Pacific Beach Elementary School teacher and parent David Sandler was an aspiring musician in his youth who only took his calling so far. Now, as informal manager of his son Evan’s up-and-coming band, Go Heads, Sandler hopes to see them all go where he never went before.
“I grew up playing piano and 30 years ago I was in a band named Cool Beans where we wrote all-original music and played at the Coaster Saloon and the Beachcomber,” said Sandler. “But we never did anything with it.
“Thirty years later, I was teaching my son and his friends, whose band literally just started from a talent show act. I ended up hauling them all over to my house after school, and I would teach them the songs that I played, a lot of my original music. And it just started from there. Then they started writing their own music.”
The Go Heads consist of Evan Sandler, Kory Watson, Noah Kapchinske, Drew Tolley and singer Brianna Eckenrod. The first three are now in college. The last two are still at Mission Bay High School, where Brianna sings, and Drew plays, for the school’s award-winning jazz band the Mission Bay Preservationists, under the tutelage of music instructor and MBHS alumnus J.P. Balmat.
The five young people are all serious about their music, say it is important to their lives and figures prominently in their future plans.
“We started off pretty much as a classroom band in third- or fourth-grade,” noted Tolley, who’s been playing drums since age 7. “I originally didn’t know what I was going to play, but my dad said, ‘Play the drums.’ My dad had a little backyard shed and he had a drum set out there and he taught me all the basic moves.”
“Our sound has matured since then,” said Kapchinske, adding he’s been playing guitar since age 8 and has studied under popular, high-profile local blues guitarist Robin Henkel. “I was first inspired to pursue music from hearing Johnny Cash and old country and rockabilly music. Then I got turned on to roots, jazz and blues. I really appreciate a lot of genres. I’ve been into bluegrass stuff lately.”
“Almost all of us were in Pacific Beach Elementary’s band,” pointed out Evan Sandler, discussing his musical taste. “Blues music is huge with all these amazing influences that really blends well with our style.”
Of what her singing means to her, Eckenrod said: “It’s this great form, experience, it’s something that comes from you. It’s your voice that’s inside of you, just a way to express yourself. When I was little I would zone out and start singing. I guess I didn’t sound too bad.”
“[Brianna] sang a capella in our Pacific Beach Elementary variety show,” David Sandler said, adding he was impressed. “I said, ‘She needs to be in these kids’ band.’ She was 9 or 10 years old.”
“I started playing guitar in second grade,” said Watson, noting David Sandler, “asked me if I wanted to play bass. I said, ‘Sure.’ That’s how it happened.”
“[Watson’s] also a great sax and clarinet player and plays with the Preservationists,” added David Sandler.
Of his guitar student, Kapchinske, blues-guitarist Henkel said: “Noah is talented, humble and enthusiastic. He’s polite and considerate. That, combined with his strong aptitude for music, is probably why he’s doing so well.”
Henkel added Noah, as a guitarist, “gets it.”
“When we explore the interrelation of various scales and harmonic devices I’ll ask him to compose something using those ideas,” Henkel added. “Each week he shows me a new tune in music notation with a demo-recorded version. He’s not just a guy in a band moving up quickly. He’s becoming a composer and arranger.”
David Sandler’s more than a manager to his son’s band. He added he’s not living vicariously through them, but rather delighting in guiding them down their own musical path.
“These kids are such a part of me,” he said. “They save my life in a way. I felt so empty after my era ended. I was going to school and getting my teaching credentials and master’s degree and starting a family. That just seemed to disappear for me. These kids just brought it back for me. It just fills my whole life to have them in my life.”
Concluded David Sandler: “Their music is such a part of me now I could never have imagined. They just went above and beyond. They’re so talented, so smart, so articulated. You always want your kids to be better than you. These kids are far better than I ever was.”
View a clip of the Go Heads performing at youtu.be/FNHjTmdXZtI.