With straggly blond hair slightly obscuring his face, the musician focuses all attention on his guitar. His fingers dance over the strings, plucking away with his orange guitar pick in search of the right tune. Who is this aspiring musician?
He is 23-year-old Steven Cass, a sophomore here at Castleton State College.
Cass started playing when he was sentenced to his bed with mono at the age of 18. He picked up a guitar, and from then on he played every chance he could get.
His first guitar was a Washburn acoustic, but he really learned to play on a PV Predator electric guitar.
“A Fender knock-off,” he said with a grin.
The first song he ever wrote was a ballad, slow and very much like Jimmy Page. It was called “Nightmare,” which told of a love gone wrong. He wrote the song when he was in a band in Virginia last year. Though he wrote most of the lyrics, the lead singer, Solomon Nair, gave the song its title. While Cass stayed with the band throughout his entire freshman year at a school in Virginia, the band soon broke up due to trouble with keeping permanent band mates.
Eventually, he came to Castleton, out of a desire to for a change of scenery. And here, his popularity once again began to soar.
Although he was pretty much an unknown when he arrived, he soon became known across campus, thanks to his music and his out-of-this-world art skills.
His big break came when TBA (Total Backstage Access) announced the Battle of the Bands format for this year’s show. Chad Voghell, executive producer of TBA and Castleton’s technical director, said he was very excited when Cass signed up.
“He came to me when we were setting up for the battle,” Voghell said. “After that, I just kept checking up on him, asking how his songs were coming. He was very excited about playing.”
During Cass’s performance, many people were shocked and awed that he was playing solo.
“One of the tech people couldn’t believe that just one person was making all that noise. I felt flattered,” Cass said.
Voghell had a chance to see Cass play a Pearl Jam tune during his several-song half-hour set.
“He was playing music that no one else was playing,” the technical director commented.
Only about 20 or 30 people were there when he played, probably because it was early in the show. But that did not upset Cass one bit.
“For my last song, my friends started a mosh pit. They jumped around, hit each other and head-banged. It was fun to see people react to my music,” he said.
Even professors came to see the Battle of the Bands, and one said he was pleased by what he saw from Cass.
“[Steve] presents a double-threat as a musician due to his ability to sing in a manner that captures the pathos of the music he plays combined with the primordial of human emotion,” Professor Edwin Johnson said.
Where Steven Cass will go with his skills is unknown to many, maybe even to himself. All he’ll admit to is that he is doing something he loves to do, and will continue to do it for a long time to come.
But even though Cass was phenomenal in his performance in the Battle of the Bands, Johnson saw something that could be improved for future shows.
“The only downside to his performance at TBA was the lack of a band, for whom he would make an excellent addition. I hope that the next time I see him perform, he will be immersed in the collectiveness of a musical group where a mutually derived and unique voice would emerge, with Steven being that essential ingredient,” he said.