Listen up, students: Your teachers are about to rock. On Thursday, October 20, at Foothill Elementary School, students and parents alike will be called to Detention, the all-educator band composed of three teachers and one principal. The scholastic four-piece will play alongside Ukulele Jim (himself a musician within an educational realm, as the director of the IT User Services at Santa Barbara City College) and the always family-friendly and inspiring Spencer the Gardener. These musicians are all coming together for Falcon Fest, a fundraiser for Foothill Elementary’s 5th and 6th grade trips to Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) and Astrocamp.
Detention is made up of Mountain View Elementary kindergarten teacher Mark Casady (guitar, vocals), 2nd grade teacher Nate Latta (bass, vocals), principal Ned Schoenwetter (drums), and Foothill 4th grade teacher Sean Montgomery (guitar, vocals). It all began when Falcon Fest event chair and Foothill PTA member Joni Kelly was organizing the Foothill talent show two years ago. There she met Montgomery, who was mixing sound at the event and let slip that he played music. Soon a casual conversation became a reality, and Montgomery formed a band with his fellow teachers whom he knew to be musicians as a one-off act for the talent show.
Playing just two songs — “Holiday” by Green Day and “Glycerine” by Bush — Detention was an instant hit with its captive audience. “The kids basically homeopathically formed a mosh pit. Totally organically, they all just came together,” Kelly said.
One of the kindest bands you’ll ever meet, they’re also one of the most modest. “We only get together maybe for one hour once every three weeks,” Montgomery said. “If even that,” Schoenwetter added. It’s all about having fun for these educators, who are quick to stress that most of them don’t have the chops to turn this into a professional gig (aside from Latta, who plays locally in numerous bands outside of school). With good humor, their demo is titled It Could Be Worse…, and they’re a fairly self-effacing bunch. “The joke is the only way students will stay and listen to us is if they’re in detention, and at every talent show we say, ‘You’re in detention; no one can leave,’” Montgomery said.
“We don’t set the bar too high,” Casady said. Thankfully, with audiences of mostly 12-year-olds, “we have very forgiving crowds.”
Ukulele Jim, who is inclined to play for even younger audiences, started writing music after he became a father and wanted his children to grow up “in a house that was full of music.” “It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said, to have his homegrown music touch children’s lives, “and it’s wonderful to be able to see kids smile and jump around and have some fun.”
So educators and the otherwise scholastically involved are making music — what is the lesson? There are a lot. The members of Detention hope to show by example: that it’s great to take creative risks. “It’s Ned’s and Mark’s philosophy to get up and go do something, so we are trying to get our kids to go see that and hopefully model it,” Montgomery said. What’s more, music “brings up a lot of discussions on the curriculum — we talk about music in math, in science,” from atom vibrations to patterns. Music supports dendrite growth, he added, “Literally, your brain cells are growing closer together.” Their just-for-fun band has turned out to work quite harmoniously with the classroom goings-on.
It’s no secret at this point that these teachers, principal, and IT director have a fun side, and their fellow faculty has endorsed their efforts. “It’s for a great cause, and kids 2 to 92 will have fun,” Ukelele Jim said. “I would give kudos to the school district of being supportive of us,” Schoenwetter said. “I think we all feel music is really important, and music education is something we never want kids to lose.”