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Arts and Entertainment

Talented teachers explore the arts

By Michael Fuchs
Published: October 2010

As hard to imagine as it may be, South teachers harbor talents in fields other than education, specifically music and dance. 
Dr. Paul Estin, who teaches history and psychology, has been a keen musician all his life. He first forayed into music at the mere age of nine, when he learned how to play the violin’€an instrument his older sister incidentally played as well. Since then, Estin has learned to sing and to play other instruments, such as the guitar, ukulele, harmonica, and bass guitar.   
Estin enjoys playing in a variety of styles, for example, jazz. And, in addition to playing by himself, Estin has actively participated in several bands. “Dr. Snark was my original band, but I’m the only remaining member, Estin said. “I was also in a band called Don’t Fret the Small Stuff for a short period of time, but the organizer moved to Ohio. [Additionally, I am often involved in a] few, informal jam sessions and what not with other musicians. 
Similarly, physics teacher Derek Van Beever, has immersed himself in music. He mainly plays the acoustic and electric bass, but he also dabbles in the guitar and piano. Van Beever began playing the electric bass while he was in high school, when a friend lent him an instrument.   
Sharon O’Connor, who works in the mathematics department, is also a performer; however, she is drawn to dancing, specifically tap.
As a little girl, she learned to Irish step dance, but, as she entered her twenties, O’Connor started to attend tap classes at night. Since retiring from teaching, however, O’Connor has been able to take classes during the day.
She also devotes herself to the tap group About Time Tappers, a local adult ensemble with dancers between the ages of 35 and 87.
“The same feeling you get from any kind of sport you get from dancing. It’s exhilarating, O’Connor said.
Unlike O’Connor, Van Beever devotes himself to music. His taste in music covers a wide range of genres. “I will pretty much listen to anything as long as it is good. I am not too up on the current music scene though, Van Beever said.  “I used to listen to only rock music, but now I am open to country, hip hop, Afro-pop, classical, and whatever categories you want to name.
Estin, on the other hand, has a strong affinity for comedic music. He is particularly drawn to the band Da Vinci’s Notebook, but he also enjoys listening to several Canadian groups with notably quirky names, such as Arrogant Worms.
Estin explains that, as a performer, he prefers comedic music because it allows him to be more entertaining. “When I first started performing, I didn’t feel very confident as either a singer or guitar player so I wanted the audience to at least be entertained, and using humor seemed like the best way to do that, Estin said.
Estin’s niche for playing comedic music is filk’€a genre of music belonging to science fiction. “Filk has been variously described as ‘Ëœnot so much a genre as a community,’ Estin said. In addition to playing filk, Estin will admittedly also play traditional folk and rock music. In his listening, his tastes are broader, ranging from musicals to hip-up and electronica.   ­­­
While Van Beever and O’Connor refrain from using their talents in the classroom, Estin has, from time to time, planned lessons that incorporate music.
“I especially love when I can sing a song that’s relevant to a class topic, Estin said. 
 “Last week, in studying Hinduism in my ninth grade World History class, I played ‘ËœDivine Monkey,’ a four-minute musical version of the Ramayana, and ‘ËœGalileo,’ and an Indigo Girls song about reincarnation, Estin said.
Of course, in his class, Estin will only employ singing when he believes its usage is appropriate for class discussion.
“Music is useful both as part of a topic’€music and the arts are part of history, how we hear and enjoy music is part of psychology’€and as an alternative way to convey ideas, one which maybe gets a student’s attention a littler better, Estin said.  
Outside of the classroom, Estin further displays his musical talents. 
Since he began teaching at South, Estin has performed every year in the Faculty Talent Show. His performance routinely receives a standing ovation and attests to Estin’s humor. 
Van Beever and O’Connor have also performed in the faculty talent show and, like Estin, have been widely acclaimed by students.
While dedicated to the subjects that they teach, South teachers engage in pursuits outside the academic world.

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