New music group forms — just don’t call it a band

BP Photo by Ariela Feitelberg

Leona Fallas, Senior Staff Writer

What do you get when you cross a toy piano, acoustic and electric guitars, a ukulele, a harmonica, and tambourines with some very creative teenagers?

It’s a trick question: they don’t know what to call it either.  Just don’t call it a band.

“I’m not in love with the word ‘band,’” said junior Kalil Eden, the founder and organizer of the group. “It evokes this image of four boys playing only guitars or bass, with a drummer. That’s really not us.”

For now, Kalil calls it Shalhevet’s “new musical enterprise.” With its eclectic mix of instruments, the group is experimenting with its own spin on rock classics – Jimmy Hendrix on harmonica is definitely unexpected, but the effect is feel-good, relaxing music with hints of Jason Mraz.

It has eight members representing all grades, and was practicing Tuesdays in the Beit Midrash until it got approval for a rock-out room of its own. As of Tuesday, Oct. 25, the band lives in Room 3 in the basement, directly across from the P.E. room.

The group will make its debut at the Annual Chanukah Concert Wednesday, Dec. 23, where the players will perform a piece in collaboration with the choir.

Kalil and Danny Silberstein, both juniors, came up with the idea for the new group back in September, when they were discussing how there wasn’t a musical outlet for students who liked to play instruments. Shalhevet had a chamber orchestra for many years, but new AP classes and other competing priorities took it off the schedule for the past two years.

Outside of school, Kalil and Danny are in a three-person band called The Planets and I, which mixes instruments like harmonicas or mandolins with guitars and bass to play alternative rock. They hoped a larger, similar band at Shalhevet could get more students involved.

“I’d love to contribute to the Shalhevet music legacy,” says Danny. “It has never had anything like this.”

Danny paired with Jordan Banafsheha to get approval for an instrument room, and Kalil found the musicians by making an announcement at Town Hall.

Along with Kalil, Danny and Jordan, fellow juniors Adir Hassid and Dylan Rochman, sophomores Eden Braunstein and Maya Rosenman, and freshman Alex Schwartz round out the group, which has more instruments than members – that is, most play several instruments.

A few of the students write their own music, but so far rehearsals have been dedicated to putting their own twist on Hendrix along with Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Train, and The Animals.

The musical ensemble is student-governed, operating without a faculty advisor. That being said, Music Appreciation teacher and Choir Director Joelle Keene has given the ensemble musical advice.

Mrs. Keene said she was “delighted and impressed” that a group had sprung up on its own, and that the boys leading it had found a time when people could rehearse in spite of the school’s crowded co-curricular schedule.

Without an adult to lead practices, the band is left to collaboration instead of instruction from one leader. Each member has input into what songs are played, and what role each instrument plays in different songs.

“It’s special having a bunch of kids in a room together just making music,” said Danny. “I think it’s kinda cool how it brings us together.”

Rehearsals look more like musical experimentation, with each member jumping in with his or her own instrument and finding the best way to add to a song. Words of encouragement from Danny or with help staying in tune from Kalil make sure the result becomes one cohesive song.

At an after-school rehearsal Tuesday, Oct. 11, the players stood clustered around the grand piano in the Beit Midrash. Danny commanded the rhythm section, keeping the beat with his foot and repeating “Bah bah bah bum,” so the guitar and bass players could stay on point.

Standing at the piano with his harmonica holder around his neck, Kalil interpreted the toy piano into musical language Eden could understand.

“That works perfectly – it’s in C anyway!” he exclaimed, happy that the 8-key keyboard had exactly the right notes to fit with what the group was playing.

Then, he intermittently played harmonica and showed Eden how each key on the toy instrument was a step on the musical scale. Once she picked up the key, he returned to the piano so she could make music on her own. The result seemed to please everyone in the group.

The new music room in the basement is strategically positioned to protect classes from noise, meaning the players can practice during the school day. With a drum set donated by band member Alex and bongo drums from Judaic teacher Jason Feld, it is just starting to look like a music room. The boys plan to have the space full of instruments in 2 weeks.

“What could be cooler than this?” Mrs. Keene said. “It’s something so off-beat and original, something that kids who want to play can just do, and that can soak up their talent and energy. I’m happy they’re letting me help them.”