TNB Night Owl – Mr. Garfunkel

Intermediapost recording studio, photo by Intermediapost

Not every professional musician signs a contract as a teenager; to the contrary, very few do. Success typically comes as the result of many difficult hours of practice and late-night gigs arranged around the hours of a daytime job.

Those daytime jobs run a wide gamut from the usual waiters and supermarket workers to what are typically considered professions. Teachers are particularly well represented in the rock genre. Sheryl Crow was a music teacher at an elementary school. Sting started his career as an English teacher. Gene Simmons of Kiss was first known as “Mr. Klein”, an elementary school teacher.

Sometimes musicians do strike big in their teenage years. Justin Timberlake was a contestant on Star Search even before joining the successful band NSYNC, for example. Kate Bush and Yngwie Malmsteen were both musical prodigies, albeit with vastly different styles and career arcs. Simon and Garfunkel scored their first hit as the teen pair Tom & Jerry; “Hey Schoolgirl” was written when they were still in high school.

One might think the early success would preclude rock stars from having a mundane job (at least before the money and fame runs out, as reunion specials have taught us), but there’s always someone who wants to go against the grain.

By the time of their breakup in 1970, Simon and Garfunkel had seen fourteen of their songs break the top forty, with three songs, “The Sound of Silence”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Mrs. Robinson” peaking at #1. After their first few minor hits the pair went to college, and despite some friction (based on the same sort of creative differences which would trigger their future breakup) continued to associate and occasionally play together. Those occasions led to recordings and eventual worldwide fame, but the time apart spent at Columbia University led to something else; it gave Art Garfunkel a firm grounding in a subject he loved, math. Garfunkel continued to pursue his degree while performing, and in 1967 earned a Masters in mathematical education.

In 1971, he decided to put that degree to use. After acquiring the necessary certification, he took a job instructing students on geometry at a private high school, Litchfield Preparatory School, in Connecticut. As he describes it, he was dressed in suit and tie when his students walked in, and immediately began sketching triangles on the board.

By the time some of the students worked up the nerve to ask him if he was, in fact, the famed folk rock star, he’d bonded with them a little bit and informed them he was there to teach them math… and that he’d give them a Q&A session at the end of the year about his musical career.

He was only there for one school year – the music business called to him, as did a variety of film projects as he took up acting. Which might be a good thing, as the first movie he’d starred in came out in 1971… and he may have had a difficult time explaining films like “Carnal Knowledge” to the parents of some of his students.

Question of the night: Who was a particularly memorable teacher of yours?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.