This summer, Peter Thuronyi has done a couple of new things.
He went overseas for the first time. He also played guitar before a crowd of about 3,000, the largest crowd he has helped entertain.
Thuronyi, a Silver Spring resident who will be a senior this fall at Montgomery Blair High School, was the lone Maryland representative of an 18-member young rock musician contingent who recently returned from Germany.
The trip was sponsored by School of Rock, a music education company that has some 140 locations in eight countries. The students represented nine schools along the East Coast. They showcased their talents in front of several thousand fans at the 25th annual Zappanale, a music festival in Bad Doberan, which was previously part of East Germany. The festival celebrates the late Baltimore-born musician Frank Zappa.
“It was very cool,” said Thuronyi, who has trained at the Silver Spring School of Rock for several years. “The crowd was really appreciative of our music.”
He and other young musicians got to hang out with some legendary rockers, including Adrian Belew, who has played with Zappa, David Bowie and the Talking Heads.
Other students, who were chosen on the basis of their skill and dedication after extensive auditions, were from schools in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They played together the past three months to perfect their techniques.
Thuronyi said he has long enjoyed rock music, though he doesn’t listen exclusively to that genre.
“I heard rock music growing up all the time, a lot of classics from the ’60s and ’70s,” he said. “I like the artistic nature of their songs. It doesn’t seem like they are playing a song because someone else wants that kind of song played. They do what they want to do.”
The Zappanale experience gave students a chance to play on a full professional sound stage and see what crowds are like in another part of the world, said Eric Svalgard, a show manager. The Bad Doberan crowd “really understands and appreciates the music of Frank Zappa,” he said.
Zappa was known for writing elaborate classical compositions, as well as humorous lyrics like “Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.”
Called the “Z-team,” the students also played in Berlin and Rostock, Germany, as part of the weeklong tour in mid-July.
In 2010, Baltimore unveiled a public bust of Zappa, donated by fans from Lithuania. It is one of several public statues of Zappa. Vilnius, Lithuania, has had its own Zappa sculpture since 1995.
Zappa, who died of prostate cancer in 1993 at age 52, spent only a few years in Baltimore, as his family moved to Southern California when he was young. He testified before Congress in 1985 in Washington, D.C., against labeling records.
Thuronyi said he plans to continue playing guitar and hopefully get some good breaks along the way. “Sometimes, you have to know the right person, or be in the right place at the right time,” he said.