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Suffolk student covers rock hits during Lollapalooza tour
October 23, 2019
Most college students spend their summer vacations working seasonal jobs, relaxing by the beach or spending quality time with family, but vocalist Haley Solomito spent hers on tour, sharing the same stages as the music industry’s biggest names.
The Suffolk freshman and East Providence, R.I. native went up against teenage musicians from around the country to earn a spot in School of Rock Allstars, an educational program that amplifies students’ skills and teaches them how to perform like professionals. After being selected in the top 1% of everyone from the highly competitive group, Solomito joined a team of other diverse musicians from the program to tour as a headline act for two weeks.
One of their biggest gigs was a spot in the lineup at the annual Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, which drew in an estimated total of 400,000 people last August.
Solomito, along with the other vocalists, guitarists, keyboardists and drummers she was paired with, played a set of 15 famous rock songs, four of which Solomito took the lead. The singer still remembers how it felt to stand center stage belting out “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane, “Estranged” by Guns n’ Roses and “Bodhisattva” by Steely Dan.
“I thought I’d be really nervous, but as soon as the music started, I felt at home,” Solomito said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.
While basking in her time in the spotlight, Solomito said she was starstruck to be playing at the same event as chart toppers like Ariana Grande and Twenty One Pilots. As the teenager walked through the artist village at the festival grounds, she was surrounded by celebrities. She recalls casually bumping into Jaden Smith and seeing Hozier backstage as she finished her set.
“You had to act like you belonged, so it was a weird experience of balancing your inner fangirl and your professionalism,” Solomito said in an interview with The Journal.
While singing at Lollapalooza helped Solomito gain experience performing at an established venue and large audience, she said the festival also helped her gain a newfound sense of confidence.
“I struggle a lot with self-love and I always don’t think I am where I deserve to be. [I think] I don’t belong here, everyone’s better than me,” Solomito said. “At some point, you have to tell yourself you’re there for a reason and it’s okay to say ‘hey, I’m kind of good at this’ and recognize that.”
But Solomito’s talent and success did not happen overnight. The vocalist has been perfecting her craft since childhood. Solomito said she was a quiet toddler, but after listening to an Avril Lavigne CD her mother played in the car when she was two years old, she was instantly hooked on music. The early 2000s album helped her discover both her speaking and singing voice.
“I would ask her to put it on and it taught me basically how to talk and sing at the same time,” Solomito said. “It really helped me a lot and from then on I just loved rock music.”
As Solomito got older, she kept singing and eventually began taking voice lessons. Around the age of 15, she was accepted into the School of Rock program as a vocalist.
Although her time in the program is over, Solomito’s journey with music is far from ending. She continues to perform at Suffolk as a member of the a capella group Soulfully Versed and a cast member in the dinner theatre’s “Enterprise: Deep Space Murder,” which premiered on campus last weekend.
In addition to singing, Solomito has been writing her own music since she learned how to rhyme. The musician said she has always quickly grabbed a pen when a new song pops into her head or when she is feeling upset.
“I used to take my notebook during the boring parts of church and I used to write,” Solomito said. “When everyone was like ‘hey, listen!’ I was like ‘no, I have a song idea.’”
To this day, Solomito holds on to her childhood journals, occasionally flipping through the scribbled pages as a source of inspiration. She hopes to release her own EP or album sometime in the future, but she is shy about having others critique her work.
“I get very insecure, especially because [your writing] is like your child,” Solomito said. “You’re very scared of criticism, so it’s very private.”