Hernandez Takes on a Different Stage


When you think of a band, what’s the first group that comes to mind? The Beatles? Queen? The Rolling Stones? Something Modern? What about Allie and The Kats?

 Gianluis Hernandez (‘20) is an artist. You may have seen him acting in either a previous play, perhaps as Hansel in Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, or in one of the biannual acting showcases. However, his passion for the arts doesn’t stop there. Gianluis Hernandez also plays jazz and the blues on the piano with his band, Allie and The Kats.

  When he was young, Gianluis used to play with a friend who owned a keyboard. When his mother noticed him playing songs by ear, she suggested he take lessons. “You have to kind of keep on playing until it sounds right, even if you mess up. You just kind of have to find which note is right.”

  Until middle school, Gianluis took on and off lessons. “Once I started getting into 7th and 8th grade, I started getting more into it, getting into a band, doing stuff like that, going to battle of the bands, going up to Memphis to perform up there for Blues which is kind of like jazz.”

 He joined Allie and the Kats, a band of 4, sometimes 5, members from schools all over Jacksonville. The lasting members of the band are Gianluis, Gabriel Pfaffman, Evan Mayo, and Allie Rohrer, the lead singer. On their first year, they went up to Memphis, TN to perform the blues. This program started couple years ago when the Florida Blues Society appeared in Jacksonville. They started sending both children and adults up to Memphis to perform each year. “Our first year was only covers of songs. Nothing original. We were playing based off the covers. We didn’t really change the songs much because we had to keep it original so people could recognize it.”

Another one of their first performances was at the 11th annual Jacksonville Public Library Battle of the Bands, and the library’s last. Why the last? “I don’t know why it ended. Nor do I know how we could make it come back. I guess from lack of interest. It might be lack of funding.” Similar to their performance in Memphis, they were just starting. They played some covers again, however they ended up winning. “We won first place and that made us more of a band. We started working on harder stuff and putting more effort into it. We’ve improved.”

  When they went back to Memphis a second time, their improvement payed off. They started playing originals. “ We wrote our own songs with our own lyrics, chord progressions, everything.” Gianluis ended up playing both the piano and the organ. “We really improved drastically from the year prior. We weren’t the same band.”

  While Gianluis would like to go back, they will not be returning this year. For now, they are playing local gigs. Allie and the Kats will perform at the Jacksonville Zoo this December. However, Gianluis remains confident they could return Memphis. “We could always go back if we just compete, and as long as we make it first place, which I know we will because I have faith in my band. We are a solid band.”

  Beyond Allie and the Kats, Gianluis wants to continue piano as far as he can. “I play the piano because it’s fun. Even if I don’t take lessons, I’m still trying to learn songs.” Though sometimes it is the music as much as it is the instrument. “With jazz, it’s much more expressing yourself in the music and trying to find a fun rhythm…You don’t have to play the right notes in jazz, as long as it sounds good, you’re fine. That’s kind of bad to say, but at the same time it’s kind of true. Because jazz is what you create, what you invent, it’s all original, mostly. You can’t read jazz off music, you have to understand how to play it. It’s a style like many other things. Like rap or pop music. It’s unique.”