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LEOPOLD - Around age 12 James Kloeppel made a decision - he was going to be a musician and would make it work.
And he has by recently signing with the band Within The Eddy.
Kloeppel's venture began when he picked up a saxophone for fifth-grade band at Perry Central and during an after-school program, got interested in guitars. "It was a new thing, playing the guitar," he said, adding that his grandfather is a jazz guitarist.
A member of the school's marching band, he said he began looking for colleges to learn more about contemporary music and the electric guitar but didn't have much luck with surrounding universities. Most of those, he said, only offered courses in classical or jazz guitar.
Then Kloeppel found the Mu-sicians Institute in Hollywood. There such acts as Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Korn, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others have either graduated or recruited musicians to join the groups. He said it's a contemporary music school and while he learns things in the classroom, he also received valuable performance experience.
"They provide education and support," Kloeppel said. Another draw to the school, he said, was that he would be living and learning in the heart of the industry he wanted to work in.
While his family has always been supportive, Kloeppel, a 2006 Perry Central High School graduate, said they thought it was far-fetched sometimes, but gave him their blessing and wished him good luck.
He had a moment when he didn't think the move and school were a good idea. "We got to L.A. when all the clubs were letting out and saw the weirdest people coming out," he said. At that point, he started to rethink moving. But this was a sink-or-swim experience, he went on, saying he could either go in, be scared and sink or swim by coping with the differences and making the best of everything.
"It wasn't weird after I got to know people," Kloeppel said. "They were the same as everyone else, only just know what I was used to."
The school had a great service called Musicians Referral Service where students audition for groups needing musicians, he said. Barry Squire, Musicians Institute hiring hall manager, discovered Green Day and is in charge of auditions.
Kloeppel said he liked this service because it gives musicians audition experience and a chance to join an already established group. The first time he auditioned, he said he didn't get the job because he wasn't 21 and didn't have a car.
So Kloeppel decided to focus on his classes and wait until graduation to try again. He graduated this year with honors from Musicians Institute.
Soon after graduation, Kloeppel auditioned for the group Within The Eddy. At first, he was nervous he wouldn't get the opportunity since every time he called Squire to set up the audition he couldn't get through. "Luckily my friend had already called and set it up," he said. After the audition, "Squire said I nailed it," Kloeppel added.
Later that night, he said, he was offered a position with the band. The group includes brother and sister Michael Salerno, guitar and vocals, and Christina Salerno, lead vocals; drummer Roberto Cerletti and bass guitarist Diedrich Castro.
Since April, Within The Eddy has been on tour, playing recently at Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn., where acts like ZZ Top also performed. While there, Kloeppel talked with band members about performing at Perry Central, where he has several friends and family members who have supported him.
"I wanted to show that I followed a dream and now I get to bring it back here," he said.
Within the Eddy will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 in the Perry Central High School cafeteria. The $5 cover charge will go to the school's band boosters.
To listen to some of the group's music, visit www.myspace.com /withintheeddy or www.withintheeddy. com. Kloeppel said there will also be a table set up for a possible meet and greet and some band items available.