Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Brian Moss, Musician/Teacher

One day you’re getting drunk with a guy in a punk house, and ten years later you’re sitting in an office as editor of and the other guy is now a teacher who still plays in good bands.  This … Read More

By / June 9, 2010

One day you’re getting drunk with a guy in a punk house, and ten years later you’re sitting in an office as editor of and the other guy is now a teacher who still plays in good bands.  This is me and Brian Moss.

For over a decade Moss has been getting in the van to tour in bands like the now defunct post-hardcore group, The Ghost, and is currently spending his time playing solo under the moniker of Hanalei and in the band Olehole.  After all that, he somehow finds the time to wake up and teach.

You’re a teacher by day and a punk rocker by night, does it ever get hard to get out of bed the day after a show?

Sometimes, depending on what I consume at said show. However, I’m pretty good at shaking it off and sucking it up.

How old are the kids that you teach?

I’ve done after school music education and rock camp work with kids aged 8-18. My work teaching English has so far been limited to 11th and 12th graders.

When did you decide you wanted to be a teacher?

Although it had bubbled in my mind for years before, I think I really decided I wanted to pursue education sometime between the age of 25 and 27. My mom was educator so I’ve been immersed in the profession my whole life. The next question should cover this in more detail, but for me, it came as somewhat of a natural progression after spending a lot of time playing and working with music. I love working with people and feeling as though I’m actually doing (or at least trying to do) some good. Retail and office jobs make me feel dead.

You’ve been in punk/indie bands for over a decade now, do the things you’ve learned from that world ever influence the way you teach?

The music I was steeped in was fundamentally all-ages oriented. More so, a lot of the bands and communities I surrounded myself with seemed to at least partially match my philosophy that music can extend far beyond mere entertainment to offer opportunity for connection, growth,sharing, and learning. I realized a long time ago I valued fostering safe creative spaces where people felt comfortable being individuals. When I was still touring very heavily I began volunteering here and there running arts and music workshops for kids in Chicago. I fell in love with it. When I moved back to the Bay Area (first Oakland and then San Francisco) I did more volunteering and eventually starting working for a couple rock n’ roll after school programs and summer camps. From there, as someone with a love for language and writing, teaching English in addition to doing music-related education seemed like the rational call. I’ll also say that all of those years being in front of crowds cut back my nerves when it came time to stand up in front of a class. All in all, what music did for me as a teen has kindled a long-lasting and ever-present feeling that I need to give something back.

Summer is coming up: summer school or US tour?

I’m doing a West Coast tour in June and then flying out to Denver to direct a rock and roll summer camp for a week and a half in July. I’ll be doing some odds and ends type shit in between. After that, I’ll be looking for work. San Francisco Unified is falling victim to a statewide budget cut noose right now and things are looking grim. While, I’ll complain, the students are gonna get it far worse than any of the teachers who are out of work or looking for jobs. I was just offered a job at an amazing charter down in Santa Cruz, but I couldn’t bring myself to move out of San Francisco. Either way, I would have regretted my decision, but staying seemed to involve less questioning. Plus, that town is fucking scary. It’s full of vampires and weirdos. If I’m out enjoying a cold one at a beach bonfire I really don’t want to have to worry about Kiefer Sutherland and Alex Winter flying up to drain my blood and rip my limbs off.