The Arato Brothers, residents of the Old Orchard section of Cherry Hill, are enjoying the remainder of their summer vacation, and they deserve it. They’re taking a break having won the Junior Grand Champion Vocal Group of the World title at the 2019 World Championship of Performing Arts in Long Beach, Calif., last month.
The competition lasted from July 12-23 and the band simply cleaned up. In addition to winning the vocal group championship, it also garnered four division plaques, six gold medals, three silver medallions and a pair of silver medals for various instrumental and vocal performances.
The band itself is comprised of three siblings: Jun-Gabriel (15) on keyboards, Jay-Rafael (14) on guitar and Sean-Nathaniel (12) on drums, with friend Kenan Salazar (17) manning the bass.
The family, under the guidance of father Rosendo “Jay” Arato, formed the band just over five years ago. In a trio or quartet, they have been performing around the East Coast and most recently in the Philippines, honing their act and growing musically.
Selections for contestants are held in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Contestants from more than 60 countries took part. To hear the brothers tell it, the path to the competition was easier than one might think.
“One of their (WCOPA) scouts for America saw us and they recommended us to compete there. No (there was no audition process or prior competitions), it’s actually just like, somebody sees you, you get picked and then you go and perform,” said Gabriel.
Added Rafael, “The person that saw us play, he saw us through social media, through our Facebook page. And he said he was impressed with us, and he wanted us to go out to California to compete.”
Once picked to perform, Gabriel revealed the band worked diligently in the weeks before the competition, taking up to an hour-and-a-half per song to get things note perfect.
“Well beforehand, before we left for Long Beach, we practiced all the songs we would be performing every day. “Every day we’d work hard to perfect them, correct anything that was wrong, seeing if there was anything we could improve on, or anything (we did) right that we had to remember, so that we would get the whole thing down,” he added.
Long Beach was just the latest in a string of recognitions for the band. The Aratos previously earned the 2017 OZA Award – which seeks to honor immigrant families through their contributions in the arts – for young live band of the year, the Rock Churches Best Fil-Am Band 2018, as well as the Elephant Talk Indie Music awards for best Teen Band of the Year 2018.
Music has been a part of the family experience from a very young age. All three brothers were originally classically trained at the piano. After moving to Cherry Hill, Jay Arato enrolled the brothers in the local chapter of The School of Rock, and from there, their performing interests broadened.
Gabriel’s focus on piano originated thanks to some paternal prodding, but he soon grew to like it, and expanded to playing keyboards. Rafael picked the guitar because he thought his dad looked cool plucking on an acoustic model. Youngest brother Sean gravitated toward the drums due to the need to focus some restless energy. They all attribute their cohesion to learning how to live as siblings first, before learning how to function properly as a band.
Flush with success, the brothers aren’t resting on their laurels. Having already focused on covering classic and mainstream rock, the band is looking to break out beyond what’s gotten them noticed in recent years.
“Band-wise, we plan on focusing more on playing more recent stuff and also making original songs because the current ones we’ve been playing are pretty old. To be frank, I am pretty tired of playing them. We’re looking to diversify,” said Gabriel.
To view clips of the Arato Brothers’ WCOPA performance and more, visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/JayArato. For more information about the group, visit its Facebook page, @aratobrothers.official.