Andy Vidockler, Wesley Schultz, and Jeremiah Fraites grew up together in Ramsey, NJ. The three friends dreamt of breaking through in the music industry. Vidockler eventually turned his attention to a career in education, while Schultz and Fraites continued down the path traveled by many struggling artists before them.
About two years ago, Vidockler found himself teaching Kindergarden in Success Academy Bronx 2, one of nine such schools in New York City. Looking to inject some art in to the classroom, the teacher began playing his students videos of Schultz and Fraites, now comprising two-thirds of The Lumineers. The kids took a liking to the songs, and were star-struck when a then relatively-unknown Schultz showed up to say greet them during class.
“I remember visiting the school, with my girlfriend at the time,” Schlutz recalled while sitting back stage before The Lumineers’ performance at Terminal 5 in New York on Saturday. The night previous to his school-visit, the singer had a late night, although he almost immediately knew he made the right choice to wake-up early and visit the classroom. “I walked in, and all of the kids immediately said, ‘Hey! It’s Wesley!’ They knew me from the videos.”
Schultz was taken aback, and the kids’ love for his music left a major impression on him. The lead singer continued to keep in touch with Vidockler, and never forgot those kids that latched on to the band’s songs before any of the tracks hit the airwaves.
Last Saturday night, about 20 kids from Success Academy Bronx 2 joined their favorite band on stage at Terminal 5 to sing “Ho Hey,” The Lumineers’ break-out anthem. While the 6, 7, and 8 year-old got the thrill of a lifetime on stage, Vidockler said his students have learned a bigger lesson from the music group’s rise to the top of the charts.
“It has showed them that if you have a dream and you’re willing to plug hard enough, and make sacrifices, you can achieve your dream,” the teacher said. “It’s been the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Vidockler can provide a pretty good account to The Lumineers’ rise to fame – he remembers seeing the group perform to a room of 35 people in Jersey. The next time he saw them, the attendance had increased to 300. When the childhood friend flew out to Colorado to see the band perform, he joined over 9,000 others in doing so. Now The Lumineers’ are on a sold-out U.S. tour, with two nominations at this Sunday’s Grammy Awards and an upcoming appearance on “Ellen.”
“Crazy,” was the first work Schultz said when asked to put this ride in to words. “It’s basically the epitome of a snowball effect, yunno? “(Just) having a lot of patience over a number of years and then kind of having it break, but not break in any sort of logical way, just ‘boom,’ all at once.”
Most of the band’s success has centered on “Ho Hey.” The Lumineers originally wanted to invite the children from Success Academy Bronx 2 to perform it during “Saturday Night Live,” but producers stopped the plan because Paul McCartney had already performed with a children’s chorus this season. That wasn’t the only idea Lorne Michaels and company shot down.
“Jer was planning to wear an Abe Lincoln costume that Neyla (Pekarek) gave him for his birthday,” Schultz revealed. “For some reason they wouldn’t let him do it. That was kind of bizarre.”
Obviously it isn’t just perseverance and patience that The Lumineers have mastered. The band seems to be just as good at compromising and working with others. Those kids should still be paying attention.