“Professor Punk” aka “Mr. Simpson”

I live music, quite literally. As a guy who has played in punk, rock, classical, and marching bands through most of his time on earth, has taught elementary music, beginning band/orchestra/guitar and private lessons for going on ten years and written reviews for Punknews.org for ten years as well, I spend 90% of my time in music-related activities. Other than music, I sleep sometimes and I watch TV, movies and read, but even those media types are mostly music-related for me. I’m pretty one-dimensional.

The one dilemma I think about once in a blue moon is the conflict between punk ideals and being a teacher. I was never a dirty, smelly, dumpster-diving, molotov cocktail-throwing anarcho-punk kid, but the basic tenants of punk since its inception in the ‘70s has been to “fight the system”, “question authority”, “fuck the man”, et al.

I grew up wanting to do the opposite of what the mainstream told me is cool/normal/accepted, yet I now lay down rules for kids to follow and discipline them if they don’t. Sure, I’m the most rockin-est music teacher you will ever come across (I’m so modest), but I do need an orderly classroom in order to teach kids what they need to know. We must rock in an orderly way, though sometimes a room containing 25 five-year-olds and myself can get hella rowdy. It’s a blast almost all of the time.

The way I get around it in my own brain is through the old cliche that you need to learn the rules before you can break them. It goes for playing an instrument: You learn how to properly hold your guitar and play your major and minor scales so that later you can slam your shit on the ground to end a set. So it goes for my students too: They follow my rules in order to better learn about singing, instrument technique, music history and more, so that later they can grow up to be little punks like myself.

I’ve got a Ramones poster hanging my classroom to help remind me of my truest of musical loves. I’m very happy with what I do with my life, and consider myself quite lucky. For those of you young rock n’ rollers who may be reading this, consider music education as a way to make your living and then do the “weekend warrior” thing like me. Super rad.

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