House Jacks Capture Students’ Attention

A cappella group with Shaker connections performs powerfully for whole school in two assemblies

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“How does the funk make you feel when it gets you out of class?”

A scream erupted in the audience today after Elliot Robinson, who sings bass for the House Jacks, asked that honest question.

In two seatings, the student body was entertained today by The House Jacks, five vocalists who, together, pack the sound of a full rhythm section into their performance. The group engaged the audience for an interactive experience.

The House Jacks, an a cappella group comprising Robinson, Deke Sharon, John Pointer, Nick Girard and Shaker alumnus Austin Willacy (’87), have been at the high school this week to workshop with vocal music students. They performed in concert last night in the Large Auditorium. Ticket proceeds will benefit Shaker’s vocal music education program. Robinson is Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Marla Robinson’s son.

“I’ve listened to them for a really long time and I’m a huge fan of a cappella groups,” said senior Kyle Whitlatch, a member of Men’s A Cappella, which opened yesterday’s concert for The House Jacks.  “Elliott [Robinson] sings all the bass stuff in the new ‘Pitch Perfect’ movie. They just have a lot of really good stuff to say. Compared to where we are, they’re where we aspire to be. They blend so well, they’re loose on stage and professional in every sense of the word.”

Group members use their voices to approximate the sounds of various instruments in their arrangements. Pointer overwhelmed the audience with masterful beat boxing. Beat boxing involves a vocalist reproducing drum beats and musical sounds ranging from cymbals to monkey squeals to trains using only voice, tongue and lips.  At one point, Girard lead the audience in a beat box symphony, conducting students by section from the stage.

“I’ve never seen [beat boxing] done live. That was very impressive the way the base and drum vocal worked together. That was powerful,” social studies teacher Tony Cuda said. Cuda, who studied jazz and music composition at Berklee College of Music, has played in an oldies rock band for 30 years. “There were only five of them, but it sounded like more,” he said.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was the beat boxing,” said freshmen Maggie Dant. “The guy that went to Shaker was the best, and the last song [‘Crazy’ by Gnarles Barkley] was best.”

The group is about to begin an international tour. Its music has aired on Monday Night Football, CNN and NBC’s The Sing Off. They have performed with Ray Charles, James Brown, The Pointer Sisters and LL Cool J.

“It was very creative,” said Dant. “The people were really talented.”

Campus and City Reporter Audie Lorenzo contributed reporting.

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