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Young Artists of 90245: This month's featured artist, Jack Priest, AKA Jack the Riffer

By Maureen Kingsley

Anyone who’s had the good fortune to hear El Segundo resident and ESMS eighth-grader Jack Priest absolutely shred on his electric guitar recognizes his talent and passion instantly. Jack has been wowing talent-show audiences, his family and friends, and his teacher, Keith Lynch, for the six years that he’s been playing, and his dedication to and love of guitar continue as he enters his teen years. 

“I always thought the look of a guitar was really cool, and the sound of it was so appealing to me,” Jack says of his early interest in the instrument. He began on an acoustic guitar that his father, Jason Priest, brought home when Jack was about six years old. Jack then started lessons with local guitar teacher Keith Lynch and has continued to play and grow his skills exponentially since. He now plays mainly on a Gibson SG and an EVH (Eddie Van Halen), electric guitars that each produce distinct sounds and effects. “The Gibson is perfect for rock,” Jack says, “and heavy metal. And my EVH is obviously the best for playing Van Halen songs.”

Jack is humble but his skills are extraordinary, matched only by his enthusiasm for both the instrument and his influences, including Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica, and Eddie Van Halen. Greta Van Fleet is his favorite contemporary band, which is no wonder considering the group’s nod to the iconic band Led Zeppelin, another favorite of Jack’s.

When Jack plays—everything from a Hendrix-inspired “Star-Spangled Banner” to “Stairway to Heaven” to “Jinglebell Rock”—he becomes intensely focused and “won’t talk at all,” says his mother, Natalie Priest, who will sometimes sing along. Jack’s fingers seem to dart effortlessly across the strings at an impossible speed, and anyone lucky enough to be in earshot can hear the winning combination of technical skill and unbridled exuberance in the music Jack produces.

A middle-schooler, Jack already plays like a seasoned, gifted musician. When asked how often he practices and what his schedule is like, Jack says he prefers to be spontaneous and play whenever he feels inspired to. “Once I start playing, it’s hard for me to stop,” he explains. “Playing guitar is just so much fun to me; I don’t even notice the time going by.”  

Jack Priest is on YouTube at “Jack the Riffer."  Anyone looking to rock out, feel inspired, and smile big is invited to check him out. 

The El Segundo Scene thanks Jack Priest and his family for their assistance with this story.

Young Artists of 90245 is sponsored by Gimlen Orthodontics. This piece appears in our December 2019 issue.

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