Rain streaks down the windows on a cold Friday in January, but inside the microphones are hot and the music is flowing. For the band called 13th Floor, made up of members Erik Bellia, Adam Levy and Ryan Chilton, their weekly rehearsal is in full swing, and the familiar melody of The Proclaimers’ hit “500 miles” fills the air.
It’s a fun, but also focused atmosphere as the band members practice their craft and work together to polish their repertoire of songs. “Being part of a band means you have to work with other people,” says April Bellia, Erik’s mom. “There’s a synergy and a dynamic within the group itself, and it means you need to have the flexibility to work with other people. Luckily, the guys all get along great.”
The members of 13th Floor met a few years ago through the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) band. They had each auditioned and joined the band, playing shows at CAN events including family festivals and Autism Awareness Day celebrations. However, being involved with the CAN band was only a limited engagement. “When the program wrapped up, the guys were looking for ways to stay connected and continue playing together,” says April.
A shared passion
The parents got together, and using some respite funding as well as their own resources, found a way to hire talented musicians to come in and support the band during their weekly rehearsals at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music in Vancouver. Jude and Alan use their own musical experience to help the band rehearse, give feedback on where to improve, and even step in on instruments when needed.
Connected by their passion for music, Adam, Erik and Ryan, who is the son of CLBC CEO Ross Chilton, have become close friends and attended concerts together, including Colin James. They’re excited about checking out Journey when the band plays in Vancouver in May.
Adam and Ryan both have jobs, and Erik is preparing to enter the Access Programs for People with Disabilities (AAPD) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. “Even though they’ve all got a lot going on, Friday afternoons are basically a sacred time for them when they all get together and play,” says April.
Each of the members share what they enjoy about being part of 13th Floor:
“It takes a lot of practice, listening and getting the feel right. I’m looking forward to trying out the windmill crash on the drums,” says Erik.
“It’s always been awesome being in the band. We text and stay connected between rehearsals,” say Adam.
“My favourite part of being in the band is playing songs that can pump up a crowd. It’s fun to just play together, book gigs and plan ahead,” says Ryan.
13th Floor is currently on the look out for new members, and plans to host auditions soon for a bass player, a vocalist (for backup and some lead), and a keyboard player.
Don’t be shy of the spotlight
Being in the band is a way for the members to not only connect with each other, but also to share their talents with the public. Although this might be a daunting thought for some parents, April encourages others to embrace it. “I think a lot of families may have some level of anxiety about supporting their kids to get out there in public and perform. They may be worried about judgement or negative assumptions or that they require extra help,” says April. “But I think the general public is supportive and compassionate, and often cheers them louder when our kids can succeed at something.”
For Erik, his passion for music and playing the drums emerged through exploring different interests, including a music therapy program in high school. “He had no experience but could carry a beat and follow patterns. The music teacher just said, ‘Erik, you’re on drums’ and soon he was thriving,” says April. “It’s important not to assume your child isn’t going to like something or can’t do it. That’s when they might blow you away the most, when you’re not seeking that perfect fit, but are open to different opportunities.”
Putting on a show
13th Floor has a number of live shows under their belt already, including performing at Mahony & Sons and Jack Poole Plaza and being the official band for the “A Night to Remember” dance, sponsored by the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, where they “felt like rock stars!”
Currently, they are gearing up to take the stage along with several other acts at UnicornFest 2020, a family-friendly art and music festival that April is helping to plan at UBC Farm on June 6.
“This festival is about creating an event and environment that celebrates our differences and diversity, from diverse physical and developmental abilities, to gender and cultural differences. It’s a place of acceptance and safety and inclusion. All of the vendors and pop ups and performers that are involved all share the goal and spirit of the event,” says April.
To learn more about the event, visit the CLBC event calendar here.
Check out the video below for a peek into 13th Floor‘s weekly band practice:
Connect with 13th Floor
You can learn more about the band, find updates about recent and upcoming shows, and learn about auditions for new members, on their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/Band13thFloor
Together with their parents, 13th Floor would like to acknowledge the generous donation of rehearsal space by the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, as well as the substantial funding support over three years that has been provided by Blake and Dianne Lewis of CIBC Wood Gundy Blakeney Lewis Financial Group.