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Student musician to open for Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden

Dylan Rockoff, DMSB'18, poses for a portrait on Sept. 12, 2016. Rockoff, a singer/songwriter, will open for Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

In September, following the release of his first album—which cracked the top 10 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart—Dylan Rockoff was excited about his early success, but said, “I’m not going to be satisfied until I’m playing Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people.”

Well, on Saturday—one year to the day after his album’s debut—Rockoff will get exactly that chance, opening for Bon Jovi at the famed New York City arena.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Rockoff, DMSB’18, said in the days leading up to his performance. “This was something that always felt like a pipe dream—until now.”

Rockoff clinched the coveted opening slot in a contest hosted by Bon Jovi and Live Nation. The contest invited area acts to submit videos of their performances, and the 10 videos that got the most “likes” online were compiled into a shortlist. Bon Jovi’s management chose the winner.

Each night on tour will feature a different opening act. Out of the thousands of musicians who applied, Rockoff was chosen for April 15. Though he was originally scheduled to perform on April 8, the weekend’s shows were postponed a week in order to give frontman Jon Bon Jovi time to recover from bronchitis.

Rockoff found out he’d won two weeks ago. When he called his mom—someone he’s described as “the biggest Bon Jovi fan in the world”—to share the good news, he found his manager had beat him to it.

“My mom picked up the phone and she was just sobbing, she was so happy,” he said.

As for Rockoff himself, the news still feels surreal.

“I grew up listening to Bon Jovi. His music, and music from that era, really shaped me as an artist,” he said. “I don’t think it will feel totally real until we’re up on stage, doing a sound check.”

Rockoff and his band—which includes Northeastern classmate Dillon Salkovitz, DMSB’18—will play at 7:30 p.m., performing songs from his debut album as well as one new one.

“I’m just excited to hear how we sound in that space,” he said of MSG. “I can’t even conceptualize what that might sound like, when that big of an arena is filled with that many people. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to play in front of 20,000 people, but overriding that is just mostly excitement.”

The opportunity, Rockoff said, has only encouraged him to work harder at trying to get his music “in front of as many people as possible.”

But what’s next for someone who, arguably, achieved his dream at the ripe age of 22?

“Headlining Madison Square Garden,” he said without hesitation.

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