Tommy Ragen has nothing against public school. In fact, he loved his last principal. “Miss Tripi was really nice to me,” says Ragen of La Jolla Elementary’s Donna Tripi.
“She was really supportive of Tommy and allowed him to spend time on his his music,” says dad Frank, whose son just turned ten.
But the pre-teen singer/guitarist/songwriter had to pull out of the public school system after third grade when his career started blowing up. Tommy was nine when he was tapped to be the understudy of Zack in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s touring production of School of Rock. Tommy says the production reached out to him. “There were thousands of kids who tried out,” says Tommy of his L.A. auditions.
From August of last year through March, Tommy and the School of Rock production toured the country, playing one-or two-week stints at Chicago, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Cincinnati, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma City, and other cities. He is being looked at to take over the main role of Zack in the next Broadway version, when the current actor leaves this summer. “I made some really good friends there,” says Tommy.
Tommy continues to be home schooled as he prepares to appear in an independent movie, Chasing, about a reincarnated rock star, which is set to begin filming this summer in Vancouver. The film is directed by Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer, A.N.T. Farm, That’s So Raven).
Tommy Ragen, "Tokyo"
The four-foot-eight performer with the plaintive voice likes to keep his chops up. He’s recently played at the Pour House bar in Oceanside and at a street fair in Encinitas. He appears Thursday, May 24 at Lestat’s West and Sunday, May 26 at Riffs Studio in La Jolla.
“It’s a difficult industry,” admits father Frank Ragen about children in show business. “Once they get cast, kids can lose the gig if they get too tall or their voice changes.”
Frank says his son has a New York-based theatrical agent and a Southern California-based manager.
Tommy says he knows what to avoid going forward. “If I wanted to fill my lungs with smoke, I’d stand over a BBQ all day,” jokes Tommy. “I’ve seen people use drugs, people in San Diego. Once they get addicted, their careers are over.”
“We try and make it fun for him when he’s on the road,” says the elder Ragen. “The hardest part for him is to not be around his older sister and younger brother. When they see each other after months, they hug and cry.”
Frank tries to make sure Tommy sets aside time to write songs. “‘What About Me’ was about kids at lunch who were mean to me so I wrote a song about it,” Tommy tells the Reader. “‘Tokyo’ is about a friend of ours who had a lot of issues with her family and had to leave home.”
Tommy wrote “Chasing” when he was eight. That song will be included in the soundtrack in the upcoming Sean McNamara-directed movie named for Tommy’s song. His album, Tommy Ragen 9, is available on CD Baby and iTunes.