Sunday's 17-band summer concert at Modesto Centre Plaza was a rockin' success, if 500 sets of clapping hands are any gauge.
GK Music's annual recital showcases the students who take lessons at the Manteca studio. Owner Gordon Kennedy kicked off the concert with his own musical stylings, before turning the stage over to his budding musicians.
Seven Ace, a group of 8- to 11-year-olds, waited excitedly stage-left before their turn to perform.
Noah Dejesus, 9, of Tracy fidgeted with his guitar and explained how he had known just one other member before the band came together a few months ago -- Cameron Chavez of Manteca.
Cameron, 10 years old and a head taller than anyone else in the group, said he's in it for fun.
Lead singer Melissa Poncini, 8, said she's been taking voice lessons for a year and a half. She started out singing in a musical. Was she nervous?
"Not that much -- maybe just a little," Melissa said with an impish grin.
"They love it," Kennedy said after his set. This was his 15th year of concerts, but third year in Modesto.
"I have to keep getting larger and larger venues," Kennedy chuckled. "Next is Arco Arena."
After each set, parent volunteer Bruce Jansen donned a Kiss mask and strutted to the mic in a black cape and studs.
"There's two minutes for setup in between bands. I keep it going, keep it cheery," Jansen said.
Kennedy arranges his musicians in bands a few months before the recital. The groups often break up after their debut. But that's not the case for Zephyr, which has been together for three years.
Waiting in the lobby, Deann Cadell, mother of Zephyr bass player Lane Cadell, said the band "has eight gigs in the next month" -- the next at a dinner in Los Angeles.
"They play one and a half hours every Friday, and they all have their half-hour private lessons during the week," Cadell said. "They all have extremely great grades or we wouldn't let them do this."
Zephyr's six members are 10 to 14 years old. They've had some success in the three years they've been together, she said, but no paid engagements yet, not even expenses.
"Their instructor's hoping they never have to flip a burger in high school, they'll be able to make some money," she said. Even without pro status, it's been worth it to the band.
"It's been phenomenal. They're all best friends. They've had amazing experiences," Cadell said.
Back on stage with Seven Ace, 8-year-old Melissa belted out the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" under green and blue floodlights, as the fog machine belched out atmosphere.
One more song and the pint-size musicians exited to hearty applause.
"It was great," sighed the exhilarated singer.
Bee reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.