Someone You Should Know: Elvio Fernandes

(WHAM photo)

Growing up in Gates, Elvio Fernandes played baseball, basketball and soccer. He also played music, but kept that a secret because it wasn’t “cool.”

But his talent and his love of music wouldn’t remain a secret forever. What he’s doing with that talent now is what makes him Someone You Should Know.

Fernandes’ years with the band Uncle Plum brought him a measure of fame and connections outside of Rochester. Connections that led him to his current gig as a member of the Grammy-nominated band Daughtry, led by former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry.

“It's tough to describe. It's exhilarating,” says Fernandes. “That hour and a half we're on stage? There’s no stress, there's just joy.”

Fernandes traces his love of music to his mother, and his grandfather, a Portuguese immigrant who would play his guitar the way he’d learned in the old country.

“He is the reason I'm a musician today,” Fernandes recalls. “I remember sitting under the kitchen table when he would come home and grab his guitar and start playing, and just be amazed.”

Fernandes was almost 40, selling real estate to support a growing family, when the call came to join Daughtry’s band. Even with all of his success as a performer and songwriter, Fernandes recalls the shock of getting that offer. At first, he said no.

He remembers telling his wife, Jessica, over dinner that night. “’What did he want?’ she asked me. I told her, ‘He wants me to go on tour with him.’”

When Fernandes told her he’d said no, she told him to call back and say yes.

“She told me, ‘You've been playing in bars since your early 20s, and Chris Daughtry calls, and you said no?’ She said, ‘Call him back, you need to do this.’”

That was six years ago. He continues to tour and record with the band. And while he is grateful for the opportunity, long stretches away from home are difficult, knowing he’s missing time with his wife and two sons.

Self-taught on the keyboard, guitar, and voice, Fernandes is a huge talent with an ego that is almost non-existent. Instead of talking about himself, he’d rather talk about Camp Roc Star, the organization he founded several years ago. At first, it was a week-long summer day camp where kids 10 to 18-years-old could learn what it’s like to play in a band. Now, It’s a year-round academy. Currently there are about 40 kids enrolled. Bands rehearse through the week, then perform.

“They play their tunes and the crowd goes crazy,” Fernandes says. “What it does for their confidence. I get emotional because I see it. I have grown men, fathers, coming up with tears in their eyes. ‘My kid has no confidence and now he's at the front of the stage in front of 300 people -- you have no idea what you just did for him.’ So ... Woo!"

Just talking about it, Fernandes gets emotional.

The guy who once kept his talents hidden away is telling young people to do just the opposite. And while they won’t all be rock stars, they need only to look to Elvio to know it CAN happen.

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