Jim Morrison and John Phillips went to George Washington High School. Mama Cass attended Hammond High School.
The lead musician of Foo Fighters lives right here in Alexandria. A group called VACO, and another called Infectious Organisms are both comprised of students from Alexandria schools and are making their mark.
Enter Jack's House, a group of students from three local high schools who have combined their talents to create a band that "mixes a Dave Matthews Band style of laid-back rock with hard-edged punk-influenced guitar sounds reminiscent of Blink-182 and The Foo Fighters, throwing the heavy-handed beats of hip-hop and R&B with a noticeable jazz groove."
Not your typical band.
Jack Bryant, a senior at T.C. Williams High School, is one of the founding members of the band. He started playing with Sam Dingman and Marshall Crook, also from T.C., back in 1999. Dingman and Crook have since graduated, but the group has evolved since then with five solid players.
Bryant started playing the trumpet in fourth grade, but switched to drums after getting braces. He became serious about drumming and started taking lessons from Washington, D.C. drummer Lawrence "Bubbles" Dean and U.S. Army Blues drummer Steve Fydik.
In more recent years, he has benefited from the direction of teachers at T.C. including Mrs Randall and Mr. Zazzara. "I've played with her [Mrs. Randall] and she's an awesome theory teacher," said Bryant.
Putting It Together
Even while Dingman and Crook were still playing, they started searching for other musicians and met Ricky Irby quite by accident while playing at a function for Irby's church.
Irby remembers that day and said, “One Sunday morning, my parents made me go to church when I really didn’t want to. I was sitting in the parking lot playing, mainly because of boredom, when Marshall came up to check me out. Soon after, Jack and [former Jack’s House sax player] Sam joined him. I recognized the three of them because they had just finished playing in a concert that the T.C. Williams jazz band had put on at the church that morning. It was amazing. I can still remember Jack pumping his fist and saying, ‘YEAH MAN!’ I thought it was so cool that someone else was enjoying my music.” Afterward, Irby exchanged numbers with the threesome in case they ever wanted to jam. Soon enough, Marshall did call him, and the rest is Jack’s House history.
Irby, who attends West Potomac High School, started playing music at an early age, making up music on a guitar given to him by his grandparents for his seventh birthday. He figured out how to play notes and chords by listening to songs on the radio. After awhile, he started putting words to it and singing. Eventually, he began to compose his own lyrics and many of the songs which the band plays are originals from Irby.
Irby brought in his friend, Peter Larkin, a Mount Vernon High School student. Larkin grew up with Irby and said that it was because of Irby that he decided to start playing the guitar. They started playing together and formed a "neighborhood garage band" called "Haywire." It only lasted for a short time and it was shortly thereafter that they both got together with the Jack's House band.
Larkin is known in the group as being a "tube freak," he is "fascinated by the mechanical breakdown of how everything works." As lead guitar he's able to compliment the chords played by Irby, enabling them to move from playing only cover songs to writing songs of their own.
Javarus Ford, singer who has graduated from T.C. Williams, joined Jack's House in the spring of 2000. He sent the group a demo of "There's Something" and it clicked. They have since taken that song and collaborated on it as a group.
Ford said, "I was in fifth grade when I first realized I was an alright singer. Mariah Carey was my favorite female signer at the time and since I was still so young, my voice was high enough to sing right along with her. Being able to sing along with such a good vocalist gave me the mental boost to join my church choir the following year."
Although he was shy as a child, as his singing progressed his confidence rose. By the time he reached high school he had the confidence to "sing anytime, anywhere and in front of anyone." Mrs. Randall also was a factor in his musical development in that she taught him different breathing techniques that helped him improve his range and ability to hold notes.
"Thanks to her advice and the advice of all the people through the years, I can say that every day I sing, I get just a little bit better or a little bit stronger," said Ford.
Dave Maniscalco, bass player from T.C. Williams, is the newest member of the band. He replaced Crook when he went to college. As the son of an accordionist, he began playing the clarinet in fourth grade. His musical background evolved over the years and has played the bassoon, the electric guitar and bass guitar. The bass remains Maniscalco's primary instrument and he blends in well with the rest of the group.
Since the band's been together, they have played at various church and school functions in the areas as well as Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield. Bryant said that they have gone around with VACO, and said, "They have been awesome to us."
Jack's House most recently played at Washington Street United Methodist Church and the Alexandria Scholarship Fund Telethon. They're not sure when their next gig will be but information can be found on their website, www.jackshouse.com.