15 Year-old Rocks Local Competition

You know the saying, “girls just wanna have fun?” Well, Rhea Garbis, a 15 year-old guitarist-singer from Richmond, IL just wants to rock.

While other kids hit the mall, this teen hits the stage. She recently placed sixth at the Illinois Dream Night Talent Search.

The competition, which took place August 29-30 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL, featured bands and solo artists of different genres. Contestants had the opportunity to meet and speak with industry professionals; and competed for various prizes, including an audition for the show, “America’s Got Talent.” Rhea won “a gorgeous Fender guitar,” but she said the biggest takeaway was an amazing connection for any musician: meeting and interacting with an influential industry insider.

“I met some amazing people there, especially Wendy Kay. She’s so cool. She was one of the judges, and manages big bands like The Temptations. She gave me great advice; I’m so thankful for that.”

“Dream Night” was actually the culmination of a summer of competition. Suburban Chicago’s Got Talent, a contest sponsored by the Daily Herald, among other sponsors. Rhea and 20 other acts were selected via an online submission process. The acts performed biweekly live shows, a la “America’s Got Talent” at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg. Judges cut five acts each time. Rhea finished in the top 10, and performed at the Taste of Arlington Heights.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her efforts and accomplishments,” said her parents, Jerry and Gina.

Rhea’s been playing since the age of 6, but got serious about it just three years ago.

“My mentor, George Muligano, has been such an inspiration,” she stated. “He’s so great. I want to be him when I grow up.”

She meets with her teacher each Wednesday, and he helps her get gigs.

“I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Photo by the Daily Herald Courtesy The Garbis Family
Photo by Daily Herald; Courtesy The Garbis Family

Music fills their home. Her sister Darien, 12, has been playing drums for three years. Their parents are not musical, however, music in their genes: these girls channel the talent and energy of their father’s cousin, Cary Skordilis, who Rhea described as, “the most amazing drummer ever.”

Along with her uncle, she garners inspiration from many musicians, including Jack White and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.

“Jack White is a huge influence on me. He’s so talented; it’s insane. Also, Dan Auerbach is one of the most gifted guitarists and improvisationalists. I enjoy their style and the simplicity of their music. The Black Keys is a small group but they have a big sound. I like that. I get a big sound just being a solo artist.”

This talented young woman is paving her own way, with her own unique style. Rhea describes it as “Violent Femmes meets Jack White meets a little bit of Amy Winehouse.” She calls herself an alternative rocker, but vocally, she is often compared to Winehouse. Her current playlist is incredibly diverse, spanning genres, decades and styles. She’ll cover songs by Dolly Parton, Violent Femmes, Nirvana, White Stripes, Wheezer, The Black Keys, and more. She composes her own music, but doesn’t perform them often, as her style and experience is continually evolving.

She performs almost every weekend, in many different venues, especially local coffeehouses. Rhea participates in many competitions. Occasionally, she will play with her sister, though they have yet to perform together.

“When we’re bored, we’ll have a jam session in the backyard.”

The stage is her comfort zone; she says it’s the only place where she is able to be her true self.

“I’m not popular in school, I’m one of the weird kids. When I’m on stage I feel like I belong there. I don’t feel like that anywhere else.”

When she’s not performing, practicing, or in school, Rhea is involved with the math team at Richmond-Burton High School. Her dream is to be a rock star, and she’s working hard toward that goal.

“I don’t have any formal plans. I’m 15. If I go to college I won’t study music, because I don’t believe that college can teach you to rock. You can’t learn this in school. It’s in you. It’s a gift to be able to rock.”

Keep your eye on this young rocker.

Follow her on Facebook.

Tagged with: