14-Year-Old Wiz Kid On the Guitar
Fourteen-year-old guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer has had a career in music and entertainment that exceeds what people twice his age might ever hope to achieve.
He recently took the Broadway stage as Zack Mooneyham in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock the Musical.” He has played with artists such as Gregg Allman, Lady Gaga, Slash, Stevie Nicks, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, The Revivalists, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Dr. John, Jon Batiste, Dweezil Zappa, and more.
He is coming to the Acoustic in Bridgeport on Friday night and Daryl’s House in Pawling, N.Y. on Saturday with his own band.
Brandon said he first picked up the guitar because, “My father always played Allman Brothers DVDs at home and I would always focus on Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Dickey Betts. Then when I was 8 years old, I saw the movie ‘School of Rock’ and I told my dad that I wanted to learn how to play.”
(“It’s ironic that I ended up originating the role of Zack in the Broadway musical,” said Brandon.)
Brandon is not strictly a guitarist though, “I love all instruments and types of music. I actually play the violin and a little piano as well.”
However, the guitar is his fave because “the way the guitar sounds to my ear is very pleasing. The guitar allows me to get in between notes and express myself with many different techniques using my fingers on the strings.”
As a guitarist, Brandon said, “I have many guitar heroes Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, of course, but I listen to a lot of contemporary players as well. Right now, Jimmy Herring—because of his modal style, Derek Trucks —because of his amazing slide playing, and Warren Haynes— because of his tone and power— are important to me. I listen to the older jazz players like Wes Montgomery and George Benson, and I also listen to a lot of Frank Zappa, John Scofield, Trey Anastasio, and John McLaughlin.”
Besides playing in a band, as noted, Brandon played a young rock musician in “School of Rock the Musical” in the Broadway production.
“Performing in front of 1,500 people every night is the best,” said Brandon. “I love to perform and I love an audience. I also got to work with the amazing Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (the show’s composer). With ‘School of Rock,’ I learned how to act and I improved my vocal skills… I learned many valuable life lessons as part of the show. I was onstage for eight shows a week and also went to school.”
The experience also taught Brandon about how to perform in front of an audience.
“Being in a Broadway show is very different than performing with my band,” said Brandon. “With a band you can connect to the audience immediately and directly. In a play, there is the ‘third wall.’ You can’t look directly at the audience members, so all the actors on stage tell the story and the audience reacts to that story. There is dialogue and music, and the story caries the action.”
“If we are performing our roles with convincing emotion and feeling than the audience gets sucked in and you can feel their energy,” said Brandon.
Being on stage in a band, however, “When we perform for an audience, the songs take twists and turns as we explore new ways to play them. Improvisation is an important part of our shows so the songs are just an outline and then we let the spirit and audience move us. I learned from my mentor, the late great Colonel Bruce Hampton (of Colonel Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit) that it is not about the individual player. It’s about how we interact with each other by listening and playing off one another.”
At Daryl’s House, Brandon said, “The audience will hear a nice blend of original music and covers. I am writing a lot now and those songs are in the set. I also have collaborated with our vocalist Elise Testone and guitarist Mat Godfrey on some tunes. Elise has some of her own great music that we have integrated into our set. You will hear a few instrumentals as well.”
“I think we are a blend of rock, funk, blues, and gospel – with a little jazz thrown in. New Orleans music is also in there,” said Brandon, who is also accompanied by Mark Rechler on keys, Matthew Fox on bass, Kendall Everett on drums, and Colin Logatto on sax.
Beyond this show at Daryl’s House, Brand said, “I will be playing music with my band and recording. Right now, we tour on weekends around school and we also are booking major festivals…. I do love acting, so I see myself in movies and TV in the future as well. I have done three films and I play the role of Vergil Overstreet in the new Spike Lee Netflix series, ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ which premieres on Thanksgiving Day.”
Brandon “Taz” Niederauer performs at the Acoustic, 2926 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport on Friday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. For tickets, go to BrownPaperTickets.com. He also performs at Daryl’s House, 130 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $20. For tickets, go to DarylsHouseClub.com