Soundtrack of Casper: The Story of Zack Schommer
This is it, he told himself. He shouldn’t be nervous. He’s practiced this a thousand times at home, in the mirror. He knew what he wanted to do; no, he knew what he needed to do, and he was going to do it. He took a deep breath, walked up to his boss and took his fate into his own hands.
“I quit,” he said.
When Zack Schommer took a job at AT&T, he knew it wasn’t going to be a forever thing. It was a means to an end; a way to pay the bills while he pursued his dream. Real artists have day jobs, so the saying goes. This was Schommer’s and it was a good job. He liked his boss and the people he worked with. He enjoyed talking with the customers. It was fine, for what it was. But it wasn’t his future. It wasn’t his dream.
It wasn’t music.
Zack didn’t always want to be a musician. When he was younger, he wanted to be a pro skateboarder. Tony Hawk was the face of a generation and he inspired countless young men and women to throw on their helmets and knee pads and kick flip themselves into the spotlight. Zack was a good skateboarder, but as he was practicing, he noticed his brother had started to develop his own hobby.
Zack’s brother had recently taken up guitar and it wasn’t long before Zack himself wanted to follow in big brother’s footsteps. When he was 15, Zack picked up a bass guitar for the very first time. A lightbulb didn’t go off and a choir of angels didn’t start singing “Hallelujah.” But it was an important moment for Zack and for the rest of his family.
After noticing that both of his boys were gravitating towards music, Zack’s dad decided to slap the bass as well. Suddenly, this hobby had turned into a way to bond a family even closer together and that, perhaps, is why Zack has such a fondness for music. Originally, according to Zack, there were even talks about going all “Partridge Family” and starting a family band.
“I thought I was going to play drums at first, just to complete the trifecta,” Schommer remembered. “I looked into trying to figure out how to play drums and didn’t quite like it so I picked up my dad’s bass guitars that he had accumulated over the years and played what he was learning, like 12-bar Blues and then I started learning stuff that I wanted to know.”
And that was how it went for a while- father and son playing bass, while Zack’s brother continued to play acoustic guitar. Then, one day when everybody else was out of the house, Zack picked up one of his dad’s acoustic guitars. And, again, it wasn’t a lightbulb and it wasn’t a choir singing and it wasn’t a lightning bolt. But it was something, and Zack knew it.
Like any young man who has just discovered that he has musical ability, Zack did what any of us would do; he used it to impress girls.
In addition to playing guitar and singing, Schommer started writing various songs as well. Admittedly, the majority of them were “about a girl,” and they were heavily influenced by bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Dashboard Confessional and other bands.
“It seems like most of my original songs are kind of based off of women and heartbreak and that sort of thing,” Schommer admitted. “I’d love to get more out of that. That’s the kind of stuff that people relate to; it’s the kind of stuff that I always related to when I was growing up, listening to certain music.”
It’s been said that the best way to get over a girl is to turn her into art, and that’s exactly what Schommer did early in his career. Music was an outlet for him, just like skateboarding was previously. It was a way for him to express himself and, from the first note he played, he was hooked.
Schommer dabbled with various bands and other acts, but he knew pretty quickly that if he wanted to progress as an artist at the rate in which he wanted, he would have to do it on his own.
“I’ve dabbled with friends and stuff with electric and trying to start bands,” Schommer said. “It’s difficult to get people to work on the same level, ya know? I found it easier to progress with myself more so than with a band.”
Schommer began to take note of other solo acts as well. Local musicians like Chad Lore and John Kirlin were huge influences on Schommer when he started out. Another musician that Schommer admired is now the front man for one of Casper's coolest bands, Ford and Fossil.
“Jason Ford used to play acoustic music with a guy back in Douglas,” Schommer remembered. “I saw him when I was a kid and he was one of the first ones that made me want to play acoustic shows as well.”
Surrounded by influences, Schommer began to ply his craft in a variety of coffee shops and, when he was old enough, bars. Sadly, that was the extent of the venues that Downtown Casper had to offer at the time.
Now, however, is a different story. There are still coffee shops like Metro or The Bourgeois Pig, which is great. There are bars like The Gaslight Social and the Office Bar & Grill as well. Schommer has played all of those to various degrees of success, but there are also venues like ART 321 or Frontier Brewery or Yellowstone Garage or the David Street Station. All of these venues were designed to give artists a platform and that’s something that Schommer does not take lightly.
“The David Street Station is a beautiful venue to play and I think a lot of people, even in Colorado or Montana would want to come down and play something like this,” Schommer stated.
“It trumps the whole tall tale of people saying there’s nothing to do in Casper,” he continued. With the development of downtown, it opens up way more opportunities for this kind of stuff; especially for musicians. It opens up more opportunity for them to play monthly and be consistent.”
Zack has made the most of the opportunities that he’s been given. When Schommer first picked up a guitar, he didn’t know that he would eventually become a mainstay in, and a highlight of, Casper. He didn’t picture huge crowds gathered in an atrium, waiting to hear him play. He just wanted to play.
That’s all he’s wanted to do, ever since he picked up that first guitar all those years ago. He never thought that this could be, gasp, a career. But that’s exactly what it has become. He knows, though, that in order to take his career to the next level, he needs to focus completely on it.
“I’m not a huge writer but I try to write sometimes,” he said. “I wrote an EP a few years ago and released it during the eclipse and we sold 150 CD’s in 2 days during that weekend, which was pretty awesome. Since then, I haven’t had the time to write anymore stuff, but that’s why I’m trying to push away a day job and continue to focus on music.”
And that is how he found himself face to face with his boss at AT&T. He gave his notice, shook his boss’ hand and proceeded to take the next step, in his career and in his life.
Which led him to this moment.
This is it, he told himself. He shouldn’t be nervous. He’s practiced this a thousand times at home, in the mirror. He knew what he wanted to do; no, he knew what he needed to do, and he was going to do it. He took a deep breath, walked onto the stage at The David Street Station, took a guitar in his hands and started to play.
And, if fate allows, he’ll never stop.