Ten-year-old Jahari introduces himself with an unexpected cool kid swagger: “My name is Jahari Cemi Parrish, initials J.C.P.” Living in Montclair, New Jersey, Jahari is a drummer whose musical interest was born listening to his dad, Norman Parrish, beatbox. Jahari (who has an impressive beatbox himself) showed a knack for drumming when he younger. Not only was he beatboxing, his father says, “He was banging on stuff all the time. He couldn’t eat without using his knife and fork as drumsticks at the dinner table.” Jahari’s mom, Shani Saxon-Parrish, thought maybe he had a penchant for drumming.
Currently a fifth grader at the Watchung School in New Jersey, Jahari also attends the School of Rock in Montclair. Jahari explains, “It’s basically a school where a bunch of kids play different instruments like piano, drums, guitar, bass. And there are singers. You have lessons there. There’s a level called Rock 101. Then there’s the performance group, a level up.” Jahari plays in the performance group on a drum set called Tama, the same brand used by Lars Ulrich of Metallica.
“I like to play three different styles of music. I like to play rock, metal and hip-hop,” says Jahari. The drummer is arguably the most important member in any band as he keeps the music on beat. And in his audition for the School of Rock, his parents were told that their son had natural timing. Jahari’s first performance in front of an audience was exciting for him. “I wasn’t scared, I was nervous.” Preparation and parents who support and encourage him perhaps instill his fortitude. “My mom tells me to do my best when I perform, and I practice every day. My dad made that schedule,” he says.
When asked if he thinks he wants to become a professional drummer when he grows up he says, “Yes, actually.” Keeping his goal in mind, Jahari respects the focus of his daily regime. “I usually get home from school around 3:30-4ish. I wash my hands right when I get home. I get a snack. I do my homework, and then I practice my drums.” Hard work does not come without some challenge. “In the summer, I used to practice at 11 in the morning, which really wasn’t okay because I was still tired. But practicing late would wake up my babysister.”
“Talent without work ethic is just a wasted gift,” Jahari’s father states. “We didn’t push anything on to him. We listened to the cues he was giving, which is how we raise our children.” The young percussionist has three siblings: a big sister, Sasha, 15; a brother, Tahir, 8; and Layla, 2.
Admirably, this generation of kids tends to speak more about the spirit of a thing than the thing itself. When asked “what is the key to being a good drummer?,” Jahari says, “I think it’s good to make people happy about themselves, enjoy themselves and have fun. I have fun myself.” What does Jahari look forward to most? “People asking for your autograph.”
Cool List from the Coolest: Jahari Parrish
Drummer: “I like Jay Z’s performance drummer, Tony Royster Jr.”
Rapper: Big Daddy Kane
Metal Band: Lamb of God
Rock band: Foo Fighters
Singer: Michael Jackson
Book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Movie: Despicable Me
Drum set: Tama
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.