School of Rock: South Park principals, teacher, parent perform together in band
Two principals, a teacher and a parent walk into a bar, and the crowd goes wild.
It’s a typical Saturday night for members of The 412 District, a band comprised of four guys with ties to South Park School District.
“We want to keep it light, fun and motivational,” said drummer Rob Furman, 46, of South Park, principal at South Park Elementary Center.
Formed in 2013, the band now performs across the area playing covers of everything from country to rock in a genre they call “Heinz 57.”
In 2019, they began releasing their own original songs, each with an intended message. So far, they have released five songs including“Stronger Than Hate,” about the strength of Pittsburgh after the Tree of Life tragedy, and “Rise Up,” which encourages listeners to be the change they want to see in the world.
Six years ago, vocalist Kevin Monaghan, 51, of North Strabane, principal at South Park Middle School, had the idea to have a group of district employees and their friends perform at a kick-off event for an anti-bullying program his school was launching.
The event, which took place at Broughton Fire Hall, drew more than 500 people from the community. The band, known then as The Monahams, a name selected by the students, performed everything from Taylor Swift to Hootie & The Blowfish.
“It was amazing. They loved it,” Furman said.
Parents in the audience asked the band to play for South Park Township Community Day and at other school events, such as the Scholastic book fair.
In the early days, members of the band came and went. But throughout, Monaghan, who had previously performed in church, and Furman, a former band director, became close friends.
“We just love music,” Monaghan said.
They continued to perform at school events. Then, parents started requesting they do a few shows just so everyone could enjoy a fun evening out.
The band began performing evening shows on the weekends at spots such as Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Grill in West Mifflin, Hofbrauhaus, Steel Cactus and Crafhouse Stage & Grill.
They chose the name The 412 District and have been using their shows as a way to connect with the community ever since.
Their three-hour set includes everything from classic rock to deep country.
“We run the gamut,” Furman said. “We really do try and stretch ourselves.”
The band, which practices in Furman’s parents’ South Park basement, has had its current makeup for about a year, since Jonathan Weisbrod, 42, whose children attend South Park, joined as bass player. The band also includes middle school applied engineering and technology teacher Alex Whittington, 28, of North Huntingdon, who plays guitar.
After performing covers for several years, band members wanted to “take it to the next level,” Furman said.
They started writing their own songs and have 16 so far.
They put meaning and messages into their original music, which can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.
Monaghan was brought to tears as he talked about the song “Stand,” which he wrote about his dad.
“We have a deep message about who we really are as people and what we cherish,” he said of their original songs.
The band has started to incorporate their original songs into their sets and have future plans to release an album titled, “Faith, Family, Friends and Freedom.” They also plan to play a show in Philadelphia this summer during the International Society for Technology in Education conference.
“I want more people to experience our originals and what we have to say,” Monaghan said. “Listen to the words — they’re real and they’re something that people can relate to.”
For more about the band, visit the412district.com.