June 04--GULFPORT -- Snapping fingers, tapping toes and rhythmic claps filled the air for the Rock U 2, The Ocean Springs Academy of Popular Music, second anniversary concert, held recently at the Dock Bar and Grill in Gulfport.
Family and friends sang along and swayed as the solo artists and bands rocked to pop music, performed.
The Ocean Springs organization teaches children and teens how to become well-rounded artists in any music field or genre. Between maintaining a steady beat on the drums and engaging an audience, students at Rock U 2 are learning about the performance aspects of the music industry.
Many of the performers are so passionate they said they want to make music a full-time career.
"There's nothing else I would rather do," singer-songwriter Abby Emmons said. Emmons is a home-schooled Ocean Springs student, who said some of her musical inspirations are Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson because of their powerhouse voices.
Australian singer-songwriter Orianthi Panagaris is an inspiration for Pascagoula's Madi Cooper. Cooper plays multiple instruments such as guitar and ukulele as well as sings as a solo artist and in a band called Stand Still.
"I just love to rock out," Cooper said.
Jade Sanders said she has moments of clarity when writing her music. Sanders is inspired by country artists Miranda Lambert and Dolly Parton.
In addition to the regular music lessons, Rock U 2 helps students make connections.
Sanders opened for Hunter Hayes at this year's Crawfish Festival at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. Sanders said she will begin shooting a film this summer that will feature all of her original music.
Through Rock U 2 she has been able to practice with her band, record in a studio and shoot music videos.
Sanders has advice for those who want to be a part of the music world: "Stay focused and don't get distracted because this is so awesome."
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