Walking the Blues: Biology teacher shares passion for roots music in, out of school

By: Allie Taiber

Shallow fluorescent lights shine down on biology teacher Jeff Hartman as he takes the front stage of room 135, ready to execute the foundations of photosynthesis. Every step, every note, meshing together to plant a perfect performance.

But when the clock strikes 2:55, his set doesn’t stop there. After a long day at work, the classroom door closes and Hartman’s guitar case clicks open, ready to play his other passion.

“Music has always resonated with me. The only way to recount [in words] the first time I heard blues, would be as indescribable,” Hartman said.

And that first tune would never leave his ear. As an eager high schooler, he decided then and there to bring his infatuation to life. A quick trip to the store resulted in buying his first $15 harmonica — the only thing Hartman could afford.

He began self-taught lessons right away. Just a boy and his harmonica, blowing away to the empty audience of a basement, and Hartman didn’t tell a soul. As the sound waves evolved, so did his passion, and it was there to stay.

After taking on the guitar and journeying more into the musical world, Hartman joined a band his sophomore year of college. With the ability to play only a couple of chords, he pulled through the challenge, resulting in a great experience.

“I was no good, but they didn’t care. It took my mind off work and everything around me. I had fun, and that’s what matters.”

As time progressed, Hartman’s musical talents did as well, but when college ended, the bands did too. Other doors were opening, but his hobby was tucked away.

Not until six years ago was he called on to play again, this time with the group ‘In Cahoots.’ It was an opportunity to be back with the guys, doing what he loved.

In this new role, things didn’t always come so easy, but as Hartman remarked, nothing ever does. “It’s challenged me to learn and stretch my growth, which has been great, frustrating, challenging, but we love to see improvement,” Hartman said.

The few show nights each year allow the band to show what they’ve got. Voices and chords fill the crowded bars and venues as they let loose and play out to the audience. The care free energy radiates from the room as people join in, singing and dancing, contributing to the rush of the performers.

“Teachers don’t just teach. Students only see the tip of the iceberg,” said Hartman, explaining how every individual has his or her “thing” — the importance of staying balanced and having fun.

After steady involvement in the band, he thought up a way to connect with his students. After sitting on the idea for several years, Hartman finally took the step and started The Rock Academy. The group made it’s CFHS debut on campus last year. Hartman invites any students to come in, connect and build relationships with music and fellow musicians.

“I’ve always thought it’s a lot more fun to play music with other people. I hope this gives students an opportunity to do so as well,” Hartman said. “I’m hoping I can help some students find their passions.”

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