Zack Tyler Stephens Band goes to Cleveland

DHS student band goes to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


Regan Nelson

From left to right, farthest left is drummer Abram Tracy (senior), bassist Dave Elford (Jonah Martinez, junior, played with the band for the performance), lead singer and guitarist Zack Tyler Stephens (senior) and guitarist Andrew Sweeney (junior).

Musical talent roams the hallways of Defiance High School. 4 students here at DHS have been granted the opportunity to go to the Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the 2023 High School Rock Off. They qualified out of 100 applicants. The band is made up of namesake  guitarist and lead vocalist  Zack Tyler Stephens (Namesake of said band), drummer Abram Tracy (senior), guitarist as well as backup vocalist Andrew Sweeney (junior)  and David Elford on bass (however for this performance Jonah Martinez, a junior, will be subbing in for him). 

Before the big day on January 28th, Stephens talked about how this all came about. As many DHS students know, Stephens last year released an album entitled, Kid, posters promoting it were all over the school and it was a fairly big deal. For the album, Stephens had done it all solo and he missed the live playing he had once done with his previous group Odd-State. “I kind of wanted to start a band almost like a live extension of my personal stuff. as well.” 

They didn’t really go with a name, so they just decided to go with the Zack Tyler Stephens Band or ZTS Band for short. They did little stuff, and then Stephens “stumbled upon it online. This competition and I’m like, well, I could, might as well try to sign up for it. ( did a little bit of research and thought it’d be pretty cool.”

From there the group recorded performances of the songs “Mine” and “Let Me Know” from Stephens’ debut album, Kid. They sent it through the mail which was funky for Stephens because “I had to physically write out the SoundCloud link.” After that, the group waited and waited for a response. 

The album cover of Stephens’ debut album Kid. (Zack Tyler Stephens )

According to the information on the site, the band should be expecting a response around December 20th of 2022. So, the band waited, waited, and waited. Some members started to get a bit antsy, “my guys are texting me they’re just like, Did we really not make it?”

Then finally on December 24th, they got an email telling them that they got in. “It was more of a relief than it was a surprise”, Stephens expressed. 

“We’ve looked at the people who won and the people who placed well, and there are things that we found quite comparable to them without trying to be cocky, but like I really do think we sound good and can compete with them,” Stephens expressed his confidence for the (at the time) upcoming performance. 

The big thing Stephens is looking to gain from this, are the connections. While the cash prize is a nice little bonus, Stephens is more interested in the networking that can be done at this event. 

Stephens has even met a past winner who told him to look for and become friends with a guy who works  for “Cleveland’s Live Nation who is putting on the show and they’re obviously pretty huge.” 

With those types of  connections there is a good chance that they could make it but in the end it’s up in the air about what will happen. Stephens is keeping a realistic yet optimistic attitude about this all.

Stephens let us in on his feelings,“It’s pretty exciting to see stuff kind of coming together and then just having a project I genuinely believe in. I do think we’re good. So I think that it’s important to believe in what you’re doing.” Stephens was optimistic going into the performance last Saturday. The band performed, “American Girl” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “505” from Arctic Monkeys, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from Tears for Fears and the Stephens’ original bluesy song, “Let Me Know”. 

Stephen’s optimism was well-placed as in the end the band passed the semi-finals and will return to Cleveland on February 25th for the finals. Congratulations to everyone from the Zack Tyler Stephens Band.