Out of class, but not off duty: Local teachers come together to make music

For the members of the band Recess Duty, teaching music all day just wasn’t enough.

“We decided we should do something for ourselves,” Kent Peterson, the band’s guitar and harmonica player, said. “We decided like ‘oh let’s get together and play some music.’”

The band began after many of the members joined together to put on a summer music camp.

“We were giving up our summer and hardly making anything,” Peterson said. “It was another volunteer thing.”

Four years ago, the band booked their first gig at the Kenai River Festival.

All of the members of Recess Duty are or were music teachers locally. Peterson teaches at Soldotna High School.

Tammy Vollom-Matturro plays the cajón and other percussion instruments. She conducts the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and used to teach music at Kenai Central High School, Kenai Middle School and Tustumena Elementary.

Jeanne Duhan plays the guitar and sings. In the orchestra, she plays the french horn and is a retired music teacher from K-Beach Elementary. After retiring last year, she opened up Log Cabin Music, a band instrument repair shop.

Kristen Dillon plays bass and micro bass and works at Nikiski Middle and High School. Her husband, Jonathan Dillon plays the violin and is a music teacher at Mountain View Elementary.

Simon Nissen plays percussion, keyboard and sometimes mandolin. He is a choir teacher at Kenai Central High School.

Band members said they enjoy spending time together since most of the time they are busy teaching.

“It’s a lot of fun to get together and make music together,” Peterson said. “It was more about getting together to socialize and play. We all work alone so we never get to interact with each other.”

Duhan said that Peterson is a model musician for the children he teaches in his guitar class. As teachers, the members of Recess Duty have the opportunity to be examples for their students.

“Kent is a great model for how music is something to share,” Duhan said. “He loves to play music and he’s always up for rehearsing. He’s just a really good model for what being a musician is. It’s cool that the kids get to see him out and about.”

Peterson said that it can be difficult for music teachers to find the right venue to perform outside of school. He said he’s fortunate that the members of Recess Duty can also perform in the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra as well as in community and high school musicals.

“We talk about how music is this lifelong activity and kind of preach that to a lot of people,” Peterson said. “But there are a lot of music teachers who aren’t making music, mostly because there’s a challenge to find a venue to do it. This was a way for us to get out and show that there are ways to play music.”

The band describes their genre of music as folk, oldies and “definitely the classics.” They mostly perform covers, but will sometimes play some of Peterson’s original music. Duhan said as a band they focus on their strengths, which is harmonizing.

Finding times to perform has been a challenge for the band. During the school year, most of the band members are busy with their students and classes, and during the summer many of them will leave for vacation.

“We played a lot two years ago during the school year and it was really tiring,” Kristen Dillon said. “After a whole day of school, singing and conducting and doing all that, and then going to play.”

For the members of Recess Duty, playing together outside of school is just another way to stretch their music muscles. Vollom-Matturro said that it sometimes puts her out of her comfort zone.

For the teachers, who spend much of their work life teaching students the right way to play music, the band allows them to be creative and experiment on their own, Duhan said.

“All day long we’re teaching how to read music and theory, and (telling students) ‘this is the proper way,’” Duhan said. “It’s nice to be on the other side of that, where we’re finding harmonies and making it up. It’s nice to approach it from a different angle.”

Recess Duty is performing from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, July 13 at the Swank Street Market in Soldotna, and again at Noon Tuesday, July 17 at the Soldotna Public Library.

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