Speed Check’s potential is worth checking out


Kelsey Riemer

Speed Check jams out during a practice session in Tutorial.

Archie Williams has a well-developed music program, and is home to numerous promising student bands. The members of Speed Check are the epitome of Performance Workshop alumni, and over their years at Archie Williams they have developed the skills necessary to form a band of their own.

Juniors Bennett James and Julian Marquit started Speed Check as freshmen. Together, they started practicing jazz-funk covers on their respective guitar and drums, and junior Tyler Wolin, who plays the keyboard, quickly joined them. Sophomore Noah Casey, the only member currently in Performance Workshop, is their third bassist and joined the band in 2021. Additionally, they’ve played with saxophonists in the past and hope to coordinate with one in the future. 

After several years of experimentation, Bennett described Speed Check as a “jam band,” complete with lengthy solos and a general jazz-funk fusion vibe, derived from their individual music tastes. Combining their own influences has been a game-changer in creating their unique sound. Speed Check is an accomplished long-term project that, surprisingly, was started without a clear objective.

Bennett James practices the electric guitar during a tutorial. (Kelsey Riemer)

“We don’t really have a big goal, we just come here to have a nice time,” Tyler said. Participation in the band is more of a hobby than a serious commitment as Tyler, Bennett and Julian will graduate in 2024. They all plan to keep music in their lives, but Speed Check may not survive the transition to college. Currently, Noah holds jam sessions weekly, which offer escape from the frenzy of life in high school.  Due to Speed Check’s natural and easy-going nature, members aren’t even planning to market it as experience on their resumes or on college applications, and instead view the band as a creative outlet.

“Less of it for us is, you know, like playing gigs,” Bennett said. “And more of it is just sort of playing together.” 

Unfortunately, the band struggled to continue progressing during the pandemic, which impacted their ability to practice and collaborate. 

“It was kind of rough because there was a big space of a few months where we did not practice at all. When we were finally able to get back together, I think everyone was vaccinated at this point and we had masks on, but we were far apart,” Bennett said.

Communication itself was a barrier as well as playing music with a spread-out group.  Rehearsals had to be held outside which required transportation and unique setup of equipment. However, once the band was able to start practicing again and with a new bassist, they made up for lost time.

None of the band members’ musical careers began in Performance Workshop, and unsurprisingly, music has played an influential role in all of their lives. 

“[I’ve been involved in music for] probably like 10 years, I’ve been playing piano since I was little,” Tyler said. 

Tyler is not the only member with extensive music experience. Julian has been drumming since he was in sixth grade, and Noah has also been involved in music for over five years and is a part of eight other bands. The influence of music goes back even further, with exposure to different instruments and genres coming from parents or family friends. 

“My dad is a very, very big musician. He has played the flute and keyboards his whole life, so he got me started, and I’ve always had a good musical ear because of him,” said Julian.

Speed Check mostly focuses on learning and playing covers, meaning that musical inspiration is also derived from other successful artists. Famous musicians and their sometimes lesser-known instrumentalist collaborators have helped to shape the band and their sound through their discography and individual abilities.

Famous guitarists like Isaac Wood of Black Country, New Road and Jimi Hendrix have had a particular impact on Bennett. Their inspiration has helped him to learn more ways to experiment with his guitar as well as expressing himself through his music.

“I think that [listening to them] sort of opened the door for me like, I don’t just have to play guitar like this, ” said Bennett. “I like the simplicity and emotion of [their playing].”

While Speed Check has played together for over three and a half years, they performed for the first time this summer. On Aug. 6, all four supported a local band at Deer Creek, debuting their original song “Water Droplet” and entertaining the crowd with covers, including Vulfpekc’s “Beastly” and “Red Baron” by Billy Cobham. Even though there was quite a large audience, the band’s previous performance experience in Performance Workshop allowed all of the members to relax and have fun. 

“They asked for an encore, and we didn’t know any other songs,” Noah said.

Noah Casey play the bass while smiling in tutorial. (Kelsey Riemer)

The successful gig helped band members get excited about performing in the future.

However, opportunities for performance preparation are limited, as finding time to rehearse is a struggle. With Julian and Bennett mountain biking, Tyler skiing and Noah rehearsing with eight other bands, they can only practice together once a week. While Speed Check works on crafting their own melodies and lyrics, there isn’t enough time to record originals, and it isn’t a current priority. Unfortunately, none of Speed Check’s songs are available for streaming, but the band hopes to share them through performances in the future. 

Other past or present student artists at Archie Williams have faced similar challenges. Despite the difficulty of balancing life and music, several have performed and released their own songs, such as alum Bella Andrews with her single “Remedy” and senior Emerson Grace with his album “Counting by Twos.” 

“I think definitely it is a good space for musicians to be introduced to each other and really get a taste of what the school has to offer in terms of musicianship,” Bennett said. 

Being able to meet and collaborate with other students who share the same passions allows students to learn from each other, as well as start projects of their own. Performance Workshop is a unique and impactful offering at Archie Williams that encourages  musicians to pursue their interest both in and outside of school. The class allowed Speed Check to band together with other student musicians, and prepared the group for their future.