It's been an exhilarating summer for the all-girl band Serendipity, what with playing more than 40 local shows since May -- once doing three shows in a day -- hearing their songs on the radio for the first time, and signing autographs on soccer balls, shoes, iPhones, and even a forehead.
Singer Josie Treffy, 15, of South Elgin, drummer Daniella Ballarino, 16, of Mount Prospect, guitarist Anneliese Schulz, 15, of Elk Grove Village, singer and keyboard player Lizzie Petitt, 15, of Arlington Heights, and bassist Haley Blomquist, 15, of Elk Grove Village, say they've had the summer of their lives -- and intend to have plenty more.
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SerendipityDaniella Ballarino, drums
Hometown: Mount Prospect
School: Hersey High School
Who inspires you? My parents, Tony and Lea Ballarino. They push me to do everything I do.
What's on your iPod? Rock, like Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold
What book are you reading? I just read "The Glass Castle," by Jeannette Walls.
The three words that best describe you? Nice. Talented. Athletic.
Haley Blomquist, bass & guitar
Hometown: Elk Grove Village
School: Elk Grove High School
Who inspires you? Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. I like that he plays music that's not computer-generated.
What's on your iPod? Rock and alternative.
What book are you reading? "Every Day," by David Levithan
The three words that best describe you? Creative. Fun. Strange.
Lizzy Petitt, piano & vocals
Hometown: Arlington Heights
School: Buffalo Grove High School
Who inspires you? Kelly Clarkson; she's just a great artist.
What's on your iPod? Hip hop, rap and country.
What book are you reading? "The Old Man Who Read Love Stories," by Luis Sepulveda.
The three words that best describe you? Crazy. Fun. Kind.
Anneliese Schulz, guitar
Hometown: Elk Grove Village
School: Elk Grove High School
Who inspires you? My parents, especially my mom, Renate Schulz, because she taught me to play the guitar
What's on your iPod? A wide variety. I like all kinds of music.
What book are you reading? I just finished "The Fault in Our Stars," by John Green.
The three words that best describe you? Musical. Positive. Awesome.
Josie Treffy, vocals
Hometown: South Elgin
School: St. Charles North High School
Who inspires you? My parents, Janet and Bob Treffy. They really help us out with all this; they drive us everywhere
What's on your iPod? Pop like Maroon 5
What book are you reading? "Elsewhere," by Gabrielle Zevin.
The three words that best describe you? Active. Fun. Friendly.
"It doesn't even seem real sometimes," Haley said.
"It so beats ...," Lizzie says, and Anneliese finishes, " ... any other job."
The girls describe their sound as "energetic," "upbeat," "kind of pop-y" and "radio-friendly." Their crowd-pleasing covers include "Forget You," by Cee Lo Green; "Rolling in the Deep," by Adele; and "We Are Young," by Fun, while many of their original songs -- they have a CD titled "Too Young To Drive" -- are about relationships, breakups and moving forward.
Serendipity did a tremendous job last week opening for teen sensation Ryan Beatty at Durty Nellie's in Palatine, said Bobby Brignola, the venue's marketing and promotions director and production manager.
"The most impressive thing is their stage presence. For that age, the way they conduct themselves onstage, the crowd interaction, it looks like they've been doing it for a long time. And they're good players, too," Brignola said.
Brignola also gave credit to Streamwood-based NTD Management, which has been with the band for about 1½ years. "They're really doing all the things the right way from the start as a band. They've got some good leadership," he said.
The girls have true charisma and are always a hit with the crowd, said Kathy Ladore, manager at Lamplighter Inn & Tavern Grille in Palatine. Serendipity is a regular act for the venue's underage open mic night on the last Wednesday of the month.
Ladore said she's seen plenty of young bands, but few with such a clear shot at succeeding in the music business.
"Everybody loves them," Ladore said. "They know how to work the crowd. I think they are going to go far if they stick together."
The name of the band, Serendipity, is a nod to their unexpected good luck at meeting at El Rey Music Center in Arlington Heights, the girls said. Anneliese and Haley have been best friends since third grade; all five enrolled at El Rey a couple of years ago.
The band formed in January 2011 and two months later was signed by NTD.
Lenny Rago co-manages the band along with Rich Hofherr, founder of the Chicago-based rock band 7th Heaven, which opened for Bon Jovi and Kid Rock at Soldier Field in 2010.
"We saw the chemistry between all five of them, and we felt that the chemistry could go a long way. We saw potential in all of them to write songs, perform songs, and their talent," Rago said.
The girls say they are incredibly grateful at the shot they got, and at how much they've learned in the process.
"In the beginning we stood there like stick people," Haley said. "(NTD) really worked with us to make us better," Anneliese said.
They also joke that the best thing about being managed by Rago is his made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese pizza, which you will not find on the menu at his three Chicago-area Panino's Pizzerias. "It's soooo good," Daniella said.
Their fan base ranges from little kids to adults, but their peers are the hardest to impress, Josie said. People can be dismissive of them because of their age, their gender or both.
"They're like, 'Oh, it's just another girl band,'" Lizzy said.
"It's hard with our peers, but afterward they come up to us and tell us they really liked it," Haley said.
The girls found their musical calling in different ways.
Anneliese picked up the guitar in the second grade, following the example of her mother, while Josie randomly belted out a tune from "Annie" in a grocery store parking lot at age 6 and never looked back.
Daniella took up the drums after getting bored with the piano and guitar, while Lizzy was "kind of forced" to play the piano in kindergarten. She really likes it now, she is quick to add.
Haley started playing the guitar in the second grade after seeing a cool green one at Walmart, though the one she eventually got was from Craigslist. She picked up the bass after Serendipity's original bass player quit just before they were signed by NTD.
The girls say they're serious about keeping the band together even when they go to college.
Music, however, isn't the only thing that takes up their free time. Josie runs cross country and takes part in two school clubs, Daniella plays junior varsity tennis, Anneliese pays basketball and hockey, Lizzy plays volleyball, and Haley plays hockey and softball and is on the student council. Anneliese, Lizzy and Haley are on the honor roll.
The girls' parents are a crucial component of the band.
All of them coordinate schedules -- the band's, their own and their other kids' -- to make sure Serendipity makes it to their shows, said Haley's mother, Kim Blomquist. The moms haul T-shirts, CDs and promotion materials while the dads lug the equipment, she said.
"We do want to help these kids out because they put so much work into this," she said. "It's impressive watching what they put into it. They don't complain. They don't get tired."
It's also been a learning experience for the girls, who collectively formed a limited liability company to manage finances and individually opened savings accounts with their earnings of about $1,200 each for the summer. "They are learning a lot about the business," Kim Blomquist said.
Josie's father, Bob Treffy, agreed. "They worked really hard to get where they are. Luck helps also, but they earned the sound they have onstage."
They are especially excited about playing before an expected 10,000 people at Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates for the Illinois Recreational Cheerleading Association's cheerleading and poms championship Dec. 2.
• Elena Ferrarin wrote today's column. She and Kimberly Pohl always are looking for Suburban Standouts to profile. If you know of a young person whose story just wows you, please send a note including name, town, email and phone contacts for you and the nominee to email@example.com or call (847) 608-2733.