NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - For many musicians, getting a jump start on their talent is one of the keys to success. One local band now has a pint-sized performer who's a second-grader by day and a rock star by night.
That New Orleans-born band has entertained crowds for 28 years, from festivals and fairs to sporting events and private parties. In 2015, they put on 120 shows. Behind the scenes, that amounts to a lot of hours of makeup, face painting and costuming to transform four musicians into the Bag of Donuts.
They're regular guys with regular jobs. Bobby Hoerner is a geriatric social worker. Jerry Christopher is an independent financial services professional. Kevin George is a fitness instructor. Jonathan Hoerner is a photograher and videographer.
But their latest addition is an elementary school student. Eight-year-old Dublin Hoerner is the newest band member, and does he put on a show. He even travels with the band sometimes, recently performing in Breckenridge, Colorado during a college ski trip.
Dublin loves the crowds.
"I've already played in front of 12,000 peopl at Champions Square," he said.
His dad, Bobby Hoerner, is the lead singer. His uncle, Jonathan Hoerner, plays guitar. They say they realized it was in Dublin's blood when he was just a toddler.
"Amanda and I realized this was clicking when we'd go home and he'd sing all the songs," says Bobby Hoerner. "He could barely talk, but he'd sing the songs all day, every day."
Dublin started going on stage during gigs a few years ago and gradually got more involved.
His dad says, "It's kind of amazing that it doesn't frighten him, because a lot of people walk out there and freeze. It's a natural thing to be scared of that, but to see someone so young, so into it who seemingly doesn't have fear, that's kind of interesting to watch. I can say as a father, he's such a sweet kid, too."
Behind the makeup and the costume, which Dublin pulls together almost entirely by himself, is a little boy who loves entertaining.
"I just saw my daddy, and I was like, I wonder what it's like to get on stage? And when he let me on stage, it just felt so cool, I just kept doing it," says Dublin.
But he also loves school. When asked how much, he replied, "Like at least a million percent."
His second-grade teacher at St. Francis Xavier in Metairie says he has an enthusiasm for learning, but she says he is by no means a performer in class like he is on stage.
"He's very shy, totally opposite," says teacher Denise Dwyer. "I've seen pictures of him on stage, but in class, he's very serious about his work."
His parents call that studious attitude a prerequisite to performing on stage.
Bobby Hoerner says, "Music's important, but you've got to be smart and get your education. That leads to everything else."
Dublin knows his grades matter. He says, "I do pretty well. Last time on my report card, with test papers, I had all A+ 100's but I just had one C."
And that means he can sing his little heart out. The band members love having him on stage.
"He definitely steps it up whenever he's up on stage," says guitarist Jonathan Hoerner. "He makes it easy. We push him to the front and we stay in the back and don't have to do too much."
Guitarist Jerry Chrisopher says, "I feel like I'm just a side man on stage and he's got the show and we're totally cool with it."
Drummer Kevin George says they feed off of Dublin's natural ability to entertain.
"When Dublin gives me a thumbs up, I'm like, 'he said I'm doing good!' I get real excited," laughs George.
After nearly three decades of performing, they all consider Dublin their secret weapon. It's what they hope is the start of the next generation of donuts.
"Obviously when you live in New Orleans, there's so much passion about music and art and culture," says Bobby Hoerner. "So for him to be jumping on that so early, if this is an avenue for him to be engrossed in that and be nurtured, I think we want to try to do that as much as possible."