Like a band that looks through history to find it's influences, there are career musicians who hearken back to their time spent in the Altoona area for creative inspiration or plans for the future.
Davina Sowers, 33, a 1996 graduate of Altoona Area High School, can remember her high school friends who liked and introduced her to all different types of music.
"I hung out with the crowd where music was so intertwined in their lives," she said. "We were kind of the misfits of Altoona and Roosevelt [Junior] High. ...
The band Makari is led by Altoona-born singer Brandon Cullen (second from right). The other members of the band are (from left) Eric Stewart, Kevin Beljan, Lindsay England, Matthew Beljan and John Tomasso.
"We'd drive around in the car and listen to great music."
Though she remembers this time fondly and credits it in part to deciding her career path, Sowers didn't think she'd be able to start a music career in Altoona. So she moved to Minneapolis, Minn., seven years ago and formed her current band, Davina and the Vagabonds, for which Sowers is the lead singer and keyboard player.
The jazz-and-blues outfit has released four albums and has been touring full time for four years, including internationally to places like Romania, Switzerland and France. The band also played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival earlier this month alongside The Eagles, Florence and the Machine and Bruce Springsteen.
Sowers said the success of the band has been "crazy." Moving to Minnesota granted her with these opportunities, Sowers added, but she thinks Altoona was a good place to get her feet wet.
"It's a good town to teach you how to be creative," she said. "[Altoona's] idiosyncrasies bleed into what I write, how I grew up and how I became a woman."
Jim Price, a local music writer and DJ for Rocky 104.9, said he knows of a few bands or artists, especially in the rock and country genres, who have moved to other markets and gotten their "crack at the big time."
These include Halestorm, a rock band that came up playing local mall and benefit gigs and now have a chart-topping radio single, and Candlelight Red, who are currently on tour opening for Shinedown, Godsmack and Staind.
"Musicians in this area can move to higher plain professionally, but it takes work, dedication and keeping a band together," he said.
As far as a place where the industry comes to discover new talent, Price said Altoona can't compete with hubs like New York or Los Angeles. But he still considers the area "a good place to start."
"Musicians can cut their teeth here, develop their credibility and hone their skills," Price said.
For Brandon Cullen, singer for Tampa-based progressive rock band Makari, the place where he used to spend his childhood summers is where he soon hopes to bring his music.
"I hear great things about Altoona," Cullen, 23, said. "We're excited to come there on tour."
Cullen was born in Altoona and spent summers here with his dad until he was 14. The two then moved to Florida, where Cullen started to take a music career more seriously.
He said it's hard for his band in Tampa, since harder metal music is more popular. But that hasn't stopped Makari from getting noticed, gaining write-ups in music magazines like Alternative Press and Substream and even being featured on TV during the Winter X Games.
"We have a passion for what we play," Cullen said. "We have a genre and put our own twist on it. ... We're going to continue doing what we do."
Cullen said it matters less where a band is from when it comes to success because of the Internet. Members of Makari are constantly on Facebook and other social media outlets, promoting the band and creating new opportunities for shows, Cullen said. Even though you can only do so much online, the band still tries to provide as much face time with fans as they can.
"At this point in time, we just want to get people to listen to our music," Cullen said. "We're going to ridiculous lengths to do that."
Price said the Internet has definitely had an impact on the music industry, allowing musicians to network more, talk to producers and send MP3 files back and forth.
"It's really evened the playing field as far as giving small town musicians the chance to compete with bands closer to the hubs," he said.
But the biggest factors for success still include drive, determination, talent and the ability to think outside the box, Price added.
"Some of the most treasured [songs] in the cannon of rock and roll didn't follow the formula," Price said. "Find a unique flavor that sets you apart."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.