April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Back where he broke in

Chad Szeliga, Elyria High class of 1996, started out in the high school marching band. Now he’s on the road drumming with the rock band Breaking Benjamin.
In town for a tour stop, he took the time to go Back where he broke in

ELYRIA — Derek Faraji’s eyes grew wide, he spoke rapidly, and he could barely get the words out.
His stammering was due to an appearance by Chad Szeliga, an Elyria High School graduate and current drummer for the rock band Breaking Benjamin, who spent 20 minutes Wednesday talking to the dozen drummers in the high school band class and giving them pointers.
Neither Faraji nor the other drummers knew they would be greeted by a celebrity at school, and it was difficult for Faraji to contain his excitement.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I thought it was really great that he’s from Elyria, and he took the time out to be with us.”
Szeliga, who now lives in Pennsylvania with his fiancée, was in town for a performance tonight in Cleveland. He spoke with another group of students at EHS last fall, carrying with him the same inspirational message he delivered Wednesday.
“Just because you live in Elyria doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your goals,” he said. “If I can do it, you can, too.”
Szeliga spent some of the time reminiscing with band director Doug Benford, whom he credits with teaching him most of his technique. But after they caught up and went through a quick round of “where are they now?” with the other students in his 1996 graduating class, he gave the students a show they won’t soon forget.
Using a snare drum to demonstrate how he holds his drum sticks, Szeliga tapped the canvas head in loud, rapid bursts, pounding with both ends of the sticks and filling the room with the sounds of machine gun fire.
Their eyes never left his hands.
“It was amazing,” said Steven Kerchmar, as he waited in line to get his sticks signed by Szeliga. “He was an inspiration to all of us.”
Benford said Szeliga’s talent was obvious even in high school.
“Most students were thinking about the consequences of being in a band,” Benford said. “He just wanted to play. And he was really good at it.”
Szeliga has been playing with Breaking Benjamin since 2005 when the former drummer and co-founder of the band, Jeremy Hummel, was cut after a dispute. He said he loves coming back to Elyria so he can give back what he feels got him to where he’s at today.
“It’s like a message of hope,” he said. “I want to show them that anybody can do this.”
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.

WANT TO GO?
Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace with Puddle of Mudd
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City (formerly Tower City Amphitheater) 351 Canal Road, Cleveland
Tickets: $30 at Ticketmaster
Information: (216) 241-5555 or www.ticketmaster.com.