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Texas State Technical College students John Ward and Brandon Felts competed at the college’s annual talent competition finals in Waco on March 21 and placed third statewide. TSTC hosted the talent competition in conjunction with “Texas Music Cafe.”


The students advanced to the finals after being chosen to represent the Fort Bend County campus.


Ward said the experience offered him a chance to see more of TSTC and learn more about the college.


“I had a great experience,” Ward said. “Being with a bunch of other students from different locations in Texas definitely allowed me to get a sense of what the overall TSTC community was like. I liked seeing all these young adults and adults wanting to better themselves and also tap into their hobbies, things that they don’t necessarily assume they’ll be involved in at a technical college. It’s great because it goes to show that TSTC can appreciate more than just technical minds.”


With Ward on guitar and vocals, and Felts on drums, this year was the first time students from the Fort Bend County campus competed. Ward hopes they can inspire others to join in the future.


“Brandon and I were the only ones (from TSTC in Fort Bend County),” he said. “Hopefully what we’ve done this year can inspire and kind of get people to bring in the things they love, as opposed to just going to school and following the routine. I just want to inspire those to not be afraid, because what these types of opportunities do is allow you to network.”


Felts agreed.


“I wish a lot of people could step up because I know there’s a lot of talent out there, but people are kind of shy and timid,” he said. “I felt that John and I could kind of be the first to excite people, and maybe it might start a change in the future.”


The duo, both HVAC Technology students, only began playing together a few days before the first competition. In the four days before the mid-February competition held in Harlingen, they wrote the song they performed. They had just the weekend before the final competition to complete their second song.


“For the finals, we got such a late notice -- we only had three days to practice,” Felts said. “We wrote the song on Friday, practiced it Saturday and Sunday, went through it again Monday, and the show was on Tuesday. It was quite a challenge because not only did we have that, but we also kept up with school. It helped us succeed and achieve. It just proved to us how good of musicians we are on such a short notice.”


Ward draws influence from funk, soul and R&B artists and cited Jack Johnson and Allen Stone as some of the artists who inspired him to learn guitar.


“There’s something about the interpretation of soul music,” he said. “You listen to the greats who did funk, and you hear the pain or the joy in their voice when they sing. There’s so much more than just a simple vibrato -- there’s raspiness, there’s pain, joy, love, hate. All of that ties into what soul and funk can do, and that’s my preferred genre.”


Meanwhile, Felts appreciates rock music. He enjoys artists such as Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin and Avenged Sevenfold. He named Avenged Sevenfold’s late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan as one musician who has made a big impact on his life.


“Back in the day when I had bands, I wanted to be just like him,” he said. “I wrote everything. I wrote guitar parts, I wrote drum parts, I wrote lyrics. Not many people know that drummers can do stuff like that, and that’s what Jimmy did. He inspired me to do it all. He sang, he drummed, and he wrote most of the music. He’s my biggest influence.”


The third-place winners took home a microphone, a DJ set and headphones. But to Ward, it wasn’t about the prizes.


“I’m for the experience and the people that I’m able to make connections with,” Ward said. “I just enjoy being around people who do what they love.”


Felts said he was happy to have built a friendship with Ward over the experience.


“Playing with someone, you have to have a certain type of energy, and you just have to feel it with each other. And that’s how we felt -- even in just that short time,” he said. “We are planning on starting up music and hopefully writing something. We just want to play and enjoy and have fun.”


“Texas Music Cafe” is an hourlong, magazine-style PBS program that is recorded all over the state of Texas in front of live audiences and broadcast nationally on radio, TV and the internet.


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