First in a series
There’s almost nothing Steven Doerstling would rather do than strap on his guitar and play.
Almost. Sometime next month, Bruised But Not Broken, the Christian rock band that Doerstling helped form about three years ago, will record an album in Florida and then go on tour.
But Doerstling, whose lead guitar was an important part of the band’s sound, won’t be there. He’ll be preparing for his freshman year at UNC Chapel Hill.
“I love music,” says Doerstling, an Ardrey Kell High School senior who will graduate Saturday at Bojangles’ Coliseum. “But there are other things I want to do with my life.”
Doerstling, who ranks among the top two dozen students academically in the senior class, has chosen college over the opportunity to record and perform.
“You don’t quit music,” he says. “I’m just concentrating on something else.”
Most people wouldn’t bow out of a band that has been a favorite in the Charlotte region and is on the cusp of its big break.
“This certainly wasn’t an overnight decision,” says Doerstling, who plans to study medicine in college. “I consulted with a lot of people. In the end, it was what I think was right.”
His counselor, Lori DiPierno, says Doerstling is one of a kind.
“He’s truly a scholar,” she says. “But he has this amazing ability on the side. He’s a gifted musician. He has a passion for music.”
His mother, Lesa, made sure her children, Steven and MacKenzie (now 20), had music in their lives at an early age. The children had piano lessons at an early age, but Steven drifted away from music until eighth grade, when he got a guitar as a Christmas gift.
“Even then, it sat around for about a year before I started playing it,” he says.
About that time, he met Hudson Hower, the son of his mother’s friend. The two found a common love of music. Soon they teamed with other musicians, including drummer Matthew Bentley; Hower provided lead vocals. They played at a school talent show, then birthday parties and finally, shows.
Bruised But Not Broken was on its way.
Doerstling said band members discussed last summer the possibility of touring and taking their 12th-grade classes via distance learning. But they chose to return for their senior years.
By January, Doerstling had made the decision – college, rather than full-time music. A few months later, California-based Artery Foundation signed the band, which will record on the organization’s Standby Records label. Doerstling could have changed his mind and stayed with the band.
“It was a tough decision,” he says. “After all that time, after all that work ... thinking of what might have been.”
Hower says he and Stevie, as he calls Doerstling, have been friends since eighth grade and remain that way, despite his buddy’s decision to leave.
“Fellowship is worth a lot more than a record sale,” he says. “Stevie and I have been friends for a long time. We grew more as brothers rather than bandmates.”
Doerstling, who has been replaced on guitar by Josh Rhodes, has remained supportive of the band, helping them prepare for the recording session.
“Stevie has been awesome throughout, helping us write the album and put final details together,” Hower says.
“That’s been fun,” Doerstling says. “We’re brothers, and I’m glad I can be there to help them.”
His guitar hasn’t been packed away. He plays every Sunday at Forest Hill Church in south Charlotte, joined by Hower and Bentley. He says he is eager to move on to college and a possible career in medicine, but music remains a part of his life.
“That will always be there,” he says.
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