Sometimes, when Luke Mock needs inspiration to write a song, he imagines what he would want to hear 1,000 fans singing back to him.

Sunday at Auburn Public Theater, he'll be on his way to knowing what that actually sounds like.

A release party for Mock's debut album, "Awaken," will be part of Winterfest, a four-stage music festival presented by local nonprofit youth music collective Perform 4 Purpose. Featuring more than 60 students from the Cayuga County area performing 110 songs, the festival will support the downtown theater's upcoming renovation, which includes a new café and basement programming space.

A senior at Auburn High School, Mock began learning guitar about five years ago at the studio of Perform 4 Purpose founder Jim Van Arsdale. Mock said he's loved to sing since he could talk, but as he matured and his voice changed, it became difficult to find songs in his range. So he started learning guitar to expand his musical vocabulary, he said.

Through lessons with Bob Nodzo, Mock earned his way into Perform 4 Purpose and also started developing his own songs. He credits the collective, and Van Arsdale, with his growth as a musician. By performing regularly at the nonprofit's benefit concerts for area causes, Mock has not only improved skills like his stage presence, but he's been able to help musicians younger than him, he said.

"I've always heard the best way to learn something is to teach it," he said. "And I really feel like I can help these kids and inspire them."

Mock began writing the songs for "Awaken" early into his time with Perform 4 Purpose. His first major influence was Shawn Mendez, whose live performances Mock watched to strengthen his own guitar playing. He also looked to the music of Michael Jackson, Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco and John Mayer for inspiration. But Mock's own songwriting isn't so easy to sort out, he said.

"When I write songs, I never really have a style in mind," he said. "I get an idea and I put it to paper."

With equal affection for rock, blues, pop, R&B, jazz, gospel and more, Mock likes to refer to his style as simply "modern." The song on "Awaken" that represents that style best is "Wake Me Up," he said. Indeed, the song inspired the name of the album. High-energy and heavy on guitars, it's a song Mock can imagine people his age listening to on the car radio, he said. Another of his favorites on the album is "High School Crush," which Mock performed to win a talent show at Auburn High when he was a freshman.

Mock began recording the album in the summer of 2017. Experiencing the process is partly why he's looking to study the music industry or music production in college, he said.

"I learned that I really love it," he said. "It allowed me to see how a song can develop, how to take your ideas and make them happen." 

Mock will perform "Awaken" in its entirety Sunday. He's excited for Winterfest, and Van Arsdale is excited to see one of his students celebrate the achievement of his first album. As Perform 4 Purpose's biggest event yet, the festival will see some students from the collective play their first solo or duo sets, Van Arsdale said. And that, he noted, is how Mock started.

"He's one of those kids who just doesn't settle for being OK. He tries to find an extra harmony to throw in, and puts the time into making a song the best he can," Van Arsdale said of Mock. "He really connects with an audience. He's just a fun kid to listen to, and his songwriting is really good, too. It's a thrill to see where he is now."

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.


Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.