Music helps LHS teachers through the pandemic

Jackson Yanek


Asher Wolfe

LHS teachers are heavily involved in the music scene. Graphic by Asher Wolfe.

By Nadia Sanburn and Zora Lotton-Barker

Bands are often formed in high school settings- students who want to express themselves through music find each other and use it as a creative outlet. But it’s not only students who form bands. At Lawrence High, teachers are heavily involved in the music scene. 

One of these teachers is Jonathan Harrison, an English teacher. He’s been in a band for many years. 

“This particular band evolved from just people that I was playing in a basement with for years,” he said. “It started with my ex-wife and our friend Tamara and then eventually a couple of other people joined and a couple of other people quit. Basically this is, in a lot of ways, the same band that has been playing together for 15 to 16 years.”

Harrison has kept in touch with his band members throughout the pandemic. 

“The drummer for our band lives right across the street from me, and we are very close. So, early on when you were picking a few people who could be in your bubble, he obviously, because we don’t only play in a band together but we play cards together all the time, he would come over. So, that’s kind of how I was able to stay in touch with music. To be honest, I haven’t been able to play music in a long time.”

Harrison has been revisiting older music to stay connected with this hobby. 

“This past year I have just been listening, and listening, and listening, he said. “I have gone through my record collection and listened to things that I haven’t listened to in years. I’ve tried to find new things to get excited about. I’ve been listening to music more than any other activity during the pandemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on the music industry in many ways. Many venues have been forced to close due to financial issues, since live music is often something performed in close quarters. 

“The pandemic dealt us a pretty serious blow,” Harrison said. “We had an album coming out last year, and it was our first album. It came out through a label in Boston. We are hoping we can kind of do a reset of the release of it when we can actually play shows again, but we haven’t been able to play shows to promote it. If times were better we probably could have done a few mini tours to promote it but instead we don’t really have any way to get it out to people. There are just boxes and boxes of CDs sitting at my house.”

Megan Hurt, who teaches French at LHS, plays the fiddle. 

“Being in a band is kind of like being in a family,” she said. “So, you get some real depth and breadth to your relationships. You have to do a lot of compromise because when you’re trying to make something together it is better than it would be if it was just by an individual.”

Hurt has been staying connected to music throughout the pandemic, but things are starting to get back to normal for her band. 

“I’ve had to use the internet a lot to stay connected,” she said. ‘My partner and I play together, so we spend a lot of time together playing music. Actually, tomorrow night is the first show that my band is going to have since last March, which is pretty exciting because we had to cancel 30 or 40 shows last year.”

In 2019, The Budget featured library assistant Sam Wilson in a video in which he described his long history with music.

“I’ve been in a number of bands, with varying degrees of success,” Wilson said. “One of them, we were called The Thumbs, and we were inducted in 2016 to the Kansas music hall of fame. Thumbs was kind of coming together of people like myself who wanted to do something a little different compared to what else was going on in the scene at that time.”

His most successful band, The Thumbs, played with some of the biggest names in music at that time.

“We started out you know, playing any kind of music gig we could find,” he said. “Our first gig ever was at a party for arts students, and we went on to play with a lot of national touring acts like The Police, Iggy Pop, and Ecstasy and a number of others. We kind of became the go-to band for booking agents when they wanted a local pairing with a kind of punk or new wave band coming through town because they knew that we brought a crowd.”

Playing music is an important outlet for these teachers. Hurt says that performing live music has a certain feel to it. 

“I miss playing live music most,” she said. “For me, it’s such a joyous experience. It’s kind of like a sports event in some ways because there is a moment in time when you can act at your very highest level and maybe do some fast footwork. It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy doing that. I enjoy making sounds with people and making moods musically.”