Sandy High senior project overcomes the odds and pulls off Led Zeppelin's music

For high school students, it’s one thing to put a band together and write some songs. It’s altogether different for them to put a band together to faithfully play the music of Led Zeppelin, and then perform the music in front of an audience. Sandy High School Senior Jed Dyal took his near obsession with the music of Led Zeppelin and parlayed it to his Senior project: a cover band called Jed Zeppelin.

That’s exactly what Sandy High School senior Jed Dyal and three friends did for his senior project. They formed a cover band and named it Jed Zeppelin.

Why would a group of high school kids want to take the senior project, a program designed to let students select an area of interest and then build a project that gives them in-depth knowledge and experience within that area, and simply put a band together and play a concert? The short answer is, there is nothing simple about it.

“I decided that I should one-up every senior project that ever was,” Dyal said. “Kids find the easiest thing to do for their senior project, but this was the most stress I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Dyal, 18, first picked up the guitar at 14. He speaks with the intelligent cockiness required of any aspiring rock star. In this area, he delivers.

“I wanted to leave the high school shaking at its knees,” he said of the concert the band played at an assembly just before spring break. “I don’t want anyone to be able to top what we did, and from what I see they won’t be able to. I like to say, ‘If there’s one thing I know, it’s rock 'n' roll.’”

A note to the uninitiated: When Led Zeppelin emerged as a heavy blues-rock act in 1968, it was a sound unlike anything that had ever been recorded. The band's mix of intricate pentatonic scale riffs, moody bass lines and majestic, engine room-style drums, mixed with a guttural, wailing vocal personality, sounded as though the origins of the universe itself had bubbled out of a crack in the sky and soaked all that is seen and unseen in a rich broth of soul and thunder.

And that was only their first album.

This is not simple garage music, easy to pull off with three chords and a bad drum kit. In certain circles, the music of Zeppelin represents the Holy Grail. To pull off the music, the performers need to be solid. To this end, Dyal was not random in his selection of band members. For drums and guitar, he enlisted the help of 17-year-old James Page (yes, that is his real name — the same as legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page). He plays both instruments well. And he should. He comes from a musically talented family, according to Dyal.

“I’d say all Pages are born with an internal metronome and six years of experience,” he said.

Quiet, with a head of 1970s long hair, Page plays the drum solo from the song “Moby Dick,” a highly esteemed piece of rock 'n' roll history, pretty much flawlessly. Then he sits down with an acoustic guitar and plays and sings the song “That’s the Way,” an ethereal and melodic ballad from Zeppelin’s third album. When he lets loose with the epic solo from the song “Heartbreaker,” Dyal falls to his knees and begins to worship at Page’s feet.

The pretend worship is common among lovers of Zeppelin, and both Page and Dyal share an admitted obsession for the band and its music.

To play bass guitar, Dyal recruited his lifelong friend, 18-year-old Stewart Wilent, who before Jed Zeppelin had never really played an instrument. In fact, he made learning to the play bass his senior project.

Apparently I’m a quick learner,” Wilent said.

For the vocals, Dyal found 16-year-old Katie Froelich, a choir student. He said she knew a couple Zeppelin songs, and so one day in math class he turned around and invited her to try out for the project. When she sang the soulful and seductive “What is and What Should Never Be,” Dyal said he stopped her and said it wasn’t right.

“She started out really strong on the first notes,” he said. “So I told her it wasn’t right. I asked her to do it again, and to mumble this time.”

When she tried again, Dyal played the actual track of Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant singing at the same time, and he said her voice blended with the original track just right.

“I heard Plant in her voice, and I knew she was the one,” he said.

The real value of a senior project

Much more than a concert, Dyal explains the ups and downs of pursuing such a project. He said he ended up learning how to manage a group, deal with the logistics of a major stage production, work around bureaucracy and overcome resistance from authorities who otherwise would have him do something a little more normal for a senior project.

“There are people at that school who do not like rock 'n' roll,” he said. “The administrators were on me about everything.”

Dyal said he encountered resistance from administrators who not only didn’t trust him with the lighting equipment, they tried to charge him $900 to rent the auditorium.

“I told them that I’m not trying to betray anyone, I just want to spread rock 'n' roll,” he said.

The $900, Dyal was told, is the standard fee the school charges any act to rent the auditorium for a show. He suspects this was a move to try and make it prohibitive for him to realize the concert.

“That’s when McG stepped in,” Dyal said, referring to Sandy High School music teacher Robert McGlothin. “The administrators came to him and said Jed Zeppelin wasn’t going to happen, and McG said, ‘You don’t understand, this is a senior project.'”

Dyal said McGlothin put together an itemization of all expenses required for the Jed Zeppelin show. The bottom line came to around $34. The concert was on.

Now that the project is complete, and his band mates plan to continue with music, but admit they should come up with a different name. Still, they remain obsessed with their namesake.

“It’s gotta be why I’m into it so much,” Dyal said, “because they were innovators.”

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