Last year, when Regina Lanctot, the PTA president at Crossfield Elementary School, was looking for a way to reward students for raising enough money to purchase new computers in the school's computer lab, she turned to principal Jerry Kovalcik.
"I wanted to do something goofy, something that the kids would really enjoy," Lanctot said. The PTA president figured a shaved head or a pie-in-the face gag might do the trick, but Kovalcik had other ideas.
"I could sing for the students," she remembers him telling a group of administrators and teachers. Lanctot thought the principal was kidding. He wasn't. Sure enough, a few weeks later, at the school's annual outdoor family picnic, Kovalcik was up on stage singing. Only this was no gag, because he brought his entire band, The Point Break Band, with him and provided the day's entertainment.
"I had no idea he could sing, let alone play so many instruments," a laughing Lanctot said. "Nobody did, we were all floored. He was so good and he had a real band that plays in clubs and bars. What principal do you know that has a full-fledged band?"
Jerry Kovalcik for one. "Yeah, I think I surprised a few members of my staff that day," Kovalcik said. "It was a lot of fun."
By day he roams the Crossfield halls, walkie-talkie in hand and a smile on his face, but what many students, parents and teachers might not know is that, Kovalcik, a 46-year-old father of three teen-age girls, spends much of his free time roaming the dimly-lit, smoke-filled stages of local Northern Virginia bars.
Shortly after his campus gig, Lanctot and Kovalcik's wife, Betty, whom he met five years ago at a bar during one his gigs, teamed up to surprise the singing principal with a message on the school's marquee. It read: "Dr. K Rocks!"
"I think it's important for kids to see the 'big boss' letting loose," Lanctot said. "It's great for them to see that teachers and principals have many sides to their personalities. The kids love it."
After his musical coming out party, Kovalcik said he had many parents come up to him to say their children had heard 'Dr. K' on the radio. Kovalcik's band plays cover songs of other — more famous — artists, mostly classic rock and top-40 hits. "Their kids were hearing the songs that we played but they were hearing the real thing," he said. "The parents didn't have the heart to tell them that it wasn't me on the radio."
<b>A NATIVE NEW YORKER</b>, Kovalcik grew up in Garden City, Long Island. Kovalcik was one of seven musically-inclined brothers and sisters. His father was head of public information for Nassau County Public Schools, but Kovalcik never wanted to follow his dad's footsteps into school administration. Besides, Kovalcik said he was too busy getting himself into trouble when he was younger. He went to Catholic school until fifth grade when they politely told him that he ought to consider public school. "Yeah, I spent my fair share of time in Mother Superior's office for fooling around and acting out."
Music has always been an important part of Kovalcik's life, though he didn't begin taking any formal lessons until he was 16 years old. "My dad played the fiddle, but my mom couldn't carry a tune to save her life," he said. "My sisters and brothers and I used to ask her to sing just so we could laugh at her."
Despite his mother's lack of musical talent, Kovalcik said she thought it was very important that her children show an interest in music. It worked. Growing up, Kovalcik figured he would be a music teacher. Kovalcik's older brother still plays the flute and saxophone and his sister sings country western for a living.
"It's the creative side to my life, I know everyone thinks principals and teachers don't have lives outside of school, but it is important that we do," Kovalcik said, before a recent performance in Clifton. "I find this side of me very fulfilling. Who knows, maybe I'll be making music when I retire."
Kovalcik says it is important that he enjoys his work, otherwise the job can be too overwhelming. "You've got have fun with this job," he said. "I certainly didn't get in this business for the big bucks."
The band's biggest payday was a $500 second-place check in a Loudoun County Battle of the Bands competition. Most weekend gigs net the band a few hundred dollars for several hours of work, he said.
<b>KOVALCIK JOINED</b> the ragtag garage band, then called WMOB (White Men on Beer), 10 years ago on a whim. Prior to joining the band, Kovalcik had never performed on any stage. "We weren't very good," he said, "In fact, we were pretty rough, but it has always been fun."
The band remained underground, practicing in basements and garages for five years before taking their act public. It wasn't until about two years ago that Kovalcik said he realized the group was getting good. "We just sort of started to click," he said. "All that practice paid off, I guess. Now we are pretty confident when we take the stage."
Today, The Point Break Band has an agent and plays regular weekend gigs at bars and clubs around Northern Virginia.
Kovalcik jams along with 40 and 50 somethings: guitarist and vocalist Frank Trocolli, bass player Bill Reagle, female vocalist Jessie Reagle, guitarist Jesse Farthing and drummer Rick Stride. Recently the all-male group welcomed their first female member, Reagle, who is Bill's 21-year-old daughter and a James Madison University student. It has given it some much needed female perspectives, band members said. "We're just an eclectic group of guys from all walks of life," Kovalcik said. "Nobody talks it more seriously than they should."
"And we all know that this is it," Trocolli added. "We won't be hitting the road anytime soon."
"Yeah, nobody is going to be a rock star anytime soon," Bill Reagle said, laughing.
Kovalcik, who Trocolli called the "even-tempered one of the group," is not the only one who moonlights as a part-time lounge act. Trocolli is a telecom marketer. Stride owns a home heating company. Farthing works for Bell Atlantic and the senior Reagle is an accountant.
On Saturday the college coed and the six middle-age men came together on an outdoor stage at an annual Clifton-area block party, dubbed, "Rocktoberfest." Playing tunes from Lenny Kravitz to Steve Miller and Melissa Etheridge to Matchbox 20, Point Break rocked the cul-de-sac of band member Trocolli. It was a nice change of pace, said Kovalcik. "We do this once every other year as a favor to Frank. I really like the hometown atmosphere with the kegs of beer on the sidewalk and babies in strollers and kids dancing up front," the principal, sipping a can of Icehouse beer, said shortly before taking the makeshift stage at the end of a driveway. "It's a big party where the neighbors can really let their hair down, at least after they get a few beers in them. It is certainly a different feel than our usual smoky joints full of 20 and 30 year olds looking for love in beer-soaked bars."