Ryan Chartrand

While living in the dorms their freshman year at Cal Poly, business senior Kyle Dozeman and graphic design senior Ed Marshall talked and dreamed about starting their own band because, to Marshall, it seemed like “the cool thing to do.”

They later recruited business senior Darrin Sarkisian, who plays the guitar, and wine and viticulture senior Danny Pozzan, who plays the bass guitar, to join them in forming a band.

All they needed was a place to practice. Unfortunately, living in the dorms there was no privacy – and no place to practice.

When Dozeman moved out of the dorms and into a house his sophomore year, the four band members started practicing in his garage and formed the band Play It By.

About a year after starting to practice in Dozeman’s garage, they started performing at local house parties and other venues. Then they started showcasing their music at Cal Poly’s University Union, in Los Angeles and in Long Beach, Calif., on the Queen Mary.

Play It By has come quite a long way from their days practicing in a garage and performing at house parties.

Earlier this year, the band was voted “College artists most likely to breakthrough in 2008” by mtvU. And last year, they made it into the top 50 for a contest in which the winners got a record deal with Epic Records, helping them get a little recognition, lead singer and guitarist Dozeman said.

Last week, they were nominated into the top 25 “Best music on campus” for the MTV Woodie Awards out of more than 1,000 bands nationwide. Play It By is the only band from California to make it into the top 25.

The top prize is a trip to the awards show in New York and $5,000 in cash. This Tuesday, mtvU will vote on the top five bands, and the winner will be determined sometime next month.

To enter the contest, at least one band member has to be in college and the band must register together on mtvU.com. Fans vote on their favorite artists, and mtvU looks at how many votes a band has, ultimately deciding which bands or artists make the cut.

Band members are excited and remain optimistic about their chances of winning the mtvU contest.

“It’s exciting. Hopefully we make it to the top five,” Dozeman said.

“It didn’t phase me . just kidding,” Marshall said. “I was excited, but at the same time didn’t want to get my hopes up.”

If they win the contest, both Dozeman and Marshall said they would invest the $5,000 cash prize into their band to buy new equipment, pay for a new recording and maybe buy a tour van.

Marshall, who plays the drums, said he came up with the band name.

“We often found ourselves undecided on practice times, so we often ‘played it by ear,’” Marshall said. “As a band, you always want your name to relate and therefore I worked with that phrase. I thought that ‘Play It By Ear’ was a little too direct and tried to make it more catchy and creative. I came up with ‘Play It By,’ which was unique, catchy and described our fun power-pop music.”

Dozeman said he played in a band as a teenager. Marshall said he started playing the drums at 14 years old but gave up shortly after, then started playing the drums again as a sophomore at Cal Poly. He has been playing drums ever since for Play It By.

Like many artists, music is their form of expression.

“(Music) is our outlet,” Dozeman said. “It’s a way to get energy out.”

Marshall describes being in a band as “exciting, creative, difficult, fun, annoying, challenging … kinda like a rollercoaster.”

As competitive as the music business is, you hear a lot about bands and solo artists dropping out of school to pursue a music career. But to Dozeman, that idea didn’t seem like an option.

“We all like what we do at school and enjoy it. It’s good as a back-up plan,” he said. “We didn’t have real opportunities until this year (with) the mtvU contest. Until recently, it hasn’t been too hard to balance school and the band.”

As for future aspirations for the band, they wouldn’t mind getting a record deal.

“I’d like to get a record deal, record a professional CD and then tour around the world,” Marshall said.

“In a perfect world, I would like to graduate and get signed and make enough money to play music,” Dozeman said. “A deal with a major label would be amazing.”

Play It By will be performing at One Way Board Shop’s grand opening on Friday, at Backstage Pizza on Friday, Nov. 16 and during the UU Hour on Thursday, Nov. 29.

Check out their music on their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/playitby.

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