Asked to be recorded for a music class, Natalie Dominiak was surprised when someone suggested she might recruit a band to back her vocals. Though just a freshman at the time, Dominiak already knew good musicians from her classes and asked bass guitar player Eleysha Lee, drummer Michael Boyd, and two others if they’d mind joining in.
“I felt like I was supposed to be playing with them the rest of my life,” Lee said of that initial experience. “The chemistry was there. You can play with other people, and it doesn’t click this fast, but playing with them, we were locked in from day one.”
As Boyd said, they were all in the same place during their musical journeys, trying to find someone to grow with, and the band presented that opportunity.
“It was all I ever wanted,” Dominiak said. “I came here to do music, and it was like I finally found people I was supposed to be with.”
That’s how the band Natalie and Crew started two years ago, and on Thursday, the now seven-member group will participate in Goldstock ’23. The third-annual music festival is presented by Gold Top Music Group, which provides Purdue University Fort Wayne students in its School of Music professional training for all industry specializations.
The free event starts at 7 p.m. at the Sweetwater Performance Theatre, 5501 U.S. Highway 30 West. Other PFW student groups scheduled to perform are Augmentasia, Man of the Flood, Loud Division, VEO, Jujubee, Punching Lucky, Alexandra, Antihero, and Never Neptune.
Natalie and Crew also includes guitarist Jesse Frausto, keyboardist Noah Vaughn, guitarist and singer Hallie Richmond, and percussionist and singer Amara Wiley. The crew runs the gamut of freshmen to seniors who came to PFW from different hometowns in the Midwest. They add to the mix varying musical backgrounds that blend well into a style best described as a combination of pop, rock, country, and fun. That formula is why writing songs is so much fun, Dominiak said.
They are still feeding off and lifting each other from their first live gig when they appeared at the Music Industry Association student organization event in October 2022. During an early instrumental solo, Dominiak started dancing with the audience, most of whom seemed to join in.
“As soon as I stepped out in the crowd, everyone was dancing with me, and they were responding to us,” said Dominiak, now a junior, before laughing. “I wasn’t like the only fool dancing.”
Lee said Dominiak has a presence and energy that gets the crowd invested in their performances, but she stresses that Lee and Boyd are part of the leadership group. Even though she’s the lead, she cringes a little when hearing it announced and would prefer a new name.
“When people hear our name, they think Natalie is the leader of the band behind her, but we have an agreement that this band is ours,” Boyd said. “Nobody is higher than anybody else or the leader.”
Though just a freshman, Richmond recently started playing with the band and noticed the camaraderie.
“I felt pretty comfortable after the first practice because everyone was very encouraging the whole time,” Richmond said. “I was making mistakes like crazy because I was so nervous, but they were all saying how glad they were that I was there, so I walked out of practice feeling pretty good about things.”
Having so much fun together helps them build creative chemistry, several band members said. Even when having a bad day before rehearsal, Dominiak said coming together always leads to something better.
“Whatever I was worried about doesn’t matter anymore because I’m here doing something I love with people I like,” she said. “I think we were all waiting for the right people to be with us, and I think we have them now.”