A scene from the 2023 Rock Off Final Exam
After 27 years, the lights will go off and the amps will be unplugged for the Tri-C High School Rock Off, which will end its run of showcasing young local talent after the 2024 competition, Live Nation announced this week.
This year's Rock Off will include preliminary performance rounds Feb. 3, 10 and 17, with the Final Exam scheduled for March 2 at the Rock Hall.
Barry Gabel, who founded the Rock Off back in the Belkin Production days before the company became Live Nation, said: "The Rock Off has been much more than just another battle of the bands. It has provided a pathway for young students in Northeast Ohio and beyond to build relationships and gain invaluable experience that will ultimately jumpstart their journey within the music industry as an eventual career. The Rock Off may be ending, but the connections and friendships that have been made over the past 27 years will last a lifetime.”
Hundreds of performers have graced stages around Northeast Ohio, with the competition starting at the Odeon and moving to the House of Blues before finding its latest home in partnership with the Rock Hall.
Gabel has long championed the concert series as a chance for young musicians to get stage time, to meet other artists their age from all across the region, and to get real-life experience with the help of industry professionals.
“A battle of the bands wasn’t a novel concept, but we thought it would be a great opportunity to reach out to local high school students, not necessarily college students or unsigned bands, but we wanted to identity bands in the high school world,” Gabel told Scene years ago. “Many music programs at that time were getting cut. Kids had sports or the debate team, but the live music opportunities might not have been there. They didn’t have an outlet to play in front of music industry people in a setting that was professional with production and a staff and the status of someone like Belkin Productions."
Live Nation didn't announce a reason for the termination of the annual showcase.
All performers got the chance to impress industry vets and local entertainment bigwigs, and the winners received prizes including scholarships.
Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris had touted the series as "an incredible opportunity" for students
“Rock Off alumni have launched successful music careers, and we’re providing opportunities for them to perform live at the Rock Hall and during the celebrations around the induction ceremony’s return to Cleveland in April 2018,” he said in 2018.
Tri-C had also long noted that the future impact wasn't just for those who ended up behind a mic, but behind the scenes, "in recording studios, in concert halls and arenas, on tour, in equipment manufacturing, in broadcasting, in marketing and promotion, at the Rock Hall, at the House of Blues and with Live Nation."
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