The Almanac Story

South Fayette educator and coach has the music in him

Rob Eldridge is more than a teacher and soccer coach

“I’m absolutely a goal-oriented person, whether it’s developing a strong soccer program that is competing for WPIAL or state titles or leading a group of musicians in creating art and producing a finished product that we can be proud of,” said Eldridge.

I have a strong competitive spirit and sometimes that needs to be calmed,” he added. “I do that by reading, songwriting and through my music. For me, it’s the yin and yang of life. It works well together.”

Throughout his life, Eldridge weaved sports and music together successfully. A Vermont native, he started skiing at age 5. He began playing soccer at 7 and evolved into an All-American while excelling on the Johnson State College team that competed in the national championships. While earning his masters degree in education, Eldridge helped coach the James Madison University men’s soccer team.

At that Harrisonburg, Va., school, he met his wife, Kim. When she took the lacrosse coaching gig at Duquesne University, the Eldridge family moved to Pittsburgh, where Rob took the assistant coaching job with the Dukes men’s soccer squad in 1996.

In addition, he joined the Beadling Soccer Club as a head coach, directing teams to multiple state championships and one regional title. Between 2002-07, he served as Peters Township head coach, guiding the Indians to three section banners, one WPIAL championship and two district runner-up titles.

Since 2007, he has been at South Fayette, claiming several COTY laurels in consistently guiding the Lions to the district and state playoffs. The Lions won a WPIAL title in 2015.

Music has been with Eldridge every step of the way. Raised in a “classical formal tradition” as maternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Herbet Kenyon, were a concert pianist and opera singer, respectively, Eldridge taught himself how to play various instruments, including piano, bass and electric guitar, which he plays on stage. “Never took formal lessons,” he said.

Eldridge said he started playing because he had written songs – he has more than 100 published pieces – so he decided to learn the instruments to “be in a position to write better what I wanted to sing.”

While his mother, Roxy, is a classical vocalist, his father, Bob, introduced him to the sound he prefers and performs.

“He exposed me to all the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music,” Eldridge said. “I caught the rock ’n’ roll bug from him. He’s an artist, painter and illustrator. He designed the cover for the release.”

“Toro Toro” features six songs written by Eldridge. The CD was recorded by Mike Ofca from Innovation Studio in Steubenville and Eldridge at his in-home studio, dubbed Sonic Planet Studios.

Eldridge is the lead vocalist. He plays guitar, keys and banjo. His next-door-neighbor, Sam Baldigowski, excels on the mandolin and lap steel. Ron Castelluci (percussion and noise makers), Jerry Courtney (bass guitar and backing vocals), Eric Drake (lead guitar and back vocals) and Bruce Virtue (drums) complete the band, which Eldridge started three years ago in Pittsburgh.

“We’ve had a couple of different lineups but it’s mostly made up of professionals and buddies, all accomplished musicians. I know they were auditioning me as much as I was auditioning them,” Eldridge said of the players, most of whom hail from Weirton, W.Va.

Featuring a blend of genres, Eldridge described the CD as rock ’n’ roll with blues elements. The six-piece ensemble delivers the swagger of bands from days gone by while echoing its own influences. If it has a sound similar to British blues and the Rolling Stones, there is good reason: Mick Jagger and the boys are Eldridge’s favorite.

“I only wish I could perform like Mick,” he laughed. “Usually I have a guitar around my shoulder, so I am unable to move around the way he does.”

During his youth, Eldridge moved around a bit. He started with The Warehouse Band playing music from a range of bands like the Hollies, Stones, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Led Zeppelin, The Cult and Tom Petty. He moved on to the Voodoo Dolls, which included one member that currently plays bass for the “Jersey Boys” production in Las Vegas. The Voodoo Dolls covered more redent bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Jane’s Addiction and supported national acts like Gov’t Mule, the Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and Edgar Winter. One of his biggest groups was the Spring Heeled Jacks.

Eldridge’s experiences have included encounters with Mick Taylor, who replaced founder Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones after he mysteriously drowned, along with Bob Dylan, Frankie Vallie and Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes, who also played with the Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh and Friends.

“I met a lot of awesome musicians,” said Eldridge, “and it’s been wonderful but not my real desire.”

As he aged, Eldridge said his goals changed. While he has released a solo record on vinyl that can be heard on Pandora and Spotify, written background music for independent films and documentaries, and provided soundtracks for a local outdoor adventure show produced by Joe Rossi of Peters Township, Eldridge’s main focus is his family.

He is a father to three sons. His eldest, Ray, plays football. Heading into his senior season, he already has 15 Division I scholarship offers.

“He’s a self-made kid, good student, hard worker,” said Eldridge. “He did all the right things and followed Joe Rossi’s ground rules, and that had a big payoff.”

Eldridge’s two other boys – Gavin, a sophomore, and Chad, a freshman – have followed in their father’s footsteps and play soccer.

“I have been driven by raising my sons,” Eldridge said.

Through his music, he is driven to expose others to the art of writing songs and performing. Eldridge says that there are other things he wants to do but sharing is foremost on his list. While he’s excited about his CD release and calls it a “celebration and culmination” of the process, he is “pushing” for newer endeavors.

“I have an opportunity to help other artists,” he said. “You know, it only takes one song.”

Read full article here

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Thank You Pittsburgh Post Gazette

RE
Soccer success is music to Rob Eldridge’s ears
Lake Fong/Post-Gazette

The basement of Rob Eldridge’s McDonald home provides a fascinating window into two very different worlds in which he excels.

At the center hangs a gigantic TV, perfect for playing video games and watching sports. Nearby there’s a weight bench and workout area. Go left or right, and you’ll see either Eldridge’s home recording studio or his collection of albums and vintage sound equipment, both impressive.

Real life or metaphorically speaking, sports and music are never terribly far apart for Eldridge.

“It’s important to have that balance in my life,” said Eldridge, who has been the South Fayette boys soccer coach since 2007 and a professional musician for much of his adult life. “I’m sort of a restless person. I need to be doing things.”

Among WPIAL coaches, Eldridge, 48, likely holds the distinction of also being the only one who has produced a collection of songs that you can purchase on iTunes.

Eldridge’s band, Steelesque, released “Toro Toro” on June 23. Eldridge not only wrote everything on the six-song EP, but he plays guitar, piano and banjo and sings.

The yin and yang of music and sports is downright essential for Eldridge, a Vermont native who’s as energetic as he is creative.

“Music, teaching and coaching are all important to me,” said Eldridge, who teaches health and physical education at South Fayette High School. “To have them work together is a good homeostasis spot for me; it levels me out.”

Eldridge was exposed to music early in life. His grandfather was an opera singer, and his grandmother would often accompany him on piano. Meanwhile, his father, Bob, was big into rock ‘n roll and got his son hooked on the Vietnam-era greats.

The younger Eldridge took trombone lessons in school, but it never stuck — too boring for a rambunctious, sports-obsessed young boy.

So Eldridge spent the bulk of his time playing sports and did so all the way through college, where he played soccer at Johnson State College in Vermont.

In his early 20s, Eldridge began writing songs and taught himself guitar as a way to extract the melodies from his head and put them to his words.

“They were trapped,” Eldridge said. “Teaching myself how to play guitar freed them.”

Eldridge spent time in a few bands but soured on the music scene. He eventually went back to school to get his master’s in education and started coaching at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

That’s where Rob met his wife of 20 years, Kim, who was hired to start the women’s lacrosse program at Duquesne University in 1996, bringing the Eldridges to Pittsburgh.

Do something ‘Steelesque’

Steelesque formed about three years ago through a group of Eldridge’s friends who are all creative — musicians, filmmakers and actors.

“When we get together, we talk about what we want to do in terms of what we create,” Eldridge said. “We said it would be nice to do something that was ‘Steelesque,’ meaning it came from our city.”

It’s essentially a talent-sharing service for the group.

“If a filmmaker needs music for his project, I can provide it,” Eldridge said. “If I want video representation of my music, they can provide it.”

This is the third different lineup of players for the group. As for Steelesque’s sound, it sits very much in Eldridge’s influential wheelhouse, with a serious twinge of the Rolling Stones.

Other bands that have helped Eldridge cultivate his style include The Verve, Radiohead, Oasis, Wilco, the Grateful Dead, Phish, Tom Petty, Levon Helm and the Band.

As fun as playing shows is — Steelesque played Cefalo’s in Carnegie for that CD release party in late June — Eldridge doesn’t have any visions of touring with big-time acts.

“I don’t wake up every day looking for a record deal,” Eldridge said.

Or fame and fortune, for that matter.

Enjoying what he’s doing remains Eldridge’s only goal.

“I really don’t need much besides my family and my instruments,” Eldridge said. “I really don’t need my instruments, either. I can always get other instruments.

“I want to make enough money to provide for my family, but I’m more apt to be driven by having good relationships with people.”

Keep it simple

As much as Eldridge loves playing music, he may enjoy writing more.

On a recent trip back home to visit his parents, Eldridge got caught up observing a hummingbird around a cedar tree and some sugar water and started working off the idea of “cedar and feeder,” scribbling lyrics to a song within minutes.

“I will say I’m blessed from the standpoint that I don’t have writer’s block,” Eldridge said. “If someone said you had 10 days you have to write 10 songs, I could do that. They might not all be masterpieces, but there will be songs written nonetheless.

“I don’t try to over-complicate things.”

Eldridge believes music and soccer are extremely similar.

As a coach, Eldridge is always looking to accentuate a certain player’s skill, the same way a band might lean on a strong musician to carry a certain section of a song.

You’re also zeroing in on specific responsibilities.

“If I find a kid who’s super-fast and has a great right foot, I can make him a right back or a right midfielder,” Eldridge said. “If you’re teaching someone how to play guitar, you’re not sending them home saying, ‘Go learn your piano scales.’ Keep it sport- and positional-specific.”

‘I’m not gifted’

When Eldridge was 8 or 9 years old, growing up in northern Vermont, that’s when he really started to notice his high energy level and strong work ethic.

He’d wake up at 5 or 6 every morning, walk outside and notice the milkman, the carrier for the Burlington Free Press and nobody else.

Eldridge worked out a deal to deliver part of the route for $0.50 a week, then later went full-time despite his crazy young age.

After getting home from school, Eldridge would have to fill the wood bin with firewood so the family’s house had heat.

“I’m not gifted. Everything that I do is based on work ethic,” he said. “I’ve worked my whole life to get to where I am. I don’t garner the success I’ve had as a coach without rolling up my sleeves and working my tail off to be good at it. Music’s the same thing. You have to make time for it and work at your craft.”

Rob and Kim have three sons: Ray, Gavin and Chad. Ray plays football and recently accepted a scholarship to Richmond. Gavin and Chad are soccer players.

None of the three are heavy into music like dad, but Chad, now 14, has been showing signs recently, hopping into the studio to analyze hip-hop beats.

“It’s neat because most of our conversations have been about doing well in school, working hard in the offseason and being a good teammate,” Rob Eldridge said. “Now we’re starting to talk about being creative.”

That yin-and-yang approach — it’s how Eldridge loves to describe his life — has worked out well so far, and there’s no signs of change ahead.

Eldridge, who also coaches a pair of Beadling club teams, said he has turned down several jobs in other cities because he loves Pittsburgh so much, specifically how well it marries arts and sports.

“I really enjoy watching people perform and going to art exhibits and seeing the creative part of the city,” Eldridge said. “I also love watching the Steelers, coaching the boys up and going to Friday night football games.

“It’s a great lifestyle. Plus, I know I have a good window of creativity left and a good window of coaching left.”

Read Article in the PPG here

“Feed The Wolf”, By Rob Eldridge

Thank You Adam PacMan Taylor galaxy454 for your very cool interpretation of a tune I recorded with Steven Foxbury Yellow Couch Studioa couple years ago. Tune is called “Feed The Wolf”. The entire record is available on vinyl and can be heard on most all streaming services and Apple Music Rob Eldridge- Ideas To Art. Mastered by Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering. Dig in!
VS1
It’s not what you stare at – it’s more what you see
Knee deep in the different – our knees shake in the streams
I’m considered rich with my wants being cheap
Pockets full of stubborn – is all that you keep

Chorus:
Doesn’t matter if you feed the wolf
So feed the wolf
It’s never enough, never enough
And walk through his woods
Doesn’t matter if you feed the wolf
To a soft bed of pine
It’s never enough, never enough
Fingers through fur, so wild to the touch, together you’ll dine

VS2
Beneath all the skin – time flows through the heart
The fabric is wider and no seams come apart
Our feet walk to meet but stop at locked doors
It’s all set adrift in a boat with no oars