the musical side of their songs.
The cover of their new CD, "alright," features a photo of Hampton classmates and artwork by the Leyas' cousin, Tony.
Falling back on their history of giving, the band decided to use the profits from the CD sales to help send a local autistic child to the Joey Travolta Film Camp of Pittsburgh, a filmmaking camp for children with autism run by actor John Travolta's brother, who is a former actor and special education teacher.
"We have a family friend who went this past summer and he loved it. He just couldn't stop talking about it and when he talks about something like that, you know he loves it," Shannon said. The band has set a goal of providing a scholarship to an autistic child to attend the camp next summer, too.
Carolyn Hare, director of the Pittsburgh camp, said, "The Options know they are helping a child get a really great experience, and we get the word out about this special program."
The Options have cleared their expenses of making the CD and will continue to promote it while they complete their busy performance schedule.
They have played at local events and larger venues, such as the Pittsburgh Regatta and Hard Rock Cafe.
As the winners of the Rock Challenge, the band will go on a two-city tour -- the cities are to be announced -- and receive professional recording studio time and be featured in a professional photo shoot.
"It was an incredible feeling," Jake said of winning. "We were worried because some of the competition was really good, but then when they announced we were the winners, it was amazing."
Jake said this will be the band's first time to play outside of the Pittsburgh area, and the studio time will allow them to cut a small CD of two to four new songs.
And that will help them get closer to their goal of raising the money for an autistic child to go to camp.
"It's unbelievable," Jake said.
First Published December 6, 2012 5:46 am