So when news broke earlier this year of the Lawrence School District’s funding crisis, one educator (and major rock and roller) felt the need to step up. Heather Lofflin, of Vedettes, teaches elementary school students. She immediately began looking into how many other musicians teach in the area, and even searched as far as Kansas City. Now, the rockers are banding together to help raise awareness and support for local schools with a Replay show called “Honor Roll Fest.” Slated to play are:
- Escape Goats
- David Slade Trio
- The Harrisonics
- Rest For The Wicked
The show kicks off at the Replay on Sunday, the 31st, at 6:00 p.m. We sat down with Lofflin to discuss what fans can expect to happen.
IHLM: Why did you feel the need to put this event together?
HL: The timing is what sparked the idea. This is the last weekend before teachers report for duty. I’m not gonna lie — Initially, I thought it would simply be fun to get teacher-musicians together for a last hurrah. But then, I thought deeper. Our district has a budget problem and one of the ideas on the table is closing several elementary schools, as well as a middle school. We have a temporary “stay” on that approach for the coming school year, but we don’t know what the future will bring. I thought this show could help shed light on the problem, and Save Our Schools— which is a parent-driven organization– was willing to get on board as a sponsor.
IHLM: How do you balance your music career with your career as an educator?
HL: Delicately. I’ve been playing music for 30 years, but I’ve only been teaching for 16 years or so. For most of this time, I’ve compartmentalized the two. With one, you stay up late, swear on the regular, and spend your time in bars; with the other, you get up early, mind your tongue, and spend your time in the public sphere. That can create a conflict.
Sometimes, I have to leave a show right after we play so I can make sure I am able to get up early to teach. That’s a bummer, but necessary. That being said, the two realities are starting to mesh together. At the risk of oversimplifying, as a teacher, I am concerned daily with combating racism, fostering inclusion, and dealing with the unavoidable violence we see in the news, and those themes have crossed over into my songwriting. On the other hand, my musicianship has crossed over into my teaching. I work with 4th and 5th graders, as well as Kindergarteners. Nothing will get the attention of an older kid faster than having their teacher belt out directions in the style of the blues. Making up songs for Kindergarteners this past year as they clean up or do other tasks has been a joy. So, I’m singing most of the day. It does get hairy when a kid finds my band on YouTube. Is that really you? I’m asked. Yes, I reply, and leave it at that.
Editor’s note: Oops, that’s our fault. Sorry/not sorry for putting videos of you on the internet, Heather! 😉
IHLM: What’s something you hope will come out of the attention on school funding over the last year?
HL: I want the district to keep neighborhood schools running. Our district is good at making sure we are all teaching the same curriculum with the same materials. But, that doesn’t create a school culture. Each neighborhood is different, and each school works to reflect that neighborhood. Meeting those specific needs is what gives students, parents, and teachers a sense of belonging, which we need to best serve our students. If you don’t feel you belong, will you do your best each day? Not likely. A positive school culture is essential, which I don’t think can be best accomplished by closing almost all of the east-of-Kasold schools and sending kids to one location.
IHLM: Why do you feel it’s important to remain both a musician and educator in Lawrence?
HL: This is a selfish choice for me. I love both. I need both to keep myself balanced. Both feed into my identity as a person. I wouldn’t be whole if I had to give one or the other up, and each provides creative outlets in different ways. Music provides the soundtrack for our lives, and if other people connect with that, I appreciate it. Teaching provides the platform for others to grow into their best selves. If what I do supports that, I’ve done my job. Both sides feed the other.