By Douglas Maxwell Myer, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Michael Dutko, a senior at Algonquin Regional High School, is an emerging presence in the local music scene of his community. He currently participates in a wide range of musical activities both in and out of school which prompted him to enroll at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was accepted and will begin studies there this fall.
Originally from Southborough, Dutko’s first exposure to music was piano lessons at a very young age. Later, he was introduced to the guitar by his cousin. Neither of those instruments interested him.
It wasn’t until he started listening to the iconic British rock band, Queen, that he decided to give guitar another chance. He began jamming on the guitar on a more serious level and has continued to do so since. Queen’s first four to five albums are Dutko’s favorite compositions and he especially took a great liking to John Deacon’s work as a bass guitarist. He began performing with a bass guitar and practiced the melodies of musicians who appealed to him. Practicing songs from artists such as The Ramones, Blink 182, Yes, and Jaco Pastorius expanded his skills as a performer.
Dutko’s extensive guitar playing also led to having many concert experiences as a rock fan. He immersed himself in as many of his favorite musicians as possible; he saw the Foo Fighters, Queen in Madison Square Garden, and an incredibly special performance in Boston in 2014 when he witnessed Chris Squire play with Yes before passing away the following year.
About a year ago, one of Dutko’s friends asked him to listen to a developing song in a startup group called Groundlift. He made suggestions and initial changes to the piece which the other members liked and they asked him to join the band.
Dutko is now the bass guitarist for Groundlift. The other members are Dan MacDonald, the drummer, and Mike McCormack, lead vocalist and guitar player. Together, the three musicians have put the finishing touches on their debut album, “Groundlift.” The album consists of eight songs. Each of them wrote the notes for their respective instrument. Dutko said his favorite song is “Under Daylight Stars,” in which he plays a solo that he’s really proud of. One of Groundlift’s first big performances was at a battle of the bands in February at Algonquin Regional High School where they played against about a half-dozen other groups and won the competition. Groundlift has since started to increase their exposure, playing in public venues and developing more songs to add to their repertoire.
“I love getting the audience excited; there’s nothing more fun to me than getting a crowd amped,” said Dutko. “I care a lot about my stage presence and what I do on stage to have the maximum effect on the crowd.”
At Algonquin, Dutko’s classes include Wind Ensemble, Jazz Improv, Orchestra, AP music theory, and two free periods where he is able to practice scales and arpeggios on his own. He diligently reads the musical compositions until he knows every note by heart and performs a piece over and over again until it sounds right. In Jazz, Dutko performs the works of various swing artists including Miles Davis. But his favorite class is Orchestra, where he plays double bass. The school orchestra performs about 15 songs every year at seasonal concerts. One of the pieces that Dutko enjoys performing is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 which he finds both challenging and fun to play.
Dutko is interested in pursuing musical education at Berklee and aspires to be a music teacher of music after graduating, in addition to seeing what kind of opportunities lay ahead for him as a performing musician.
He said is eager to meet new student artists from around the country and even around the world.
“I look forward to being around other musicians who are as serious and devoted as I am,” Dutko said. “There’s nothing better than friendly competition!”
To follow Dutko’s band, visit their Twitter page, https://twitter.com/groundliftband.