South Fayette educator and coach has the music in him – Observer-Reporter

By day, Rob Eldridge adopts the mantle of teacher and boys varsity soccer coach at South Fayette High School. By night, he morphs into a musician for Steelesque, which will release its latest CD, Toro Toro, at a bash set for 8 p.m. June 23 at Cefalos Banquet & Event Center in Carnegie.

Im absolutely a goal-oriented person, whether its developing a strong soccer program that is competing for WPIAL or state titles, or leading a group of musicians in creating art and producing a finished product that we can be proud of, Eldridge said.

As a songwriter, Rob Eldridge is no Bob Dylan, but he advises budding bards to put the ROLL in their rock. The South Fayette resident recommends reading, observing, living and learning to aspiring lyricists

An avid reader, Eldgridge enjoys historical fiction to fantasy. No one particular genre of literature, he said. He likes the classics. His favorite authors include Stephen King, Michael Crichton and Ayn Rand while his best book is The Fountainhead.

Ill read anything placed in front of me. If I get through the first couple of chapters, Ill pretty much read the whole thing.

A lot of my songs are from personal experiences and some are based on stories that I have read, he continued. Living every day also inspires me to be creative.

I like books and observing people. Going into the city and visiting museums and seeing the art, he added.

Hanging out with the master for a day also helped Eldridge. In 1994, he spent 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. with Dylan as his runner when the Nobel Prize winner appeared in Burlington, Vt.

It was surreal, Eldridge said of the experience. Of Dylan, he added, He was a kind man, small in stature but he had an aura that filled an arena.

While Eldridge hopes to fill Cefalos Banquet and Event Center in Carnegie on Jun 23 with fans to hear the release of his CD Toro Toro, he knows songwriting is no easy task.

There is no set recipe or ingredients, he said. Its about expression and interpretation. Writing on you own is a process that is lonely. You spend many hours and days with your song. Sometimes it talks back to you and tells you where it wants to go and other times it remains a puzzle unwilling to be solved.

Yet Eldridge is happy to be able to help solve issues for others and fuel their creative juices. As a teacher, who also happens to coach soccer, in a school district that appreciates the arts, he is grateful to work in a supportive environment.

Sports are important but the arts are too, he said. Our superintendent (Bille Rondinelli) champions the arts, and we are fortunate here at South Fayette that she is behind them and that we have her guidance and leadership to make sure that the arts are an important part of the education and that they dont go away like whats been happening at other places.

I have no illusions of being on a tour bus with U2, he added. Im happy to be an inspiration to young men and women at school and on the soccer field, and to be creative with my band and writing songs.

By Eleanor Bailey

I have a strong competitive spirit, and sometimes that needs to be calmed, he added. I do that by reading, songwriting and through my music. For me, its the yin and yang of life. It works well together.

Throughout his life, Eldridge weaved sports and music together successfully. A Vermont native, he started skiing at age 5. He began playing soccer at 7 and evolved into an All-American while excelling on the Johnson State College team that competed in national championships. While earning his masters degree in education, Eldridge helped coach the James Madison University mens soccer team.

At that Harrisonburg, Va., school, he met his wife, Kim. When she took the lacrosse coaching gig at Duquesne University, the Eldridge family moved to Pittsburgh, where Rob took the assistant coaching job with the Dukes mens soccer squad in 1996.

In addition, he joined the Beadling Soccer Club as a head coach, directing teams to multiple state championships and one regional title. From 2002-07, he served as Peters Township head coach, guiding the Indians to three section banners, one WPIAL championship and two district runner-up titles.

Since 2007, he has been at South Fayette, claiming several Coach of the Year laurels in consistently guiding the Lions to the district and state playoffs. The Lions won a WPIAL title in 2015.

Music has been with Eldridge every step of the way. Raised in a classical formal tradition, as his maternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Herbet Kenyon, were a concert pianist and opera singer, respectively, Eldridge taught himself how to play various instruments, including piano, bass and electric guitar, which he plays on stage. Never took formal lessons, he said.

Eldridge said he started playing because he had written songs he has more than 100 published pieces so he decided to learn the instruments to be in a position to write better what I wanted to sing.

While his mother, Roxy, is a classical vocalist, his father, Bob, introduced him to the sound he prefers and performs.

He exposed me to all the 60s, 70s and 80s music, Eldridge said. I caught the rock n roll bug from him. Hes an artist, painter and illustrator. He designed the cover for the release.

Toro Toro features six songs written by Eldridge. The CD was recorded by Mike Ofca from Innovation Studio in Steubenville, Ohio, and Eldridge at his in-home studio, dubbed Sonic Planet Studios.

Eldridge is the lead vocalist. He plays guitar, keys and banjo. His next-door-neighbor, Sam Baldigowski, excels on the mandolin and lap steel. Ron Castelluci (percussion and noise makers), Jerry Courtney (bass guitar and backing vocals), Eric Drake (lead guitar and back vocals) and Bruce Virtue (drums) complete the band, which Eldridge started three years ago in Pittsburgh.

Weve had a couple of different lineups, but its mostly made up of professionals and buddies, all accomplished musicians. I know they were auditioning me as much as I was auditioning them, Eldridge said of the players, most of whom hail from Weirton, W.Va.

Featuring a blend of genres, Eldridge described the CD as rock n roll with blues elements. The six-piece ensemble delivers the swagger of bands from days gone by while echoing its own influences. If it has a sound similar to British blues and the Rolling Stones, there is good reason: Mick Jagger and the boys are Eldridges favorite.

I only wish I could perform like Mick, he laughed. Usually I have a guitar around my shoulder, so I am unable to move around the way he does.

During his youth, Eldridge moved around a bit. He started with The Warehouse Band playing music from a range of bands like the Hollies, Stones, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Led Zeppelin, The Cult and Tom Petty. He moved on to the Voodoo Dolls, which included one member that currently plays bass for the Jersey Boys production in Las Vegas. The Voodoo Dolls covered more recent bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Janes Addiction and supported national acts like Govt Mule, the Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and Edgar Winter. One of his biggest groups was the Spring Heeled Jacks.

Eldridges experiences have included encounters with Mick Taylor, who replaced founder Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones after he mysteriously drowned, along with Bob Dylan, Frankie Vallie and Govt Mule frontman Warren Haynes, who also played with the Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh and Friends.

I met a lot of awesome musicians, said Eldridge, and its been wonderful, but not my real desire.

As he aged, Eldridge said his goals changed. While he has released a solo record on vinyl that can be heard on Pandora and Spotify, written background music for independent films and documentaries, and provided soundtracks for a local outdoor adventure show produced by Joe Rossi of Peters Township, Eldridges main focus is his family.

He is a father to three sons. His eldest, Ray, plays football. Heading into his senior season, he already has 15 Division I scholarship offers.

Hes a self-made kid, good student, hard worker, said Eldridge. He did all the right things and followed Joe Rossis ground rules, and that had a big payoff.

Eldridges two other boys Gavin, a sophomore, and Chad, a freshman have followed in their fathers footsteps and play soccer.

I have been driven by raising my sons, Eldridge said.

Through his music, he is driven to expose others to the art of writing songs and performing. Eldridge says that there are other things he wants to do, but sharing is foremost on his list. While hes excited about his CD release and calls it a celebration and culmination of the process, he is pushing for other endeavors.

I have an opportunity to help other artists, he said. You know, it only takes one song.

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South Fayette educator and coach has the music in him - Observer-Reporter

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