Although many may be unaware, Collegiate is home to a plethora of students with spectacular musical talent and ability. Several are singers, jazz ensemble players, guitar players, or other musicians, and yet still manage to maintain a successful, assiduous lifestyle at Collegiate. In particular, there are four current seniors and a sophomore who have taken their love for music to the next level: they are members of the band Paddle Faster.
The band’s history goes back to 2012, when current seniors Jimmy Melnick, John Cantor, and Thompson Oney would jam in Cantor’s basement. They started playing together after Melnick got a new guitar for Christmas and wanted to experiment playing with other people. They would jump around instruments, as Cantor and Oney both have the capability to play the drums in addition to the guitar and bass. Quickly, they realized they could all play pretty well together but did not have their first gig until their sophomore year, when Melnick and Oney played at the Interact Music Festival, an annual event at held at Collegiate by the Interact Club. The event showcases Collegiate musicians and gives them a chance to play in front of a crowd, putting on a full display of the array of musical talent at Collegiate.
In the middle of their junior year in 2014, the three guys decided to take their talent to the next level, as they joined up with William Bennett (‘16) and Thomas Hungerford (‘15) to play at the 2015 Interact Music Festival. It was with these five guys that the band was formed, with Bennett on the keys and cowbell and Hungerford on the bass and guitar. When asked about their invitation to Bennett and Hungerford to play alongside, Melnick explained that, “We didn’t want to go all through high school not having done anything with our musical talent as a group, so we decided to form a band.” Oney and Cantor switched off from guitar and bass to drums, and Melnick provided the vocals and acoustic guitar.
After the Interact Music Festival in the spring, the band started playing often at Rare Olde Times Public House, an Irish pub on the corner of Patterson Avenue and Pump Road, and started to display their talent to a wider range of people. In the summer of 2015, the band decided to invite Zach Bostic (‘18), a drummer, to start playing with the band to replace Hungerford, who graduated that spring. It made things easier for the band, as it prevented Cantor and Oney from having to switch off on the drums and made life less stressful, as often times one of the band members would be out of town during a summer gig. Cantor praises the addition of Bostic, stating, “Although I have been playing drums for thirteen years, Zach is still ten times better than me.” The gigs at Rare Olde Times led to parents requesting the band to play at parties and functions all across Richmond and beyond, as they even played in Washington D.C. this winter for a birthday party.
There is a culmination of combined musical experience among the senior band members, as each one of them has been playing for a long time and have their own individual talents. Melnick, a member of the varsity football and baseball teams, has been playing the guitar since second grade, and played John Butler Trio’s “Ocean”, a well-known, beautifully crafted, and challenging song for his senior speech, as many Collegiate students may remember.
Oney, a member of the Collegiate squash and baseball teams, has been playing the guitar since eighth grade. When asked about playing in a high school band and finding the time to practice with the band as well as on his own, he stated that, “It is very fun and an awesome hobby and finding the balance can be challenging when people have a lot going on.”
Cantor is not only a talented musician but also a very impressive visual artist. He has been playing the drums since kindergarden and started the guitar in first grade. He is also known for his spectacular ability to create loops and beats with guitar, bass, and drums through the use of his computer. Many will remember his stunning senior speech performance where he created loops with his guitar and computer to create a groovy beat.
Bennett, a cross country and track star, is well-known for his extraordinary drawing ability. He is publishing a graphic novel called The Savage Lyrics, where he is the illustrator (pre-orders are currently sold out, but you can check back HERE for orders, or you can come to his book signing at Velocity Comics on Friday, Feb. 26). He started playing the piano in kindergarten and quit in second grade, but picked it back up in seventh grade and has been playing ever since. When asked what his favorite part about being in a high school band was, Bennett said, “Playing music with other people is a really fun experience, especially if it’s in front of an audience. I’m just really glad that there is a group of people my age that all enjoy collaborating and working hard to perform songs well.”
Paddle Faster describe themselves as playing, “a wide variety of southern rock, reggae, blues, and personal favorites.” A typical set list ranges from classic southern rock songs like “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers or “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, to classic rock songs like Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” or “Who Knows,” to Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.” The band also dives into the jam band genre with songs such as “Down with Disease” by Phish or “The Garden (Part III)” by Tea Leaf Green. However, the band plays some relatively newer alternative such as “The Less I Know the Better” by Tame Impala or “Gold on the Ceiling” by the Black Keys. The band will then ease out the audience some with some Slightly Stoopid or a classic “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.
The band’s next gig is at the Interact Music Festival on February 27 in Burke Hall at Collegiate. They also have plans to play at James Madison University and at Hampden-Sydney College in the spring. If you are looking to contact them to play at a function or event, you may contact Melnick or other members of the band through email.
Watch a performance of theirs from last summer at Rare Olde Times below.