Four young musicians are on stage, rocking out at The Theatre of Living Arts (TLA), a popular concert venue on Philadelphia's South Street. The band is playing "City Limits," one of their original songs, for a crowd that includes more than 100 Franklin & Marshall alumni—longtime friends, fellow Chi Phi brothers and many other alumni they have befriended since graduation.
They are Flightschool, a Philly-based rock band that formed at F&M several years ago and has since made a name for itself across the Mid-Atlantic region. Band members Chris van Roden '10 (guitar), Jordan King Haddad '11 (vocals and guitar), Sam Morris '12 (drummer) and John Lalley (bass) perform regularly at venues in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, but their roots go back to Lancaster.
In the beginning, Flightschool starting playing casually at the Chi Phi house, played at senior countdown events and performed at Spring Arts Weekend. They named themselves after F&M's aviation flight school during World War II. Other F&M alumni have also played with the group through the years, including Ben Litvinas '11, Lorenzo Daughtry-Chambers '11 and Dan Jacobs '10.
"Initially we just played cover songs, and then we started writing music," van Roden says.
The band describes their original music as blues and funk-based rock-and-roll, drawing inspiration from other live music on campus and at their fraternity, as well as a music history course that Haddad and van Roden took together with Associate Professor of Music Sylvia Alajaji.
"I attribute our approachability and confidence as musicians to our well-rounded education," says Haddad, who also gained musical experience by performing with The Chessmen, an all-male a cappella group on campus.
Following graduation, Flightschool continued playing locally in Philadelphia for a crowd consisting of mostly alumni. "The first few gigs were like an F&M reunion," says van Roden. "The alumni were a real catalyst to get us off the ground."
Over time, a larger fan base formed. John Cascio '10 is a friend of the group and a big fan. "Each time they return to D.C., their skills and venues improve. Every time I've seen them play, a great crowd of F&M 'groupies' gathers to catch up, revel in our campus glory days and hear the band's latest hits."
Recently, Flightschool opened for the band Cabinet and played at Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa. At TLA in Philadelphia, they did a "double release show" with Dock Street Brewery, owned by the family of Sasha Certo-Ware '11; the brewery released a beer named after one of the band's new songs.
"I've been a huge fan of Flightschool since they played on Hartman Green when I was in college. I've gone to every show of theirs I can," says Tyler Bisset '11, who lives in New York City. "Whenever they're in town, it's never a question what my friends and I will be doing that night—we know we'll be seeing them perform. I love their music."
The band members practice regularly in the basement of Haddad's parents, who are professional musicians. "Jordan's parents supported us from the get-go. So I'm 28, and I practice music in my friend's parents' basement," van Roden says with a laugh. The band members each have full-time jobs in Philadelphia, while playing at night and on the weekends.
Members of Flightschool often reminisce about F&M. "We all miss it, we talk about Dear Old F&M all the time," says van Roden. "It was and continues to be a tight-knit community. We are so appreciative of the F&M community's support to date and in days to come."