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Adriana Pratt | Friday, April 8, 2011

Make sure you’re nice to your freshmen dorm mates, because they might just become your lifelong career partners. At least, that’s what happened to Jerry DePizzo, saxophonist and backup vocalist for O.A.R. (Of a Revolution), the revolutionary rock band performing at tonight’s S.U.B concert.

DePizzo met his fellow band mates, Marc Roberge (vocals, guitar), Chris Culos (drums, percussion), Richard On, (guitar, backing vocals) and Benj Gershman (bass guitar) at Ohio State in 1997. His four co-musicians formed O.A.R. a few years before college and were what DePizzo called “that band that everybody knew in high school that actually got out of the garage and did bigger and better things.”

DePizzo hung out with the band in the dorm and at parties, and eventually became an official O.A.R. member in 2000. O.A.R.’s popularity grew on the college scene, as the band made the rounds and gained a cult following amongst their peers.

“We played anything and everything. We played fraternity parties, sports and club parties, we threw our own parties … really anything. We were young guys, 19 years old. All we wanted to do was go out and play music,” DePizzo said in an interview Tuesday with The Observer.

Their rise to success was steady and hit a particularly high note when the band sold out a Madison Square Garden show in 2006.  For DePizzo, though, one of the greatest successes of his career was the moment he could quit his wait staff job and become a full-time musician.

“I was playing in the band, I was in college, I held down a nine to five job waiting tables and playing music as well. And it got to the point where one had to go. You know, fortunately we were able to go out and tour and earn some money so I didn’t have to go out and wait tables anymore,” DePizzo said. “So in January 2000, I remember walking into the restaurant where I worked and I told them, ‘You know what? I’m going out and playing gigs with my buddies and I don’t really need to come back anymore.’ And that was the last square job that I had.”

Other successes greeted O.A.R. as their audience transformed from a group of college fans to a national following. “Hey Girl,” “Love and Memories” and “This Town” ranked on national charts and their song “Shattered,” released in 2008 off the album “All Sides,” landed on VH1’s Top 40 Videos for the year.

DePizzo might be enjoying the life of a successful musician now, but there’s one regret he has about the path that took him to fame.

“My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t graduate [from college]. And that came true. But it was just finding the right opportunity at the right time, and that’s kind of what I went to school for. Granted, I really wish I would have graduated and completely finished. You know, but you go for an education and it’s not always in the classroom. And that’s the one I got.”

Being a professional musician is not exactly what he envisioned as a little kid, but he knew being in a band was his calling and hasn’t stopped working for that goal since.

“It’s always a little bit different than what you think it’s going to be when you’re sitting in your room as a 14-year-old looking at magazines of rock stars and musicians and stuff. But I’ll tell you what. I am fortunate. There’s a hell of a lot of ways to make a living and our deal is fun.”

O.A.R. continues to evolve as a band and hopes to release their newest album before their summer tour begins.  It’s been three years since their last release and DePizzo said the band is ready to get their new music out there.

“This new record certainly reflects a couple years of hard work and a lot of effort. The reason why it’s taken so long is because we want it to be really good … There’s going to be something for everybody on this record and we’re really proud of it.”

The band is excited to play at Notre Dame tonight and even said they will probably tweet about the event.  In fact, DePizzo is a secret fan of Notre Dame athletics, even though he’s a Buckeye.

“I didn’t go to Notre Dame but I grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Youngstown, Ohio, so I have a Notre Dame football and a jersey and a Notre Dame pennant over my crib.

“Even now my 85-year-old grandmother will call me on Saturday sometimes to talk about Notre Dame football. ‘What do you think about Brian Kelly? I think he’s great for the program.’ You know, stuff like that … It’s nice to go to Notre Dame. I can call my old man and tell him I finally made it, even though I’m not going there … We’re looking forward to this weekend.”