Parkway Central freshmen express their love of music

J-TAL performs on stage, with Jeff Dicker on keyboard, Tal Halperin on drums, Josh Mannis on guitar and vocals, and Jacob Ballard on bass (right to left). In addition to other shows, J-TAL performed at their eighth grade graduation. 

BY Hannah Snidman, Sophomore at Ladue Horton Watkins High School

On the heels of the Jonas Brothers and One Direction, a new boy band has emerged from the halls of Parkway Central High School.

Freshmen band J-TAL was formed by drummer Tal Halperin, bassist Jacob Ballard, singer/guitarist Josh Mannis and keyboardist Jeff Dicker. Able to play a number of instruments, band members decided to put their musical talents together at a rock academy known as Fazio’s Frets and Friends.

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“Last winter we went to Fazio’s where kids create a band together and go for lessons,” said 15-year-old Tal, who attends Congregation B’nai Amoona. “We were all musicians, we were all really good friends, and we decided to just make a band together.”

At Fazio’s Rock Academy, each band is assigned an instructor who guides the students. J-TAL’s instructor helped the band not only with its music but also its name.

“We were sitting at Fazio’s one day arguing over a name,” said 15-year-old Jacob, a congregant at Congregation Shaare Emeth. “The band director asked us to put our names together and came up with J-TAL.”

During band rehearsal, J-TAL members suggest ideas for songs. As a group, the band then determines together which will work best. Josh and Jeff became friends in preschool and then befriended Tal and Jacob at Parkway Central Middle School. Together, their friendship supports a team-oriented dynamic.

“We go through all the songs we do, and as a team we see the spot we can improve on,” Tal said. “Since we’re friends, we can be open about whether someone’s doing something wrong.”

In addition to performing at Fazio’s Rock Academy, J-TAL has appeared at the Chesterfield Arts Talent Bash, the Parkway Central Middle School’s Talent Show, and the school’s Eighth Grade Graduation. The band enjoys playing for larger audiences.

“The Chesterfield Arts was my favorite because it was a big crowd,” said 15-year-old Jeff, who attends United Hebrew Congregation. “I think we can get bigger if we keep playing for more people in larger crowds.”

While the band does not currently have an upcoming performance scheduled, its members plan to continue searching for new audiences to entertain.

“We’re trying to find more places to perform; we’re open to anything really,” Tal said. “I think we’re going to try to get gigs wherever we can.”

Even after numerous performances, Josh admitted that he still becomes somewhat nervous before going onstage. To settle their nerves, the boys relax together before the show.

“We’ll meet backstage and do an acoustic version of our song,” said 14-year-old Josh, who is  also a congregant at Shaare Emeth. “Tal will play the drums on a table or something.”

Although the band does not perform Hebrew songs, Tal and Josh play with other Jewish musicians. Tal played for Dave Simon (who has a rock academy in Olivette) and the Israeli Scouts of America, and Josh played guitar at the Jewish sleepaway camp, Sabra.

“I’ve always wanted to be a song leader at Camp Sabra,” Josh said. “I played guitar in my bar mitzvah and I play with (noted Jewish musician) Rick Recht a lot.”

A variety of music genres inspire the band members. During a performance, however, J-TAL focus on the kinds of music that appeal to their fans. In some songs, band members incorporate improvised solos to give their music a unique twist.

“We always get into our music, play what [the fans] want to hear, and we always engage our friends in the music,” Tal said. “They get up and clap, we add our own spin on the song, and then we start jamming off of it in the middle and add solos.”

J-TAL has performed many songs, including “All The Small Things” by Blink-182, “We Are Young” by Fun., and “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz. Both the audience and the band members favor some songs over others.

“Our best song is probably ‘Glad You Came’ by the Wanted,” Josh said. “We all like the song, it’s really fun to play, and we’ve worked with it for a while.”

Even outside of official practices, J-TAL works hard to perfect its songs. Music does not just affect their experiences with their band, but touches their entire lives.

“I want a good reaction from the crowd,” Josh said. “We work so hard in our music, so when people see us playing, it’s really cool.”