School Of Rock

Four teachers from GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar discovered their mutual love of music, so forming a band was the next logical step.

On the surface it wouldn’t seem like Head of Year 4 Cillian Gavin, Data Manager Julius Sequeira, Music Teacher Aashish Valsalen, and PE teacher Jehu Arroz have a lot in common. But put them together on a stage with their respective instruments, and GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar (GFM) has its very own staff band, which has yet to be named.

”We started playing together through different situations. I met Julius first and he mentioned that he plays the keyboard. That’s how we got into the idea of playing together. Once, I was setting up the drums and I needed help and that’s how I met Jehu and learned he plays the drums. Through similar conversations I met Cillian,“ said Aashish.

In February, GFM held a fringe festival and the four of them decided to play at the event. Following that performance, it was suggested that the band plays at the staff end of year function in June. ”I used to play at staff functions back in Ireland, and I thought: ‘Why retire so soon?’ We had this goal and a reason to jam together,“ said Cillian.

In the two months leading up to the event the band focused on building a set list and getting used to playing together. ”We come from different countries and we chose to stick with the classics, like The Beatles. We have a mix of old and new music,“ said Jehu.

Aashish said that playing in the band provides them an opportunity to connect with each other besides being at work. ”There are times where we have deadlines to meet, but even if we play for half an hour, it gets us out of that mindset of work, and we can relax for that time.“

Jehu added that he hoped by playing at the party, other teachers would be encouraged to join in and play music or take part in any of interests they have outside their job.

Following the performance at the fringe festival at the beginning of the year, students in the school have been extremely curious about the band, and Aashish said there seems to be a new-found respect for each of the members because they are no longer seen as ”just teachers“ – even though the band has only performed in front of students once. The students also seem to be more interested in learning to play music as a result. ”At the fringe festival, my students were looking at me like I had three heads! They were definitely shocked that I was on stage with an electric guitar in my hands,“ said Cillian.

He added that after the end-of-year party, all the teachers know about the band and the secret is out. The next step is, he says, to get the students more familiar with the band. Ideally, he would like the band to play at more school events, such as the forthcoming National Day in December.