I am a professional musician. I am also an elementary school teacher at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, where I share my love of music with K-8 students at two major schools, St. Timothy and Canadian Martyrs. I have been married for over 18 years to an amazing woman and have two wonderful sons.
I owe everything to Twisted Sister.
It was after seeing the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” for the first time in 1984 that I was able to answer, with unwavering conviction, a question that we all have to face at some point. : What do you want to do with your life? And just like the teenage protagonist in the video tells his overbearing dad: I want rock.
Christmas 1984 brought me the magical power of music (thank you Triumph!) Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Helix and, of course, Twisted Sister. I was captivated by the long hair, the makeup, the high heeled boots, and the leather. That’s right, not all superheroes wear a cape. Some wear studded belts and leopard-print spandex.
But it was the ring that kindled the fire in my heart: the distorted guitars, the pounding drums and the anthemic choruses. Every chord of power that I was able to get under my fingers gave me confidence, identity and a sense of accomplishment. My guitar was a divination wand that guided me through the dangers of teenage clumsiness, high school band battles, and later through the hectic bars of Northern Ontario. There I learned lessons they don’t teach you at any school: trust your gut when it’s time to go, make friends with the toughest guy in the room, and be ready to go. play “Born to Be Wild” anytime.
In the end, my instrument took me to the big city, home to Gasworks, Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven, and the majors whose addresses adorned the backs of albums I loved. This led me to study classical guitar at the University of Toronto. Bach by day, rock by night. I was determined to succeed and to succeed again. The late nights and early mornings seemed to work out on their own. Excellent training for those first years of parenthood.
In Toronto, I led my own band, Crash Kelly, who landed a recording contract in the US and toured North America with Alice Cooper (I like to think that gives me some credibility when my students and I sing “School’s Out” at the end of June every year). During this time, I recorded classical guitar albums for Billboard, which helped me land a gig touring the world with Nelly Furtado. Since then, I have had the opportunity to perform with Lee Aaron, Coney Hatch, Helix, Honeymoon Suite, Alan Frew of Glass Tiger, Carole Pope, Lita Ford and many more.
I even got to tell Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider how this song he wrote changed my life, when I spent months working with him as a guitarist and actor in his musical “Rock & Roll. Christmas Tale, “which premiered at the Winter Garden Theater in Toronto in 2015.
My obsession with hard rock and the people who make it led me to write the book “Metal on Ice: Tales from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes” and the upcoming “Hair Metal for Hipsters”. Last year I took part in new albums by Lee Aaron, Coney Hatch, Canadian Brass, Gilby Clarke and Allister Thompson. Emm Gryner and I celebrated our band Trapper’s recent EP release by collaborating with Gateway City Brewery on a craft beer, Emm N ‘Sean’s Electric North APA.
Rock and roll gave me a sense of purpose and opportunity, amplified by the unfailing and selfless support from amazing parents and music teachers. I work with world-class artists, fellow teachers, and administrators and do my best to convey the lessons I learn from them to my students.
Teaching in a classroom is a bit like playing a concert. You have to work hard to prepare, but you better be prepared to improvise. You can’t blame your students or your audience if they don’t understand what you are writing. And to paraphrase a poster I saw on a colleague’s classroom wall: he may not remember the lesson plan or the list made, but he will always remember what you did. made him feel.
Although I am still very active in the music business, I have found that education is a vocation that I cannot ignore. Twenty-one years of balancing my passion for rock and my vocation for teaching have been exhausting at times, and it can be a challenge for me and my family, but love finds a way to make it work. Love, patience and lots of coffee. But in that balance, I find myself closest to the person I want to be, which in turn brings me closer to the husband, father, and musician I want to be.
I want rock, yes, but I need to teach.