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West Jordan Journal

First place winner changes the mood at Battle of the Bands

Jun 06, 2023 12:58PM ● By Jet Burnham

West Jordan High School senior Jonny LeBaron took the stage at the Open Mic competition of the Utah PTA State High School Battle of the Bands to play “New York State of Mind,” a song written by Billy Joel in 1976. 

“I love Billy Joel, I think he’s just about the coolest,” LeBaron said. “And it’s a song where I could show off what I can do on the piano but also show off my voice a little bit, too. It’s also something that was a little different than what a lot of people were doing. It changed the mood, because there were a lot of really loud rock bands and then some quiet guitars from the open mic. I think changing it up was good.”

The judges and audience members agreed, because LeBaron won first place and the Fan Favorite award, which came with a total of $250 prize money and invitations to open for some of the bands he met at the competition.

This was the 21st Battle of the Bands sponsored by the Utah PTA Student Leadership Commission and the third year of the open mic competition. PTA Student Leadership Commissioner Todd Hougaard said the Battle of the Bands showcases musical high school students from all over the state.

“It’s an opportunity for them to show off their talents that they don’t get otherwise,” he said. “The other thing that happens is they are able to become part of a bigger community when they are at the bigger events, like the multi region and state events, so they can see it’s not just them, that there are other students that are like them, and they make friendships with the other students that are there.”

Last year, LeBaron played keyboard with one of the bands that competed at the state competition. 

Music is a big part of LeBaron’s life—he plays the piano everyday (or the guitar, if a piano is not available.) He started piano lessons at age 8 and even though he stopped taking lessons two years ago, he said he now plays more than he used to, finding songs that help develop his improvisation skills.

He said “New York State of Mind” is a song he can play around with.

“It’s a song where I can show off the song and just improvise and do what I want,” he said. “I think it’s a fun song because I have the freedom to change it every time I play it.”   λ