Northwest students, brothers perform concert at Arts Barn
by Peggy McEwan
Feb. 5, 2003
"I don't know anybody else who has this kind of band," said Andrew Westcott, 17, who is a senior at Northwest. "Sometimes people question the fact that we are a blues band and I like to say we are blues-based. It also includes rock, jazz and a lot of improv stuff."
Area residents got to hear this adaptation of blues Saturday afternoon at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn as part of the Winter Blues Concert series. The brothers perform as The Westcott Brothers Band, which also includes their uncle Billy Herrington, who plays drums, and, at the Saturday performance, their older brother Michael, 30, on rhythm guitar.
Music came naturally to Andrew and his brother Philip, 15, a sophomore at Northwest High School, who were both able to pick up a guitar and learn to play by listening along to CDs. Blues music was the music most available in their house, thanks to their father Dave Westcott, who believes he is "partially to blame" for his sons' choice in music.
"I've been a drummer since I was a teenager and I am a big blues fan," he said. "That's all we played [on the radio] in the house, in the car, that was all the boys heard, it was a natural progression."
Andrew started playing the guitar when he was 12, "just goofing off around the house" and performed with his first band the next year. Philip did the same a couple of years later.
"I started playing around [age] 13," Philip said. "We played with my dad on drums. From that we went into open jams. Music is fun for me, I'll take it anyway I can."
When the family was invited to play in the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville, N.C., three years ago, they officially became The Westcott Brothers Band.
Dave no longer plays with the band, instead promoting the group. Herrington took over on drums, so the band is still mostly a family affair. Jeff Conlin, who is not a family member, plays organ and keyboard.
Michael played with the group on Saturday when Conlin was called in to his job with NASA because of the Columbia tragedy.
"Mike was in the band for a good five or six months and we've played with him a lot so it wasn't hard," said Andrew, who is the on-stage leader of the band. "He knew most of the songs."
Although most of the songs played Saturday were not original, even familiar songs change during a blues concert.
"You have the basic structure of a song and a key and you go from there," Philip said.
"Add that idea to the rest of the band, with another guitar or a guitar and keyboard and you have that contact to change the song, to make it totally different," Andrew said.
Andrew is beginning to write new music and some lyrics. He also sings with the band. Beyond music, he enjoys things similar to most high school seniors, such as hanging out with his friends, driving cars and mountain biking.
"My immediate friends know I do [the band] but it's not like I'm famous at school," he said. "Sometimes someone will come up to me and ask if I'm Andrew Westcott from the band. That's cool, especially when I don't think it is someone who would know about the band."
Andrew knows he wants his future to be in music.
"I'm hoping to continue doing this as long as I can," Andrew said. "After high school I'm going to sound engineer school and get certified in recording and running live sound."
Philip also plays tenor saxophone in the Northwest Jazz Band, but said he is not sure what part music will play in his future.
"I'm planning on having more options and other things I'd like to enjoy," he said.
For now he enjoys playing guitar and sax, competing on an ice hockey team and participating in moto-cross.
Audience response to Saturday's concert was enthusiastic.
Marlis and Jack Janes of Gaithersburg came because they enjoy seeing what the Arts Barn has to offer.
"B.B. King would have been proud," Jack Janes said after the show. "Young kids don't play this kind of music and they were good."
Merikay Smith, whose daughter Genny attends school with Philip, agreed that the boys were good.
"It was so much fun to follow the music, especially the back and forth with the guitars," she said. "I thought it was great."
The Westcott Brothers Band put out a CD, "Yes Indeedy," in 2001 and are recording a second CD. For more information about the group, visit www.blues-band.com.