Music on the Hill: Teacher Band Edition
Twice a year, at Back to School Bash in September and Reunion in June, Hilltoppers gather to cheer on Hopkins’ very own Teacher Band. !e group combines vocal and instrumental talents, functions as a self-proclaimed garage band, and features nine teachers from nearly every department at Hopkins.
The origins of Teacher Band can be traced to Fall 2002, when current Science Department Chair Phillip Stewart performed with a student band at Back to School Bash. “My students knew I minored in music [specializing in vocal music] in college and kept asking me to sing, so I agreed to front a student band my second year at Hopkins,” Stewart explained. “The key point here is that Teacher Band was not really a teacher band at first—it was me singing with students playing guitars, keyboard, and drums.”
Over the next few years, Stewart began playing with more teachers, and eventually the group became what the aptly named Teacher Band is today. Current members of the band are Ian Melchinger, Joshua Gleason, Dan Gries, Joshua Young, Jacqueline LaBelle-Young, Julia Rowny, Ian Guthrie, Dan Gries, and Erika Schroth.
“The most important thing about TB is that we use garage band rules. Every member picks one song, and agrees to play all the other chosen songs,” Melchinger explained. Practices often include whoever is available rather than the full band: “We usually end up doing sectionals. Maybe we get one or two practices all together as a whole band, usually on a Sunday morning, before a gig,” said LaBelle-Young. “There is a fair amount of winging-it involved.”
The biggest reward Teacher Band offers its members is the opportunity to play music with colleagues and friends. Said Melchinger, “This is probably the only thing I do that feels totally selfish. I show up, I play, we laugh, it sounds good sometimes, I go home happy, and there is no evidence that anything happened. I don’t have to grade anything, nothing goes on the shelf.”
Young agreed, “Playing with my friends is the best part. Teacher Band isn’t simply a group of teachers who play instruments. It is a group of teachers who play instruments and enjoy one another’s company.”
Nearly every member said that the greatest challenge Teacher Band faces is the task of coordinating nine Hopkins schedules. “It is occasionally a herculean e#ort to coordinate practices that work for all of our disparate schedules,” said Guthrie, while Rowny agreed: “It’s tough to balance work and home commitments.” Ultimately, though, in the words of Joshua Gleason, “!e pressure is low and that is part of what makes it fun.”
Teacher Band is famous for its role in bringing together Hopkins Science teacher Joshua Young and Art teacher Jacqueline LaBelle-Young, who married in 2010. “My favorite memory of Teacher Band is the fall when Mr. Mel pulled in Mr. Young to play bass with us. That’s when we really got to know each other,” Labelle-Young recalled, while Young said, “We had known each other before I joined Teacher Band, but not well. Once I joined, and we started spending significant time together—I was hooked. I joined the band in October and proposed in February.” For LaBelle-Young, the draw was “his charm and warmth, not to mention his adorable dance moves and his ability to scream loudly in key. I was hooked.”
Future dreams for Teacher Band members ranged from booking an Assembly gig to playing a choice song or genre. !e di#erent musical tastes of members were evident: “I’d love to cover an entire album and play through the whole thing. I also think it would be really fun to cover some current pop songs in di#erent ways,” Rowny said. Gleason’s wish is “to play a whole set of 90’s grunge and alt-rock covers. But nobody wants to listen to that, and I really can’t blame them.” Meanwhile, Guthrie envisioned an Assembly performance “including Teacher Band, student instrumentalists, members of the Concert Choir, two drum sets, and more.” Newest member Schroth remarked, “Teacher Band has me thinking there should be a Teacher Choir!”