Westerville teacher's tunes help in era of distance learning
Westerville students could be hearing original music from Central High School teacher Matt Rees while they are distance learning.
Rees, 48, is a singer/songwriter away from his social-studies classroom.
When he stumbled onto an article outlining how videos with copyrighted music are taken down, he immediately thought of his peers who are creating videos for their classes and students.
He said teaching is considered "fair use" and an exception for copyright protection, but the software that catches it and the companies that take it down don't check that.
Rees is offering a resource he hopes can be useful to fellow educators: instrumental versions of his original music.
"I know there is free music out there, but it can be hard to find, and some places require a subscription fee," he said. "So I thought it would be easy to have a shared Google Drive with MP3 and WAV files right there."
Rees has more than a dozen instrumental tracks and another 16 tracks with vocals available for download on the Westerville district's intranet learning platform. He can share the link with teachers outside Westerville if they request via email at email@example.com.
With such titles as "Girl At the Window" and "Things That Saved My Life," his music is mainly acoustic rock and varies in mood from upbeat to reflective.
He said he is "an older teacher" and the only videos he made for his students were to welcome them and let them know what to expect from his quizzes.
"I haven't tried to force my music on my students," he said. "They always find out at some point in the year."
Rees said the students get excited learning about him being in a band, the Self-Deprecants, and that his music is on SoundCloud.
The 1990 Westerville South High School alumnus was part of a band made up of some classmates called the Penguins.
"We thought we were good at what we did," he said. "We provided a good, party atmosphere."
He said the members of that high school band live in different states now, but everyone is still doing music in some way.
"It's strange to be back," he said. "I got gigs later in life. The others were the singers."
The London resident has performed more than 1,200 live shows and written nearly 100 songs as a professional musician and singer with Columbus-based bands -- some with local shows and with international tours, according to his website, reesmusic.webs.com.
Rees said the first album he bought was Queen's "The Game" in 1980, when he was 8 years old.
He started composing songs in high school and carried his passion for original music through college and beyond.
"I always loved music and knew I wanted to play music," he said. "I finally settled on getting a bass guitar."
At 14, he was hired to play in a band and spent most of his weekends performing at shows.
By the time he finished high school, Rees had played in every state east of the Mississippi and Bermuda.
Now he mostly performs at restaurants over the weekend. Rees plays bass for one band, sings for another and has been diligently fine-tuning the final touches for his third, but favorite, project -- the next Self-Depricants album, "Dreams," on which he wrote and performed, according to his website.
He has taught in the Westerville district for 26 years, first as a German language teacher before shifting to history.