WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Good advice goes a long way, and a group of current and former Williamsville North students had the opportunity to learn from some local legends about music.

It was the first Friday of February when members of the band Cobraz took part in a mentoring session with Buffalo Music Hall of Famers Jessie Galante, Kenny Hawkins, Tom Lorentz and Ken Kaufman.

Composed of 2022 graduates Joel Turner, Andrew Doviak, David Gregoire and current seniors Donald Heim and Chris Rossi, Cobraz received the honor of being named the ensemble winners of the Hall of Fame’s 2022 Lucille & Jack Yellen Songwriter’s Scholarship competition.

The annual contest has been awarding songwriters since 2013. To get into it, young musicians can submit a song and have it judged on factors like originality, lyrics and composition. Cobraz’ “Snakebite” took the cake this time around.

Heim, the band’s drummer, was wearing a Metallica “Ride the Lightning” t-shirt when he sat down to chat the week after the band’s mentoring session. So, I had to ask if that reflected the band’s sound at all.

His answer was one that described a multitude of influences, yes, including those from the thrash metal pioneers. But with that comes punk and grunge from the decades that followed.

(“Ride the Lightning” was released in 1984.)

“Snakebite” happens to be one of the band’s earliest songs. And relatively speaking, the band is pretty new itself, forming a little over two years ago.

“We knew that we wanted to try and take the band to the next step, the next level, and we saw that this was the opportunity, so we chose ‘Snakebite’ and ‘Asylum’ because they were both the songs that we had professionally recorded and they sounded the best, and they represented us the best,” Rossi says.

To Rossi, one of the best parts of being in a band is how it feels like a family. And of course, families fight sometimes, but the camaraderie of these five easily outweighs that.

Heim loves that and the aspect of making their own music.

“I really like working with all of us,” he said. “I’m friends with all these guys. I’ve known them for years.”

The mentoring session itself was about 90 minutes, they say, and one of the biggest takeaways the band got from it was that less can really mean more. That can relate to many things, such as dynamics in a performance or recording session — when to be loud and when to be soft, working as a unit and not a one-man show.

And playing live isn’t just about how you sound. Your presentation is important, too; that includes stage presence.

Tom Lorentz, who’s been a Buffalo Music Hall of Famer since 2012, started playing guitar at age five and currently serves as the Hall of Fame’s Music Committee Chair. He says that “too often,” bands lack personality onstage.

“It can sound real good, but there’s no look about it,” Lorentz said.

Jessie Galante, a rock singer whose voice has rung out in venues from Buffalo to Los Angeles, and even overseas in Europe, is a member of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Class of 2010. She had some sage advice for the Williamsville musicians.

“The audience is part of the show,” Galante said, also noting “I’m a firm believer of ‘You can’t have enough rehearsals.'”

In addition to the mentoring session, winners of the competition are also featured on the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame website and receive performance opportunities for Hall of Fame concert events. Hall of Famer and concert promoter Eddie Tice will also work with winners to schedule local shows, the Hall of Fame says.

Not to mention, there are also cash awards.

Cobraz has played out before, but they look forward to doing it even more, armed with their instruments and some new wisdom courtesy of those who know a thing or two about the Buffalo music scene.

“There’s things that we’ll look at differently for sure,” Rossi said. “Any advice that we got is stuff that we’re always going to remember and use. I think the biggest thing for us will be trying every different thing that we think of with our songs. We don’t want to disregard anything before we try it.”

Lorentz says he was impressed with the band’s maturity in listening to the Hall of Famers’ advice. And of course, being able to pass along this kind of wisdom is rewarding.

“You want to give back to your community,” Galante said.

To be eligible for the 2023 songwriter’s contest, you must be between 13 and 18 years old and submit an MP3 with lyrics to songwriter@bmhof.org by May 31. More information on the contest can be found here.

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.